Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
For a couple of years Obama and the U.S. Census Bureau have been working on adding to the 2020 census a new ethnic group, or “racial category.” This new addition to the conga-line of victims of white hegemony is called “Mena,” comprising people from the Middle East and North Africa, which includes very culturally diverse peoples from Berbers to Israelis, Arabs to Persians. All sorts of soothing rationales have been put forth for this move, such as helping government and scholars “understand more about trends in health, employment and education,” as USA Today put it. But in reality the change would create even more clients for what radio hosts Larry Elder calls “Victicrats,” the Democrat Party and identity politics hustlers who gain political power and influence by claiming to champion the “people of color” victimized by “white privilege” and racial oppression.
The White House is frank about how altering the census would make this happen: impacting how the Voting Rights Act is enforced and Congressional districts are drawn; creating affirmative action plans and monitoring discrimination in housing, bank lending, and education; and identifying new recipients of government largess. That is, targeting those who would be inclined to vote Democrat once they are the beneficiaries of more government patronage. In addition, since most of these people identify as “white” on the current census, giving them a different option would support the Democrats’ narrative of a demographic shift that is reducing whites to a minority, and that will create The Coming Democrat Majority, as John Judis and Ruy Teixera called it in their 2004 book. Removing some 10 million “Menas” from the white category would confirm that thesis and comfort those still grieving over Donald Trump’s electoral refutation of that hypothesis.
More broadly, this scheme to alter the census reveals just how incoherent and corrupt are our ethnic and racial identity politics. Take the category “Hispanic.” It ignores the diversity of class, religion, culture, and language that separates these groups and create their identities. It asserts that a Mixtec Indian from Oaxaca, who speaks Mixtec instead of Spanish, supposedly shares an identity with a third-generation Mexican-American from California, who speaks English instead of Spanish. Such a broad term is meaningless, collapsing together Caucasians, blacks, Indians, mestizos, and mulattos who happen to have Spanish surnames.
The same is true of all the other racial categories. “Black” could mean an American descendant of slaves, or a mulatto born of a white woman and a Kenyan, or an immigrant from countries as different from one another as Nigeria and Trinidad. It ignores regional, class, and educational differences among American blacks, predicating their “blackness” solely on skin color and the assertion that they are all victims of endemic white racism. “Asian” is equally ridiculous, for it bases identity merely on inhabiting the same vast continent. It’s amazing that the people who fervently worship at the altar of diversity endorse crude racial categories that are left over from the “scientific racism” of early 20th century progressives, and that erase the incredible diversity of human cultures and individuals.
The worst category, however, is “white.” These days “white” is an ideological artifact, defining millions of diverse peoples by their alleged “privilege,” notions of “supremacy,” racism, xenophobia, sexual repression, and neurotic fear of the dark-skinned “other” and cultural differences. Or, as a professor at California State University San Marcos recently said at a “Whiteness Forum,” “a system of power based on racist ideology maintained discursively, institutionally, and materially.” This definition of “White” reduces 200 million Americans to a caricature based on late fifties sit-coms like The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best, an antiseptic, homogenous suburban world where everybody is white, middle class, church-going, and sexually uptight.
This ideologically loaded definition of “whiteness” also erases from our public awareness the millions of poor and working class people struggling with unemployment, drug addiction, reduced life expectancy, and destructive patterns of behavior similar to those plaguing the black inner cities. J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy called attention to these problems for about a month, but hasn’t led to a sustained recognition and discussion of this disaster, or demands for government intervention to address it. To progressives and the mainstream media, the alleged epidemic of “hate crimes” against American Muslims, or the outbreak of “microagressions” on Ivy League campuses is infinitely more important and worthy of government action.
In reality there is no such thing as “white people.” The colonists who rebelled against the British Empire and created the United States were differentiated by religion, region, dialects, economic interests, and origins. That diversity explains our political order, one based on recognizing these differences, but institutionally balancing them in order to protect both the freedom of the people and their diverse interests and identities.
Take England, from which the bulk of early settlers came. The people of England comprised Celts, Irish, Scots, Welsh, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Romano-Britons, Scandinavians, and French Normans, themselves a hybrid of Scandinavians and Gallo-Romans, Germanic Franks, and Celts. They came to America professing different denominations of Christianity, from Anglican to Presbyterian, Catholic to Quaker, Congregationalist to Unitarian. The regional diversity they settled in contributed to different cultural practices, economies, and social mores. A Tidewater Anglican Virginian lived a life quite different from a Piedmont Scots-Irish Presbyterian, let alone a Boston Unitarian. And the different beliefs of a slave-owner and an abolitionist, along with the clashing economic interests among tradesmen and farmers, merchants and plantation owners, ultimately were so divisive that they could be resolved only by a bloody civil war.
After confirmed by the Civil War, within a few decades the Constitutional solution to such extensive diversity began to be dismantled by the progressive movement and its centralization and concentration of power in the federal government. Progressives created an abstract continent-wide “people” with uniform interests, one that ignored or minimized all those differences that federalism and divided government kept from threatening freedom. The new hypertrophied federal government substituted an expanded executive of technocratic bureaus and agencies that imposed uniform policies and regulations on the diversity of the states, reducing the autonomy of individuals and state governments alike.
The next phase was the rise of leftist identity politics in the sixties, which created “multiculturalism,” an Orwellian term that encouraged new divisions based not on reality, but on a manufactured racial and ethnic identity predicated on historical victimization and the racism of the white majority. It also redefined “diversity,” replacing the de facto diversity that has existed in the West for millennia, with a superficial diversity masking an ideological unity intolerant of real diversity. And it wielded political correctness as the linguistic weapon for enforcing that ideology. The purveyors of these new identities then looked to the federal government to enforce this narrative and create redistributive programs that empowered these “protected” groups and compensated them for the historical crimes of whites. In the sixties the Democrat Party embraced the new balkanization and the big government that validated and rewarded it.
So here we are today, with phony ethnic and racial “identities” often as crude as the Jim Crow stereotypes that validated segregation and discrimination. Now Big Government is the arbiter of the conflicting interests of a diverse people, putting its thumb on the policy scales in favor of the “protected classes,” and overriding the power of the states and the law-making powers of Congress in order to compensate one party’s clients. And its endorsement of political correctness has contributed to the erosion of the individual’s Constitutionally protected freedom of speech.
This overweening and partisan intrusion was intensified during the Obama years by his divisive racial politics and support of activists like Black Lives Matter, and by his bypassing the Constitution and making laws through executive orders, directives to federal agencies, and signing statements. Obama’s naked power-grab and stoking of racial animosity is what fired up working class “whites” to turn out and vote for Donald Trump, after they rejected the mainstream Republicans who they perceived had given in to the multicultural and “diversity” racket subsidized and enforced by the federal government.
Now Donald Trump must deliver on his promises to begin rolling back the policies and programs that have picked winners and losers from among the great diversity of the people’s “passions and interests,” rather than trusting in divided government to give these factions scope yet not let them overwhelm other factions. Our new president can start by pruning the executive agencies and their regulations, reinvigorating federalism, and ditching all the racial and ethnic categories on the census, let alone allowing the creation of a new one like the preposterous “Mena.”