Goldberg on Racism

quotes racism postmodernism journalism

09 Aug 2020

Zach Goldberg on racism:

The effect overall in terms of the coverage at publications like the Times and Post is that quite often, articles about racism are not reports about events occurring in a particular time and place—they are part of a totalizing theory of the world.

What the evidence suggests, is that leading publications have not only vastly expanded the definition of racism and actively promoted a more racialized view of American society—in a period beginning under a Black president and during which many indicators showed slow and frustrating, but consistent, racial progress—but have done so, in part, by normalizing and popularizing the notion of “white people’s” collective guilt.

Instead of describing the demonstrably discriminatory ideas and actions of particular institutions or individuals, white supremacy is now understood by many progressives to be the fundamental ethos of the American system as a whole.

For decades, the term “racial equality” was the ubiquitous framework for understanding and evaluating racial justice. This is now changing as “equality” gives way to newer concepts such as “racial equity,” which refers to the redistribution of resources from the supposedly privileged to the supposedly disadvantaged as a means to redress claimed discrimination. As Ibram Kendi puts it: “If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist … The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Thus the goal is no longer ‘racial equality’ or equal treatment under the law. It is, rather, the attainment of a state of the world in which all groups have equal outcomes—even if some are deliberately disadvantaged in the process.

For some Americans all of this is surely good news. For them, the rapid proliferation of articles employing the tropes of critical race theory to ascribe racial guilt in the American system represents a reckoning with white supremacy and inequality that is long overdue. There are many possible objections to this line of argument: To start, there’s the fact that dividing a diverse, multiethnic society into oppressed and oppressor categories on the basis of skin color has, as a matter of historical precedent, more often led to sectarian bloodshed than enhanced justice and equity. What’s more, the narratives promoting this new system of racial division are both factually fraudulent—built on false or misleading premises and assumptions—and deeply hostile to any attempts at factual correction. If one points out, for instance, that accounts of white supremacy as an all-powerful force in American society tend to discount that some nonwhite groups like Nigerian Americans, Indian Americans, and East Asian Americans all have more income equity than the average white person, this itself is invalidated as a racist microaggression. The media has actively promoted a theory of racism that misrepresents facts about the world while stigmatizing any effort to criticize those facts as racist.

The same media institutions that have promoted revanchist identitarianism and the radical transformation of American society along racial lines, could instead have focused their attention and influence on improving the quality of life for all. Working to ensure that Americans of any background aren’t unjustly victimized by the police and have access to quality health care, schools, and affordable housing doesn’t require the promotion of a “race-consciousness” that divides society into “oppressed” and “privileged” color categories. To the contrary, it requires that we de-emphasize these categories and unite in pursuit of common interests. This may not suit the media’s prerogatives, and it may not appeal to activists whose desire for cultural “recognition” trumps their devotion to material progress, but it does offer the potential benefit of improving the lives of ordinary Americans.

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