In a year full of sad graphs, most of them one way or another connected with COVID, I came across this one the other day:
COVID, whatever its origin turns out to be, is an “act of God”, a natural disaster of sorts, even if how we responded to it was at least in part a (hu)man-made disaster. Race relations, however, we did all to ourselves.
In case you are wondering what might have happened in 2013 to send the positive numbers tumbling and the negative ones skyrocketing, I’ll save you searching your memory or the Internet: it was Black Lives Matter, launching off the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
To say that the interactions between the police and the black community are a fraught problem would be an understatement. Shooting of unarmed black suspects are indeed out of proportion to the black share of population. But so are the overall interactions between the two groups. Whether that’s because blacks commit more crimes (and, if so, why is that), are more targeted by the law enforcement than other races, or indeed a combination of both factors, is the debate we’ve been having for a long time and will continue to have for a long time yet. Perhaps ending the war on drugs would make a difference, seeing how much crime is associated with drug distribution, use, and financing of use; perhaps some other reforms are also needed. Black people are overwhelmingly victims of violence perpetrated by other black people, and while we should do everything to minimise harm done by those sworn “to serve and protect”, we cannot forget about other, much broader issues. Black lives matter indeed, but they should not only matter in that tiny minority of cases when it’s the police who are involved.
Just like after the end of the Cold War, many traditional left-wing activists gravitated to the environmental movement in search of a new home, in the process transforming the environmental agenda into a much broader political one (as illustrated by one of the founders and early directors of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, in his memoirs “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout”), so did the last two decades see the significant increase of a radical left influence on all other organised activism, including civil rights movement. Hence the genuine grassroots sentiment for change has been now taken over by Marxist agitators and Critical Race Theory advocates. Gone are Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King Jr.; in are “abolishing whiteness”, “dismantling structures of oppression” and a “revolutionary transformation of society”. This radical turn has been aided and abetted by the media and other mainstream institution, partly under their own influence from mainstreamed radical ideologies, partly in a more cynical pursuit of ratings, funding, relevance, and a high virtue status.
Fed on a steady diet of televised protests and riots, and the narrative that everything is racist, it is no wonder that both white and black Americans think the racial relations are in a nadir. What’s remarkable is that despite all the attempts to divide by race and set people against each other, so many are still optimistic in the long term, even if the black hope in particular has taken a battering following the 2020 “summer of discontent”:
Radicals are merchants of despair, because widespread hope and optimism that injustices can be fixed through traditional institutions and channels of reform means there is no appetite for the change of the entire system. This is in fact how the excesses of the early capitalism have been over time modified to the general satisfaction of the working class, in the process rendering them useless as agents of revolutionary change. The far left does not want to make the same mistake again with their new classes of the oppressed: things have to get much worse – and be seen to be getting much worse – because only through widespread desperation and anger can the radicals create a revolutionary climate, where destroying the status quo and building an alternative system are seen as the only way anything will ever change.
Judging by the results so far, the far left is doing a great job. History shows this is invariably to the loss and disservice of most people – whether the workers and the bourgeoisie of yesterday or whites and people of colour today.