Moral Monopoly No More

What explains the deliberate misreading of the new Arizona immigration law by pundits, politicians, and even private citizens? The law expressly forbids racial profiling, and yet a vast constituency of Americans interpret the law as an open assault on race–or, perhaps, on the racial status quo.

The answer has to do with the massive transfer of moral capital that occurred in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to civil rights activist and scholar Shelby Steele, that landmark legislation marked a revolution of consciousness in the American white majority in acknowledging its complicity not only in the formative years of slavery but in subsequent era of segregation. America’s acknowledgement of this huge wrong resulted in a “vacuum of moral authority.”

According to Steele, from that moment on “the legitimacy of American institutions [became] contingent on proving a negative: that they are not racist” (White Guilt, by Shelby Steel, p. 27, emphasis added). Soon this contingency extended beyond black-white relations in the United States to include all non-white populations throughout the world as well as the environment and even the rule of law. It was impossible for those traditionally associated with power in America–the white majority–to invoke any sacred text or principle, whether Holy Writ or the U. S Constitution. Why? Because they lacked the moral authority to do so.

This explains why Americans are more afraid of being called racist than they are of defending their own borders. It’s almost like they are in fear for their mortal souls. It explains why American airport security has turned into a ritual exercise of proving “we are not racists” by showcasing obvious non-threats rather than going out of our way to keep would-be terrorists from entering the United States.

It also explains why many are desperately intent upon keeping the memory of America’s racial past on center stage, until almost everything is about race. For today’s political opportunist, every issue derives either directly or indirectly from America’s original sin of racism. Those who identify on one side of an issue have the power to stigmatize those on the other simply by calling them a name. That kind of spiritual potency translates into moral capital which, in turn, justifies political power.

Moral authority is what gives weight to one set of public opinions and not another. It explains why politicians can get away with dubious logic and even outright falsehood as long as they are “on the right side” of a sensitive (usually racially charged) issue. It explains the mysterious power of political correctness, which everyone laughs about but few have the courage to confront.

Moral authority is what legitimizes the exercise of power in society. Some have it and some don’t. Those who have it have rights. Those who don’t can be pushed around. This is why people can simply walk across American borders and join a protest movement once they get here. It explains why anyone who objects is “racist.” Rational discourse about “issues” is usually a matter of political window dressing. Arguments are won these days based on who holds the cards in relation to America’s racial past.

Hence the intuitive reaction to the Arizona legislation. In a very concrete way, the new legislation reshuffles the American political deck. It does so by reinstating the rule of law as a matter of principle and in defiance of the demand that public discourse be properly vetted by some certified authority brokered in during the era of political correctness.

Arizona has threatened the status quo by refusing to acknowledge the old currency of political correctness. That means the handwriting is on the wall. Now it is only a matter of time before that currency loses all value.

If Arizona gets away with asserting the rule of law–the same law that is on the books at the Federal level and in most states–then the basis for exercising power will have changed hands in the United States. A transformation of consciousness will have taken place. This is why the President and his minions are waging a special campaign against the Arizona legislature without reading the text of the legislation and without consulting with the Governor.

A people that is willing to stand up for itself, even at considerable cost, acquires moral weight in defining the meaning of right and wrong. As Dr. Steele points out, that was the moral achievement of the civil rights movement in the 50s and early 60s.

  • Mary

    I don't have any "white" guilt. The civil rights movement hasn't been legitimate since the early 60's and even then, many agendas and participants were there to exploit and ride the bus of a strained social conscience to achieve questionable ends. I support the Arizona law and applaud the Governor for standing up to the growing mass of miscontents who wish nothing more than to exploit the system under the guise of social justice while shouting threats of racism if they don't get their way. My response to their intimidation tactics? VIVA LA ARIZONA and its immigration law. Don't like it? Leave, go back to Mexico, Central America, Palestine, or where ever….

  • kafir4life

    A lady at the San Fran Chamber of Commerce responding to a letter from me didn't like the idea of people (like myself) changing their plans to visit California to Arizona in solidarity of the people in Arizona. She's kind of a one-way street kinda gal, and didn't think it right when it costs them. I suggested to her that Mr. Mayor put his (city's) money where his partners genitals are inserted, and offer sancuary to any ILLEGAL that feels unwelcome in Arizona instead of just calling for boycotts.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/The_Inquisitor The_Inquisitor

    Excellent analysis of the power of moral authority. Thank you.

    In the same way altruism is used as moral authority for the welfare state. If you wish to end the welfare state, challenge altruism.

