Victor Davis Hanson
“Despite being Black, he [Rep. Byron Donalds] supports a policy agenda intent on upholding and perpetuating white supremacy.” — Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.)
“Larry Elder [former candidate for governor of California] is the Black face of white supremacy. You’ve been warned.” — Erika Smith, Los Angeles Times columnist
America is an increasingly multiracial society. Despite its early history of slavery and racial segregation, and ongoing bias and tensions, the United States remains one of the few contemporary multiracial constitutional systems that have actually worked. Yet recently few have appreciated that achievement.
Usually multiracial nations and empires—Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, the Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires—require some level of coercion incompatible with a democratic constitution to force calm. Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Kenya may be currently multiracial democracies in theory, but in fact they are often sectarian and tribal cauldrons.
In most such places, pride, solidarity—and even safety—are only found through common religious, ethnic, and racial bonds that become all-encompassing. The individual’s primary allegiance to each particular warring group inevitably becomes incompatible with every other’s overriding loyalties.
The United States is insidiously nearing that abyss. It has all but renounced its old commitment to the melting-pot, and a “content-of-our-character” ideal of assimilation and integration within a common culture. But as we obsess on race and accordingly separate, do we really know the final consequences of what the diversity/equity/inclusion tribalism actually entails?
The first rule of tribalism is that the racial or ethnic collective superimposes solidarity over the individual, who then becomes a mere cog in racial-political wheel. Conservatives such as Larry Elder or Byron Donalds become especially despised as examples of successful individuals who reject tribal labels and loyalties. Are LeBron James, Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) all to be black comrades first and quite different individuals second—if at all? In the same manner, do Adam Schiff, Devin Nunes, Donald Trump, and Mark Milley all share identical and overriding loyalty to “whiteness,” to the degree that we forget about their individual personalities?
One strange aspect of this new racialization is a post-Al Sharpton, post-Louis Farrakhan growing exemption accorded to elite and privileged minorities to stereotype others—blacks, though more often whites—in toxic, sometimes repulsive fashion. If embraced by any others, such hatred would be career ending. A few examples suffice:
In a 2021 video, Brittney Cooper, an associate professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, claimed that white people were “villains.” She predicted that “whiteness is going to have an end date,” and she grew a bit heated in her desire to hasten that inevitable “end date” with the rally cry: “We gotta take these muthaf—ers out.” Cooper did not explain the methodology by which America will “take out” white people.
Earlier, Texas A&M professor Tommy Curry earned some temporary buzz by casually stating in a class, “Today I want to talk about killing white people in context.” In a much-watched video, he also matter of factly opined, “In order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people might have to die.” We might call this new genre “snuff racism,” in which the new racism legitimizes eliminationist rhetoric.
But as a precursor to what, exactly?white
In a lecture sponsored by the Yale School of Medicine, psychiatrist Aruna Khilanani gushed that she “had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step.”
We are told by the diversity industry that “words matter” and have “consequences.” Perhaps they do, given that such violent trash-talking of obscure academics can filter into the larger society. Is that why “The View” co-host Sonny Hostin, resorting to once taboo Hitlerian arthropod imagery, recently compared white suburban women to cockroaches and Republicans to insecticide: “I read a poll just yesterday that white, Republican, suburban women are now going to vote Republican. It’s almost like roaches voting for Raid, right?” Substitute “black” for “white” and Hostin would be out of a career under the rules of her own cancel culture.
Whoopi Goldberg on the same show reduced the Holocaust into an intramural war between “white people”; her convoluted “apologies” only confirmed that she was historically ignorant and deeply prejudiced.
Not too long ago Damon Young, an occasional New York Times contributor pontificated, “Whiteness is a public health crisis. It shortens life expectancies, it pollutes air, it constricts equilibrium, it devastates forests, it melts ice caps, it sparks (and funds) wars, it flattens dialects, it infests consciousnesses, and it kills people . . . .”
If that were true, then I suppose Young should call Sonny Hostin for the Raid spray, Professor Cooper for the take-out solution, or Dr. Khilanani for a revolver.
The elite pundit and racialist Elie Mystal infamously wrote, “I can, more or less, only deal with whiteness when I want to . . . White people haven’t improved; I’ve just been able to limit my exposure to them.” Lester Maddox or Bull Connor would have nodded in approval.
