Before explaining the truth of racism, I need to explain the truth of truth. People might say, “He’s accused of racism, but is it true that he is a racist?” That’s clumsy wording, so let’s first figure out what we are talking about.
Various statements are regarded as true by various people, with various degrees of confidence. I believe it’s true that drugs should be legalized. Most experts believe it’s true that CO2 is warming the Earth. All experts believe it’s true that 2+2 = 4.
All humans are regarded as racists by at least one other group of humans. If you favor “reverse discrimination” (affirmative action), then some conservatives view you as racist. If you oppose affirmative action, then some on the left view you as racist. Don’t bother trying to live a life where no one views you as racist; it’s not possible.
Nor does it help to say, “X is viewed as racist, but actually he’s not racist.” All you are saying is that one group of people regards someone as racist, and you disagree. So say so!
I have a set of views that many 60s-style liberals would put in the “non-racist” basket:
1. A colorblind society is best.
2. One race is not innately superior to another.
3. There is structural racism in America, relating to drug laws, occupational licensing laws, zoning rules, education system, the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery, etc.
4. Free speech is very important.
But I also hold other views that would cause many young woke people to label me “racist”:
1. I oppose all identity politics (right and left-wing.)
2. I oppose all identity epistemology.
3. I strongly support cultural appropriation.
4. I treat oppressed minorities as if they have personal agency (i.e. dignity).
5. I don’t view inter-ethnic income differences as ipso facto proof of racism.
So there’s no need to out me or cancel me. I already acknowledge everything. I acknowledge that 60s-style liberals and moderates and conservatives would regard me as non-racist, and I acknowledge that today’s woke people would regard me as racist. There is nothing more to say on the “truth” of my racism.
But there is more to say on how a person should regard these perspectives. Should you be concerned if others call you racist? Speaking for myself, I’m concerned when people I greatly respect on other grounds point to a specific flaw in my behavior.
If bloggers I respect warned me that my views were racist, I’d be very concerned. If black intellectuals like John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Kmele Foster, Coleman Hughes and Thomas Sowell (who range from left wing to moderate to right wing, by the way) viewed me as racist then I’d be very concerned.
But when I look around the Twittersphere I see a group of extremists that combine stupidity, dishonesty, self-righteousness, cruelty, and humorlessness. If that group ever reads this blog (God knows why they’d even bother) and then calls me a racist, then all I can do is to respond, “Yes, you are right that by your standards I am a racist. But I don’t respect you and I hold a different set of values.” Ditto for white nationalists who call me a cuck.
The woke Twittersphere is to anti-racism what the McCarthyites were to anti-communism and the Red Guard was to anti-capitalism—fanatics that are mostly attacking their own side, damaging their own interests.
You can tell that I don’t live in fear of being canceled. As far as I’m concerned I’ve just cancelled myself in the eyes of left-wing identitarians. They need not even bother.
Yes, it’s easy for me because I basically live isolated from the broader society. I understand that people like David Shor and Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias live deeply enmeshed in our intellectual culture and have a much more difficult time navigating these waters. I’m not naive about these complex human realities. I have it easy.
Call it loneliness privilege.
PS. The Straussian reading is that this post is not about race at all; it’s a defense of Richard Rorty.