    • Liberty4x4

      It's not altruism that needs to be challenged. Its guilt for attaining and acquiring wealth.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/The_Inquisitor The_Inquisitor

        Altruism demands the sacrifice of higher values to lesser values. It is altruism which induces guilt for attaining and acquiring wealth.

        Altruism is not to be confused with benevolence. Those who advocate altruism foster that confusion in order to further their goals.

  • guest

    They use freedom, they don't give freedom. They use politically correct pinheads, too.

  • http://freshsensibility.com Jay

    WOW! Great article. Interestingly, Americans don't seem to be buying the concerted attack on Arizona. Public opinion favors the new law. Is it possible to play the race card one too many times?

  • Guest

    Exactly right; taking a stand gives those of us who believe in the rule of law and interpreting the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States a moral advantage that will eventually demand respect.

    The racemongers are on the way out and they know it. Even if Arizona hadn't done what needed to be done, racial issues are receding in the American mind. We've been focusing race to the near-exclusion of all else for about 60 years now and it's getting tiresome. Time to move on. Bring back the rule of law.

  • Elizabeth

    A truthful, powerful article. Perhaps the illegal immigrants should take their "We Are Humans" signs and protest in Mexico City; set their demands before Felipe Calderon and see how far they get. If he were taking care of his people they wouldn't be trying to escape to America. If they want to live in America let them do so legally, and then get a job, pay taxes, support themselves, and stop waving their Mexican flag in our faces.

    • bookimdano

      "If they want to live in America let them do so legally, and then get a job, pay taxes, support themselves, and stop waving their Mexican flag in our faces. "

      You forgot to mention, learn to speak English. But you're right on all the rest.

  • sflbib

    So now even the rule of law is "racist".

  • ranch dressing

    it isn't about race…and if anyone tries to hide behind that, they are a fool. I know many Hispanics who came here LEGALLY. They work, pay their taxes, speak English, and have assimilated to the American way of life. Yes, this is America. The illegals in the picture may be humans on the outside, but they are predators on the inside. American taxpayers deserve much better than to be invaded by these infidels. I am proud of AZ and stand by their decision. People who are not legal have NO right to say that their law is unconstitutional. Go to Mexico and tell them that their laws are constitutional….try waving an American flag on May 5 in that country….It's time to say no….it's time to send them back truckloads at a time. America is for Americans. Whether you are a native American, or a legal citizen who has 100% pride in this great nation. It's time to impeach the person in the WH who has no concept of what being an American is. We need a President who LOVES America and will stop at nothing to protect her citizens.

    • bookimdano

      "… the person in the WH who has no concept of what being an American is. "

      Born in Kenya, raised in Indonesia…never studied U.S. history, never truly inculcated into American culture, no idea of how many states there are, lacking an accurate historical perspective of the Founding Fathers and their brilliance and intelligence as reflected in the Constitution, and routinely displays distain for average Americans, but promotes the ascendancy of illegal immigrants over a State's right to enforce the rule of law.

      Impeach and imprison, IMHO.

      • tarleton

        You should be imprisoned for being such an imbecile…Obama 's an illegal alien ?

  • JCR

    Where is the logic in illegals in the U.S. parading around holding "Viva la Raza" signs and then protesting against "racial profiling"?

    • matt

      It's the same hypocrisy with most blacks. They hate racism and stereotyping, yet all the do is accuse whites of being racist and have an "in-yo-face-whitey" attitude. Oh, yeah. And these same blacks don't mind we have blacks in office who hate whites and whose whole agenda seems to be centered around doing anything that's harmful to whites and/or to the US.

  • watchful

    It's not logic. It's a power grab, period.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/WilliamJWard WilliamJamesWard

    We have and administration in Washington doing all it can to tear down America so
    it should come as no surprise that it encourages illegal immegration to further
    the dissolution of our population. The Democrats want them here to vote illegally in
    our elections to further their criminal intent of keeping power no matter what they
    have to do. The situation is lawless anarchy aided by those sworn to uphold law,
    they should be arrested and impeached being complicit with criminal behaivor.
    The lights are on and no one home, what the hell is going one here, where are
    our law enforcement officers. November elections may not come soon enough.
    We need to change the government and prosecute the outgoing thieves for
    looting the treasury, do we know when to say when?……………….William

    • Jim

      Law enforcement are with whomever are paying them.

  • Jim C.

    Well, it will be interesting to watch Arizona go through this. I have serious doubts about their law's effectiveness (I think it's just another misguided whack-a-mole game at best) but I applaud their taking the matter into their own hands.