Mystal’s antebellum choices loudly to self-separate are his own. But meanwhile his neo-segregation views accelerate and encompass everything from racially set-aside college “theme houses” to selecting roommates on the basis of race. Rarely has Mystal’s Plessy v. Ferguson utopianism been more openly resurrected than at an off-campus U.C. Berkeley student dormitory. There residents were proudly warned to exclude entrance on the basis of race: “Many POC moved here to be able to avoid white violence and presence, so respect their decision of avoidance if you bring white guests. White guests are not allowed in common spaces.”
How, in 2023, such apartheid rules are allowed by quasi-public housing reflects just how pervasive and venomous woke orthodoxy permeates society, and how bankrupt appeasing institutions have become.
Of course, to enforce this sort of “white guests are not allowed” apartheid, segregationists will eventually have to revisit and consult past handbooks of their racist kindred spirits to figure out the occasional borderline cases. Have the Berkeley racists yet determined whether a black resident could bring in a half-white guest? Or whether a blond-haired, blue-eyed Spanish-speaking Argentine may enter through the front door? Is a gay or disabled white intruder allowed in the back entrance?
Note how class considerations disappear. And why not, given the most vehement racial incendiaries are so often among the wealthiest and most privileged of all Americans? By definition, an Oprah Winfrey or an Ibram X. Kendi are said to be victims. The Indiana Uber driver, the Modesto waitress, and the Anchorage custodian become their victimizers, simply by virtue of their shared whiteness—or rather their “white privilege” that has apparently earned them far more money, privilege, and influence than the victimized Winfrey or Kendi.
In a multiracial society, who is who is increasingly impossible to ascertain, given intermarriage and our labyrinth of races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and ethnicities. As a consequence of both racial rewards and stigmatization, opportunists will continually create either new racial personas, à la Elizabeth Warren or Rachel Dolezal, to monetize racial preferences, or continually seek advantage in victimhood by citing endless micro-oppressions or indeed inventing altogether discriminations, in the fashion of the Duchess Meghan Markle.
The problem is not just determining what tribe, half-tribe, or quarter tribe to which we each belong, but calibrating the hierarchies of particular grievances that each claims amid the labyrinth of competing tribal oppressions.
The force-multiplying effects of all these factors have now become absurd: is the half Brazilian with a Hispanic last name a “Latino” and does he have a shared reparatory claim on historic “discrimination” against Mexican Americans?
Can the half Haitian, half Irish immigrant, claim to be 1) black, and 2) a victim of oppression by piggybacking onto the black American experience?
So ancient efforts to sort out racial, religious, or ethnic differences for the purposes of discrimination and worse are the woke’s ultimate model—from the Confederacy’s genealogical tables to root out the “one drop” to the Third Reich’s resort to yellow stars to ascertain who was Jewish. But any self-sustaining tribal categorization must descend into Orwellian paradoxes. Darker-skinned Punjabi immigrants are sort of privileged in terms of vaguely defined “diversity,” but not to the extent that they would impinge on reparatory hiring of, say, Latinos from anywhere on the globe, who in turn are often indistinguishable from Italian, Greek, or Armenian Americans who find no such affirmative action boosts.
But still crazier, once a person goes fully tribal, then he opens the door to the laws of stereotypes, both its advantages and its boomerangs. If you insist the individual cedes to the group, then more than a half-century after the Civil Rights moments you will find only contradiction and hypocrisy in citing group underrepresentation and its causes. Asian Americans are overrepresented in many professions such as highly compensated orthodontists and pharmacists. Is that because they enjoyed inordinate racial leverage? Yet they are underrepresented as U.S. Marine officers; is that because of systemic racism?
No one would dare require the NFL or the NBA “to look like America,” given blacks are variously overrepresented in these two lucrative professions by a magnitude of five to six times their demographics in the general population.
To defend such racial engineering in sports, the argument of using non-meritocratic criteria to pass over black, talented running backs and favor Asian or Latino athletes solely on the basis of race—would be, well, racist. And, of course, such racial gerrymandering, it would be additionally argued, would lower the quality of professional sports itself, once talent was subordinated to race. And yet recently we are told the overrepresentation of black players in such a violent sport as professional football is now as racist as was prior underrepresentation.
