[Editor’s note: Make sure to read Daniel Greenfield’s masterpiece contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
The Supreme Court’s decision ending systemic racism in college admission was supported by the vast majority of Americans of every race, color and creed. While the media tried to portray it as an assault by white conservatives and Asians on “diversity” and “people of color”, the number of black people who supported the Supreme Court ruling outnumbered those opposed to it.
84% of white people oppose basing college admissions on race, but so do 81% of Hispanics, 76% of Asians and 71% of black people. Asians rank behind Hispanics in opposing it.
Most Americans recognize the fundamental unfairness of using skin color to decide if a high school student should get into college or work at Burger King. Few leftists however do.
The leading arguments in defense of using racial discrimination in college admissions either reference events in the distant past or complain about ‘legacy admissions’. What these talking points really do is strike at the heart of what is intellectually and morally rotten about the Left.
The Left’s only answer to wrongness is more wrongness.
That is also the point that Justice Clarence Thomas, descended from sharecroppers and slaves, made in his opinion. “Must others in the future make sacrifices to relevel the playing field for this new phase of racial subordination? And then, out of whose lives should the debt owed to those further victims be repaid? This vision of meeting social racism with government-imposed racism is thus self defeating, resulting in a never-ending cycle of victimization.”
The Left proposes meeting one injustice with another. And that is what it has always done. A monarchy must be replaced with a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. It is not enough to end the firing squads of the past, they must be replaced with the progressive future squads of the future. Racial discrimination must be met with racial discrimination, one blow with another, and one evil with another until somehow this cycle of repression will usher in equity and social justice.
The Left’s shift from equality to equity is an inescapable part of this worldview. Equality would require, as Thomas wrote, to follow the path “charted” by the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War with “a colorblind Constitution that requires the government to, at long last, put aside its citizens’ skin color and focus on their individual achievements.”
These two pathways toward social justice have fundamental philosophical differences, but also very different roles for government power. Equality would only require as much government intervention as needed to eliminate legal barriers while equity creates an unlimited government with an equally boundless appetite for power fighting an endless war on statistics.
As Thomas writes, “there would seem to be no logical limit to what the government may do to level the racial playing field—outright wealth transfers, quota systems, and racial preferences would all seem permissible.” And indeed that is the system we’ve been living under. It has failed to achieve its stated goals because its true objective is the means, power, not the ends.
And this is inherently true of the Left. It envisions impossible ends to grant itself unlimited means. Its seductive promise of trading one injustice for another allows it to seize power even while making revenge seem like the right side of history. No matter what moralizing rhetoric it wraps its injustices in, they never amount to more than addressing one injustice with another.
These are the limits of the leftist moral imagination which cannot encompass concepts like forgiveness, unity or equality, no matter how much it invokes them, but leans heavily on nurturing grievances. The 1619 Project typifies the perpetual victimology which is concerned with inflating the scale of evils rather than remedying them, feeding off rage and resentment, while moving the goalposts of any proposed solution so far into the realms of the impossible that they can never be remedied and that any progress can be ridiculed as a foolish delusion.
Beneath all the soaring rhetoric, affirmative action was spawned from the same tribal imagination that can conceive of life as nothing more than a series of struggles between good and bad tribes, with no other proposed remedy than for the good tribes to subjugate the bad tribes in repayment for the wrongs done to them. It’s a worldview with thousands of years of history behind it, but there is nothing liberal, progressive or forward-thinking about it.
There is nothing deeper here than W.H. Auden’s “Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.” Equity claims to offer a way forward when all it really does is determinedly repay one slap with another, one insult with another, and one form of repression with another. And all of it in a society in which the alleged wronged and the perpetrators have long since been transformed by waves of immigration that postdate not only the Civil War, but also segregation and even the faintest vestige of systemic racism by anyone other than civil rights activists.
At the heart of the Supreme Court case was the question of whether Asians should be made to suffer for what black nationalists and their white allies, who publicly bemoan ‘whiteness’ and ‘white privilege’, have explicitly framed as a racial conflict resolved with ‘tit-for-tat’ discrimination.
But beyond this particular case is the troubling reality that the country, its elite institutions and much of academia is run by men and women who can conceive of no resolution beyond racial warfare, who never reach Auden’s penultimate exclamation, “we must love one another or die.” Given a choice, they choose hate and death as the only possible answer to the sins of the past.
The vaunted moral imagination of the progressive left offers nothing more noble or visionary then the perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide. As an alternative to death, it offers a perpetual state of humiliation and submission, apologies that can never be accepted with no conceivable end in sight. Since the desired power scales to the outrage of the abuses, no matter how much matters improve, they must always be seen to be growing worse. If anything were ever good enough, the authoritarian abuses implemented to make things better would have to sunset.
Equity, unlike equality, is self-eliminating. Like all leftist totalitarian systems, including Communism, it would have to abolish itself if it ever succeeded. And so it never will.
Much like the downfall of segregation, the end of affirmative action revealed that the people in whose name these crimes were being committed were not especially enthusiastic about them. A tyrannical system hiding behind a racial hierarchy cannot compete with the promise of a society in which we are no longer the prisoners of the past, but can look forward to a better future.
Leftist promises of a better future are unconvincing because they are tethered to a racial pessimism. If white people are inherently racist and if, for that matter, as intersectionality contends, we are all oppressors, then what better future is waiting for us? Everyone can be subjected to DEI, unconsciousness bias training, Kendi tracts and struggle sessions, but all they have to offer is the same downbeat message that we are all bigoted down to our DNA, and that our bigotry infects everything, our values, our institutions, our art and even the foods we eat.
Even more than racism, despair is in the air that DEI breathes. Its only positive narrative is that oppressed people of color can find joy in recognizing and resisting the horribleness everywhere. The culture created by the DEI industries is alternately morose and deranged, deconstructing the past, along with any notion of an optimistic future, while venting endlessly about the present.
Americans moved on once and twice before, they’re ready to move on again. The Left’s vision of vengeance as progress, of trading one racism for another, does not appeal to most people.
Justice Clarence Thomas’ message speaks not only for most Americans, but most minorities, including black people. “The solution to our Nation’s racial problems thus cannot come from policies grounded in affirmative action or some other conception of equity. Racialism simply cannot be undone by different or more racialism. Instead, the solution announced in the second founding is incorporated in our Constitution: that we are all equal, and should be treated equally before the law without regard to our race. Only that promise can allow us to look past our differing skin colors and identities and see each other for what we truly are: individuals with unique thoughts, perspectives, and goals, but with equal dignity and equal rights under the law.”
Racialism cannot be undone by racialism, discrimination by discrimination, and abuses by abuses. And yet, whether on race or class, sex or any other division, that is all the Left has to offer. Affirmative action is not a moral hiccup, it is the defining characteristic of the Left. It has no no vision for moving us forward, all it offers is the promise of payback for those filled with rage, of oppression for those held back by mistrust, and power for those who want to repay in kind.
The only progress it can ever conceive of is of the evil variety, to do evil in return.