Liberals, who have always claimed to be the authoritative source of progressive attitudes on race, have actually become one of the centers of racist thinking in America over the last quarter century, a period of time in which postwar liberalism itself was being reconfigured by the radical Sixties worldview. Liberal racism began in the last years of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, when organizations such as the Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) radicalized the issue of color in America by focusing on legitimate “black rage” and the “institutional racism” they claimed was embedded in the “DNA” of American society. King was an obstacle in their path; they rejected the gains he had achieved as illusory. This was no mere intellectual disagreement about a strategy for improving race relations in America; it had a bitter personal component. The black radicals and their white supporters derided King as “De Lawd” and “Uncle Martin.”
Later on, after King’s assassination, most of those who had expressed contempt for him during his lifetime would pay cynical homage to his martyrdom. But they never embraced his vision of an integrated social world. Rather, the program of these liberal racists, both white and black, focused on separatism and racial difference. Instead of subscribing to King’s belief in a colorblind society, they wanted government policies that were color-coded. The further America progressed from the dark days of slavery, the more they insisted that slavery was present in America’s social institutions and its personal interrelationships. The U.S., they asserted, was steeped in blood and guilt: it must pay for its crimes against “people of color.”
The extent to which such views have not only entered but dominated the intellectual mainstream of America in the past three decades can be seen in the degree to which King’s notion that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin has become marginalized as quaint and naive. The racism in the left’s view primarily of blacks themselves, but also of whites, has been clear in the policies the left has pursued. Some, like the demand for reparations for slavery, have not yet prevailed. Others, like the demand for affirmative action, have become part of America’s way of doing business as a society. Although claiming to be an equitable “leveling of the playing field,” this policy has actually tilted the social landscape. It has nothing to do with equality of opportunity, and everything to do with establishing a regime that will produce an equality of results. It is a zero sum game in which some win because of skin color and others lose because of skin color. Ultimately, affirmative action has put government back into the business of playing racial favorites — even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the summary achievement of the civil rights movement, banned such action.
Liberal racists believe that neutral and objective tests for college admissions are actually rigged in favor of whites. When Asians, many of them recent immigrants with little or no cultural experience, refute this notion by outscoring whites on these tests, liberal racists say that these Asians are not really a minority at all but inauthentic, imitation whites.
Liberal racists bear a heavy burden for having helped destroy the black family and create a black underclass by their romanticization of ghetto behavior, and their insistence that blacks are victims who cannot be held responsible for what they do. They reject the idea that culture rather than race may help explain the disadvantages those in the black underclass face. It is true, as they point out, that some 40 percent of America’s black children are born poor, and that this fact affects their life chances. But it is also true that 85 percent of these poor children come from single-parent homes. It is this circumstance—studies show that children born into single-parent families are more likely to be poor, regardless of race, than children with two parents—rather than “institutional racism” that actually handicaps them. Yet in the liberal view, any policy aimed at countering illegitimacy and single parenthood among the black underclass is “blaming the victim.”
The effects of liberal racism can be seen in the way black students taunt those among them who strive for achievement as sellouts who are “acting white.” Liberal racism can be seen in the unholy alliance between the Democrat Party, the National Education Association and other teachers’ unions, and black spokesmen such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, to maintain their power by opposing school choice for black children trapped in violent and failing public schools. Liberal racism can be seen in the way black voters are kept on the proverbial “liberal plantation” through scare tactics and attacks on “race traitors” such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, who have defied the party line. Liberal racism can be seen, paradoxically, most clearly in the way anyone straying from its premises is immediately branded as a “racist.” This is a powerful sanction that liberal racists use like a bludgeon to control the public discussion about race.