Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
In December 1963, even after the assassination of Medgar Evers and the KKK bombing of a Baptist church that year, a poll found that 70% of black people believed that race relations between black and white people would eventually be worked out. Only 26% believed otherwise.
In 2021, after one black man in the White House, and another black woman there now, with 59 black members of Congress, and a third of America’s biggest cities being run by black mayors, 59% of black people believe race relations are doomed.
Why were black people in the segregation era more likely to believe that race relations would work out than their children and grandchildren are during the greatest era of black success?
The answer is not that racism is inescapable, but that racial pessimism can be inescapable
Even as black respondents became more racially pessimistic, a curious thing happened, Hispanics became racially optimistic. What surveys about race relations really reveal is that the perception of racism is not a matter of “lived experience”, but of cultural assumptions.
60% of white adults believe that race relations will eventually work out. So do 63% of Hispanic adults. Why are Hispanics even more optimistic about race relations than white people?
64% of white people and Hispanic people say that relations between the two groups are somewhat good.
But only 53% of black people believe the same thing,
Why are black people so much more pessimistic about relations between white and Hispanic people than actual Hispanics?
It’s not just that black people are more negative about race relations between black and white people with only 33% of black people viewing those as somewhat good, but black respondents also rated every other group’s relations with white people more negatively than the average.
They however rate their own relations with Hispanic people positively by an overwhelming margin of 78%. Hispanics rate Black-Hispanic relations positively at 72%, but not as positively as black people themselves do, but far more positively than white people do at 68%.
Both black and white people rate their relations with other groups more positively than those groups do and they turn more racially pessimistic when rating the interactions of other races. Black people’s expectations however become especially negative when rating any group’s relations with white people even when, as with relations between whites and Hispanics, it’s not a matter of their own personal experience.
Why were black people racially optimistic in the sixties and pessimistic today? And why are Hispanics racially optimistic at a time when that’s not in fashion? The answer has nothing to do with nonsense like ‘systemic racism’ or ‘lived experience’. It’s all about the expectations.
Black people have adopted a racially pessimistic mindset in opposition to actual events.
This mindset did not come from a legacy of oppression. If it were then the black men and women of 1963 would have been much more pessimistic. The mindset set in as that oppression went away. Racial pessimism is not experiential: it’s political and it’s cultural. We see from the Hispanic numbers that being a minority group in America does not automatically mean adopting an attitude of racial pessimism. And another term for racial pessimism is simply racism.
When black people rate relations between white and Hispanic people more negatively than either whites or Hispanics do, isn’t that really a prejudice against white people?
Racial pessimism toward a particular racial group is based on a negative view of that race.
When the vast majority of black people believe that race relations are unsolvable, that’s not a protest, it’s a fundamental rejection of the idea that it’s possible to co-exist with white people.
Critical race theory, embraced by Democrat politicians and civil rights industry leaders, claims that race relations are doomed because white people are inherently and unconsciously racist.
But what if white people are not the ones suffering from unconscious racism?
Critical race theory argues that racial optimism is actually unconscious racism and that the eagerness of white people to reject racism actually conceals layers of denial about racism. But racial conspiracy theories are the most obvious evidence of racism. Believing that people are out to get you, even as they’re welcoming you, is the maladjusted reaction of paranoid schizophrenics and bigots who project their own dysfunction onto the objects of their hate.
With critical race theory, the lunatic bigots are the ones in charge of the asylum. Anti-racism tries to cure white people who aren’t racist of the racism they don’t have by convincing them that they’re racist. This doesn’t fix racism, but it addresses the contrast between what the racist anti-racists believe and the real world by claiming that reality is a racist conspiracy.
But where’s the racism?
Both white and black people discarded opposition to interracial marriage to the point that opposition to it has nearly vanished.
Interracial marriage, the mixing of the races, is at the root of any notion of racism.
No self-respecting racist, whether it’s David Duke or Louis Farrakhan, can do anything but denounce interracial marriage. If 87% of Americans approve of interracial marriage, then ‘racism’ in its plainest and simplest sense effectively doesn’t exist.
If racism doesn’t exist, then what have we been dealing with all this time? Racial pessimism.
Pessimism about other races can be racist, but not in the racial supremacist sense, rather it’s a tribal distrust common in many societies in which outside groups are seen as threatening.
Critical race theory amplifies the tribalism at the heart of racial pessimism.
While critical race theory has clear Marxist origins, like most leftist agitprop it’s just a pseudointellectual framework for amplifying suspicions and hostilities between groups. Marxist theories of power relations are meant to organize distinct groups by incorporating their personal grievances into its larger theoretical framework so that the discontents of class, gender, and race become indistinguishable from participating in a leftist revolutionary movement.
Critical race theory didn’t invent the crisis: it’s just exploiting it in typical Marxist fashion.
To understand the crisis, we have to come to terms with what happened in the black community between 1963 and 2021. We have to understand how MLK gave way to Jeremiah Wright, and how racial optimism became racial pessimism, not because America became more racist, but because it became less racist even as black leadership became more pessimistically militant.
Leftist politics corrupted both white and black churches, not to mention synagogues, but the damage to the theology of the black church was catastrophic. Jeremiah Wright, like James Hal Cone, the father of black theology and the mentor of Georgia’s Rev. Raphael Warnock, were incredibly influential bigots who viewed white people, at times literally, as the devil.
When your theology comes from a man who insisted that, “white religionists are not capable of perceiving the blackness of God, because their satanic whiteness is a denial of the very essence of divinity”, any hope for MLK’s vision of religious brotherhood is dead and buried.
Even as racism trickled out of America, too many black religious leaders clung to power by preaching an apocalyptic vision of national racism fueled by white otherness. When it came right down to it, many black political and religious leaders feared the loss of power that integration might bring and instead chose to cordon off the black community with fear and hatred.
Politics and theology descended into a racial pessimism bordering on racism. A new era of civil rights activism began even though there were no rights left to fight for, only people to hate.
America doesn’t have a crisis of racism. Most white and black people don’t genuinely believe in racial superiority or inferiority. They’re willing to marry each other and embrace interracial children. And yet at the same time a majority of black people believe that race relations can never be fixed because they suffer from a prejudiced racial pessimism about white people.
That is the crisis.
It’s not a crisis of true racism, but a lingering tribalism nurtured by culture and religion that has been monetized by Democrat politics. Critical race theory has become a means of amplifying these same suspicions and prejudices while insisting that they represent ‘lived experience’.
As Hispanics show, they do not.
Fear doesn’t have to be destiny. Racial resentments don’t have to define our world.
Racial pessimism can be overcome, but not until we admit that it exists. The false perceptions of racism that feed critical race theory are not a reality, but a prejudice. There is a better way and it begins with admitting that racism is over. What’s left is a politically motivated fear of the other.