We are in the midst of the largest cultural shift of my lifetime and as I continue to watch things unfold, the more concerned I get. This is the part 1 in a series where I want to look at some of the most popular ideas being pushed in our culture and give my (increasingly heterodox) opinion.
One such idea that has seen a massive amount of popularization over the past couple of weeks is that of “anti-racism.” It has now become a mainstream concept that is being heavily embraced and advocated for everywhere from social media to church sermons. Being an anti-racist surely sounds like a noble idea—everybody knows that racism is abhorrent, so who wouldn’t want to be anti-racist? Well, me. As I have taken the time to learn about what it means to be an anti-racist, i’m more convinced then ever that I don’t want to be one. I think that a majority of the people advocating for anti-racism simply don’t understand how it works, so I want to unpack it. With that being said, here are 5 reasons why I reject anti-racism (and why you should too).
1. Anti-racism is an intellectually shallow ideology based on irrational assumptions and radical redefinitions of terminology.
Anti-racism is fairly straight forward, starting with a complete redefinition of racism. Ibram X. Kendi, Americas leading scholar on anti-racism and author of the now wildly popular and highly recommended book “How to be an anti-racist,” defines racism as “a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas” and goes on to define a racist as “someone who is expressing a racist idea or supporting a racist policy with their action or inaction.”
Putting aside the fact that his definition includes the word he is trying to define, his book makes it incredibly clear that what he means by racism has nothing to do with what is traditionally known as racism—something like the belief in the inferiority or superiority of an individual based on the racial group they happen to be apart of. Rather, racism is about supporting the wrong policies that result in unequal representation across racial groups and anti-racism is about supporting the correct policies that will lead to equal representation. Or, put another way, anti-racism boils down to redefining racism so that anyone who does not agree with your politics can be painted as a racist, according to your new definition. It’s quite clever actually.
The entire framework functions under the assumption that equal outcomes among racial groups are the ultimate moral good and therefore any statistical disparity across races is in need of fixing. But you should be very skeptical of this claim. Should we work towards an equal representation of white people in industries where black people are overrepresented, such as the NFL, in order to reach racial equity? Does the unequal representation reflect racism on the part of NFL team owners? Is it a great injustice that needs to be fixed? Of course not, because individuals make choices all the time that don’t neatly line up along racial lines—because they’re fundamentally individuals, not members of their racial group.
We could also do the same thing with sexism—redefining it as anything that results in unequal outcomes among males and females, and then force males to become teachers and females to become engineers in order to reach gender equity. But we don’t because we recognize that unequal representation does not automatically imply an injustice that needs to be fixed. The entire anti-racist philosophy is built on flawed logic and fallacious reasoning that should make it unpalatable to anyone who has taken the time to understand it.
2. Anti-racism explicitly advocates for racial discrimination.
Ibram X. Kendi states this one rather clearly. He says “If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.” and goes on to say, “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.”
The goal posts have clearly shifted since the civil rights movement. According to Kendi, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that people “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” is explicitly racist and makes him complicit in a system of white supremacy. The modern anti-racist movement is openly fighting for discrimination on the basis of race and against the hopes of people like MLK who fought for genuine equality. The idea that you can correct for past oppression with present oppression, or that you can fix past racism with present racism is not justice—it’s called revenge and it’s just as wrong as the original offense.
3. Anti-racism is a deeply immoral ideology that essentializes race as the most important characteristic of an individual.
One of the deep ironies in the current cultural movement is that passionate anti-racists and genuine white supremacists share the same fundamental belief. Both of them advocate for race as a defining attribute by which you gain insight on how to treat an individual. Both are fighting for a world where moral judgments are made about people based solely on their ethnicity. And both are training their adherents to think of themselves and others on a race-first basis where by their primary identity is the color of their skin.
But the idea that you can make judgments about the value, worth, guilt, intellect, or anything else based on someone’s race is morally reprehensible behaviour whether it’s being advanced by proud white supremacists or by passionate anti-racists. The underlying principle is the same, and thus both should be condemned, even if one is masquerading under a nice-sounding label. Ant-racism is not a benign ideology, the entire framework is built around these kinds of unconscionable positions.
This is also why I find the idea (now supported everywhere from social media to sermons given by prominent pastors) of “supporting black owned businesses” or encouraging people to “read books by black authors” to be both deeply immoral and incredibly counterproductive. Not only is it racial discrimination, but incredibly patronizing for the many black people who would prefer to be treated by the content of their character(or the quality of their book/business) than by the color of their skin. As a Christian, I refuse to denigrate the humanity of an individual by distilling them down to their racial group. I also refuse to elevate something as arbitrary and superficial as the color of ones skin as the basis by which I make decisions about them. Let me ask you a few questions to highlight the point.