    The quickest way to effect real change is to hit the pocketbook, though, and I don't see a lot of the body politic, much less any politician, with the courage to admit that we've become as addicted to illegal labor as we are to foreign oil. Go after the employers of these people for the price of each deportation ($17,000) and this problem goes away tomorrow.

    • http://theunknownamerican.blogspot.com theunknownamerican

      I agree with you but there are situations where local police find someone who has no ID becaue they are not legal residents of this country. This law simply gives them the ability to hand them over to ICE.

    • matt

      Yes! That's correct. Also, the government needs to stop the people who are buying these drugs. Stop the demand (that being drug buyers) to stop the supply (that being the drug cartels).

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kwg1 kwg1

    The Federal Laws already require immigration verification of employees. Would an immigration law aimed at Arizona employers also be considered usurping the role of the Federal Government over the Immigration control empowered in the Constitution? Would enforcement first need probable cause to check existing companies who do not "hire" after the law is passed? What about racial profiling if other agencies working in othe state areas like, Welfare, Agriculture, and Departments of Health, see obvious examples of potential violations of hiring?

    Saying that we should attack the pocket book is fine but it is not that simple and IMHO will be the next issue the Arizona Legislature will tackle after we get Supreme Court approval of SB1070.

  • Paula N

    The transformation has already begun! Boil it down to its essence and you are left with this:

    Either we live in a nation based on the rule of law (the law is enforced and everyone is equal under the law) or there are some that are more equal than others. The former is in accordance with the Constitution and the latter is unacceptable.

  • Jim Johnson

    The biggest supporters of keeping the illegals pouring over the borders is the Hotel industry.
    If any one wants to boycott Arizona's Hotels then God speed.

    Well you can buy a car in Arizona or some thing else.

    Stay at a camp not a Hotel.

  • Jim Johnson

    By the way please tell the sign bearers we are human also and we have rights even if the occupiers of our government think not.

    • matt

      Rights of illegals? Hell, what about our rights? What about my rights not to have to support people who won't speak English, who won't follow my laws, who respect my country, who are bringing more violent crime to this country, or who are bankrupting this nation?

  • http://theunknownamerican.blogspot.com theunknownamerican

    I agree that PC is a mysterious power that can't really be explained with anything other than marxist thinking but isn't moral authority derived from one's own conscience and their relationship with their religion? Since when did this come from the state? That is what is so strange about PC is that moral authority come from the politics that one holds and not the religious beliefs that they have.

  • Nelson Santiago

    What we are pretending not know and what is rarely stated among the intelligentsia and political classes is that Mexico is in shambles. Furthermore, its’ government cannot protect its’ citizenry. To make matters worse the elites among polite diplomatic society refuse to state the obvious; that Mexico has a corrupt culture that is tolerated by the business class, politicians and the masses. It is their reality. There is little rule of law in Mexico, there is no equal justice; especially for the rural poor and uneducated.

    The new Arizona law is not just about Mexicans coming over our border illegally; it’s about United States politicians refusing to confront the Mexican government regarding the moral bankruptcy of its justice system. The State government of Arizona is simply putting their foot down and stating; we can no longer suffer the criminal and economic consequences your lack of police enforcement is now generating in our State. Period.

    • matt

      I hate how liberals are criticizing AZ citizens as well as other Americans who don't want illegal immigration and the problems it's brought. I tell them, "Until you know what you're talking about, how about shut the fuck up."

  • George H.

    This is all interesting and probably true, but it should be remembered that the left doesn't rely on convincing people their position is correct, they pass a law and put a gun to your head and make you conform. Nor are their intimidation tactics limited to government action – riots, threats and assaults in the street are also part of their arsenal. Exploring the psychological aspects of the control system is interesting but, in the end, that system rests on force, not psychology or morality. They have moral hegemony because they have power, particularly control of the undemocratic media, rather than power because of moral supremacy.

    The fundamental tactic used to morally disarm the West is to hold it to standards they hold no one else to. Whites took over North America, that was no doubt a bummer for the Indians but how is it morally different from those same tribes chasing their neighbors across the plains? Or the Aztec empire? Why do no liberals challenge Mexico's right to claim the Southwest, where is their concern for the Native Americans? What is needed is zero tolerance for this double standard.

  • matt

    The Civil Rights movement was a violation of free association and property rights of whites, mostly white males. Notice how blacks, latinos, women, etc don't get sued or ostracized for discrimating against others not like them? Where in the US constitution does it give the government authority to tell a business or individual who they have to do business with or who they have to associate with?