So how odd that in areas that are critical to the national well-being, from medical school admissions to airline pilot training programs, we insist that diversity’s non-meritocratic criteria are essential. Yet in contrast non-diversity, merit-based standards alone should govern professional basketball?
In the matter of stereotypes, we have descended into yet another absurdity, using collective pigeon-holing when it serves tribal advantage and then decrying it as unfair when it becomes inconvenient.
The word “white” is now an agreed-on pejorative as we see from Kendi’s denunciation of “white privilege” to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley’s promises to learn about and then root out “white rage.” But where are the data used to confirm such a blanket accusation?
Does Milley define “white rage” as the propensity of white males to die in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq at twice their numbers in the general population? According to the Pentagon new laws of woke, there must be culpability for such toxic disproportionality and thereby a woke corrective? A DEI czar might ask whether the armed services cynically targeted rural and southern whites and its recruiters “pushed” them into combat units?
A few rubrics that might substantiate or reject “white rage” could be found by examining Justice Department and FBI data on homicide, violent crime, hate crimes—and interracial violent crimes. But in all those categories so-called whites are clearly what the diversity industry again calls “underrepresented.” In contrast, blacks are vastly overrepresented, at nearly double their demographics in hate crimes, and over five times in the commission of murders and violent assaults.
Would not a privileged, white, and angry or raging population be disproportionately violent rather than less violent and homicidal rather than suicidal? And yet whites have far higher suicide rates than do either blacks or Latinos? How is all that possible?
As far as the current epidemic of officially reported antisemitic hate crime, blacks are vastly overrepresented as perpetrators. In New York City alone, black offenders account for 43 percent of reported hate crimes.
There is no future to this sort of racial discrimination, segregation, and hatred. History informs us where it leads. We live in a society, after all, where exercise is now deemed racist, weight loss racist and using the word “American” or “immigrant” racist—as the race industry is clueless that when everything is deemed racist, then nothing can be racist.
The only method of avoiding a Rwanda-style chaos is simply to forget racial categories, preferences, and reparatory actions entirely, and instead simply enforce the Civil Rights-era anti-discrimination laws on the books that were supposed to protect everyone from everyone but are now ignored and routinely violated by our own government.
4 thoughts on “A Rendezvous With Rwanda?”
In addition to Booker T Washington’s rich advice on race hustlers, another quote of his seems appropriate when considering what the current millionaire race hustlers of pro-sports, Hollywood, and politics bore us with daily: “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.”
Looking back on my life as a youth on the farm, freed-slave Booker T seems to have been onto something.
The historical record is very clear: distinguishing people by ethnc/racial group ends badly.
Before the 20th century, there was virtually no conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. The conflict that did occur crossed the Hutu-Tutsi division or involved both groups uniting to fight outside invaders. What changed? In the early 1900s, Belgian colonialists issued ID cards that distinguished everyone as either Hutu or Tutsi. Then they instituted affirmative action programs favoring first the Tutsis, and then the Hutus. This pitted the groups against each other, spawned irreconcilable group antagonism, and ultimately led to genocide.
In Sri Lanka, Sinhalese and Tamils got along famously for over a thousand years. But when the post-independence government abandoned the country’s shared language and identity, and launched an affirmative action program, it ossified group distinctions and spurred group rivalry. A millennium of ethnic comity was quickly replaced with us-versus-them attitudes and bitter ethnic antagonism, which ultimately led to the murder of hundreds of thousands of people. Sri Lanka, once deemed “the best bet in Asia,” remains a basket-case 70 years later.
Not to spam VDH readers, or detract from an excellent and timely post. But someone on Substack offered a similar and supporting analysis: “The American Un-Civil Wars to Come: Lessons from Africa in Our Time.” That essay did not consider Rwanda especially, but the broader cases and causes of Civil War in Africa since independence. It uses some academic-ese, but has some conclusions strongly parallel to what VDH has argued above. So it might also be of interest, and hence I will provide a link for it: https://americanexile.substack.com/p/the-american-un-civil-wars-to-come
Will/can DeSantis lead us back from this tribalistic nihilism?