How many books by blonde authors did you read last year? How many businesses do you support that have blue-eyed owners? How many podcasts do you listen to that are produced by people under 5’4”? The answer to these questions is that you don’t know and you don’t care. And the reason that you don’t care is that hair color, eye color, and height are rightfully being treated as morally and politically insignificant. But the problem is that the color of one’s skin should be filed under the same category. And when you tell someone to read books by people because of the color of their skin, or to support a business because of the race of the owner, you are, once again, doing exactly what genuine racism does—elevating race as an important trait by which you make judgments about how to treat an individual.
Those who have embraced this kind of grotesque posturing show that they have not sufficiently thought about what an ideal, post-racial society looks like. Do we want a world where race becomes more important, or less? It seems to me that vehement anti-racism logically only leads to one place—a racially charged society, obsessed with the color of one’s skin as giving insight into an individual’s moral worth and value, and thus, an ever-increasing polarization and hostility between racial groups. On the other hand, I hope for the day when race becomes less significant, a day when encouraging someone to support black business owners sounds as utterly absurd and laughable as encouraging someone to read more books by blonde authors.
4. Anti-racism hurts the people it claims to help—while obscuring genuine racism.
Anti-racist ideology also fails to solve problems for the people that need it most. To give a concrete example, statistics show that black students do worse than white or asian students on standardized tests that assess how ready high school students are for college—like the SAT. For an anti-racist, this is clear proof of racism, where the only appropriate response is to create a test that has equal success rates across racial groups or to get rid of standardized tests completely (this is happening in many colleges across the country).
But notice that this doesn’t fix anything. The students that didn’t do well on these tests are no better off by getting rid of them—in fact, the opposite is true. These students then get admitted to rigorous schools that they aren’t equipped to succeed in, causing them to move from harder, higher paying degrees in STEM fields to easier, lower paying degrees in the humanities, or to drop out of college completely—resulting in a much lower chance of doing well financially or otherwise. Instead of doing the hard work of figuring out why these students aren’t doing well and addressing it, they settle for “solutions” like these that only make the problem worse.
Simplistically assuming racism as the root of all disparities fails to grapple with the complex issues facing many people in our country today, and in turn, harms those it claims to be helping. (Not to mention that the underlying assumption here is that black students can’t succeed at the same rate as other students without changing the standards for them—an idea known as the soft bigotry of low expectations that is pervasive in the movement as a whole and strikes me as incredibly insulting.)
5. Anti-racism is a religion.
John Mcwhorter, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University, has made an interesting observation about the modern anti-racist movement and its parallels with religious doctrine. He explains that
“third-wave antiracism is a profoundly religious movement in everything but terminology. The idea that whites are permanently stained by their white privilege, gaining moral absolution only by eternally attesting to it, is the third wave’s version of original sin. The idea of a someday when America will “come to terms with race” is as vaguely specified a guidepost as Judgment Day. Explorations as to whether an opinion is “problematic” are equivalent to explorations of that which may be blasphemous. The social mauling of the person with “problematic” thoughts parallels the excommunication of the heretic. What is called “virtue signaling,” then, channels the impulse that might lead a Christian to an aggressive display of her faith in Jesus.”
If Mcwhorter is right—which I think he quite clearly is—then anti-racism is the kind of thing that would take the place of Christian faith, not be affirmed by its adherents. Many Christians, feeling the force of the cultural tide and passionate about a genuine desire for justice, have mistaken anti-racism for something that it’s not. It works by exploiting the natural inclinations of the most kind and compassionate people among us into thinking that becoming a vehement anti-racist is the only reasonable and loving response to our current cultural situation. By creating a framework where you either become an anti-racist or you are a racist, they’ve simply bullied many people into accepting their ideology out of fear of being portrayed as something that they’re not.
As a christian, I am committed to certain principles and values—not to cultural movements trying to coerce good people into accepting bad ideas. Don’t be fooled, bad ideas that are allowed to gain acceptance have disastrous impacts on real people. A brief glance at history will show you that. People deserve respect, but ideas—especially bad ideas like anti-racism—deserve to be mocked and ridiculed, exposed for what they are. Anti-racism is a silly, immoral, and dangerous game that I refuse to play.