In October of 2021, I returned to the National Public Radio show Watching America, with host Dr. Alan Campbell, for an interview about my recently-published book, What Do White Americans Owe Black People: Racial Justice in the Age of Post Oppression. I had had a delightful interview with Dr. Campbell the year before for my previous book, We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People.
In the ensuing weeks following that October interview, I inquired about its status. I was told that the “higher-ups” at NPR were disturbed by the book, the interview and, just as importantly, the author. They found me, my ideas, and the book too controversial, too offensive. Let it be known that both the producer of the show and Dr. Alan were upset by this decision. They were and remain brave and remarkable individuals devoted to the free and open exchange of ideas.
In fact, the producer of that show, having grown weary of battling with management over content and freedom of expression, has resigned from NPR on principle. She is a hero in my eyes.
The “higher-ups” – the management and leadership apparatchiks who can only be described as part of the woke supremacists and cancel culture bureaucrats – are the real villains. They have become the artificial arbiters of what constitutes truth, creators of taste, and standard-bearers of morality in matters of the intellect. I am not alone here. A few conservative friends—mildly so—have confided in me that they too have been canceled by NPR.
But what exactly are they afraid of in a book that aims to explore the entitlement culture we live in; one that challenges the idea that all economic asymmetries and disparities between the races must be the result of systemic racism, and a residual effect of slavery?
For at its root, my book claims that reparations are questionable since they are predicated on a blaming strategy. That strategy is ethically dubious. Ninety percent of Africans shipped to the New World were enslaved by fellow Africans and sold to European traders. The tragic truth is that without the collusion and complex business partnerships between African elites and European commercial traders and agents, the slave trade would have been impossible. Even renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass realized this. He was against reparations for blacks on the grounds that “the savage chiefs of the western coasts of Africa, who for ages have been accustomed to selling their captives into bondage and pocketing the ready cash for them, will not more readily accept our moral and economical ideas than the slave traders of Maryland and Virginia.”
Africans sold themselves into slavery. If reparations are to be sought, they should be from the primitive Sub-Saharan African countries out of which the slave trade originated.
What else could NPR be afraid would so deeply upset the sensibilities of American readers? That black freedom was forged in the crucibles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? That America had a second founding in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Civil War? That the moral language of our republic’s founding suffused the Third Founding of America in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts? That piece of legislation which granted blacks full standing before the law, was also a form of moral eugenics in that it re-contextualized the usage of private property, and systematically attempted to make non-racists out of those white Americans who were racists.
Could it be that the book explores multiple dimensions of race in America today, but most importantly, a black-white divide which has grown exponentially over the past decade? Central to the thesis of the book is a call for black American leaders (and their white liberal sponsors) to escape from the cycle of blame and finger-pointing, which seeks to identify black failures with white hatred and indifference. This overblown narrative is promulgated by a phalanx of black nihilists who advocate the destruction of America and her institutions in the name of ending “whiteness.” Much of the black intelligentsia consists of these false prophets, and it is their poisonous ideology which is taught, uncontradicted, to students of all races. It is they who are responsible for the cultural depression blacks are suffering in today’s society.
Ultimately, the answer to “What do White Americans owe?” is not about the morality or practicality of reparations, affirmative action, or other redistributionist schemes. My book rejects the collectivist premise behind the argument, instead couching notions of culpability, justice, and fairness as responsibilities of individuals, not arbitrary racial or ethnic groupings.
Aside from the collusion between Sub-Saharan Africans and Europeans in facilitating the slave trade, the book explores the ways Africans were vulnerable to enslavement by the primitive animist philosophies they held that failed to allow them to abstract themselves from nature and develop both an explicit philosophy of inviolate dignity, and the attendant military technology to safeguard their bodily integrity.
NPR is terrified that the book traces the cultural and philosophical roots of Critical Race Theory, the Equity Movement, calls for reparations, and the abolition of whiteness. And it is equally terrified of the book’s ending: a magnanimous call for a new universal ethic that will end all identity politics and conjoin Americans as bearers of a common American identity that is powerful enough to withstand personal, political, and racial/ethnic differences. To this end, the book entreats blacks to pursue a heroic path to relinquish strong attachments to racial ascriptive identities so that a new individualism, radical forgiveness, grace, and love for humanity may finally be born.
But you see, this is exactly what NPR cannot tolerate: any philosophy that aims to establish the means where rational divisiveness is proper and where it is not and, at the same time, shape new sensibilities to bring about an idea leftists can’t accept: that there is no such thing as racial reconciliation. Races don’t conciliate or re-conciliate. Only individuals as individuals can perform that task. This collectivist malarkey is precisely why identity politics are never fully diagnosed and demolished. Individuals, not groups, are units of ethical and moral concern. A book that delineates and proves that credo is politically out of order for the leftist vanguards at NPR.
Identifying the real destroyers of our republic such as Black Lives Matter nihilists, and Critical Race Theory practitioners who are bent on ushering in a new Marxist regime in the United States to irrevocably alter the political DNA of this country—the book, by default, exposes the leftist agenda NPR has been embracing for a very long time. It has been on a mission to destroy this country. It does so by stealth, and by advancing leftist politics in the name of the public interest. By crushing dissenting viewpoints from the medium’s varied platforms, it normalizes radical left-wing ideas and criminalizes commonsense viewpoints that correspond to an objective reality.
The only antidote is to alert readers to the machinations of an institution that still has a coercive monopoly on the idea that it is the promulgator of unbiased and objective reportage. National Public Radio is anything but unbiased. It has become an un-American institution. Time to fight fire with fire and cancel that pretentious, mediocre institution by withdrawing our support and endorsement.
Jason D. Hill is professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago specializing in ethics, social and political philosophy, American foreign policy, and moral psychology. He is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. Dr. Hill is the author of five books, including What Do White Americans Owe Black People: Racial Justice in the Age of Post-Oppression. Follow him on Twitter @JasonDhill6.