They're wrong, but they're the natural outgrowth of left-wing multiculturalism. We are all prisoners of identity politics now.
On July 16, Frontpage Magazine ran a story about the “Wichita Massacre,” the brutal execution of four white youth by two criminal brothers who happened to be black. It was our second look at this tragic incident, which took place at Christmastime two years ago. We ran it as a special feature — this time on the occasion of the trial of the perpetrators — because it crystallized for us a national hypocrisy on race. This hypocrisy regards the murder of blacks by whites as an indication of the existence of a characteristically American racism and therefore banner news, while the far more prevalent murder of whites by blacks is routinely considered to be without racial overtones and — as in the Wichita case — not to be newsworthy at all.
The more recent article about the Wichita events originally appeared on the Web site of American Renaissance, a white racialist group founded by Jared Taylor. Even though the article stayed with the facts in the case and did not include any interpretative remarks that might be construed as racist, reposting it from this site seemed to require some commentary about the source, so I reprinted the piece with my own commentary. But Salon readers probably require additional explanation as to why I would post even a factual article from a tainted source.
The short answer is this: Why not? We live in an age of multicultural excess, in which the current issue of Harvard Magazine (September-October)features — without apology — an article by Noel Ignatiev titled, “Abolish the White Race.” Ignatiev’s piece proudly mentions his infamous magazine Race Traitor, with its inflammatory motto: “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” Ignatiev is currently a fellow at Henry Louis Gates’ W.E.B. DuBois Institute, the nation’s most prestigious African American Studies department. Neither Harvard Magazine nor Henry Louis Gates seems to feel an obligation to explain why they are sponsoring a race-hater like Ignatiev. Since I was not sponsoring Taylor but merely reposting a factual report from his magazine, to go out of my way to justify my deicision would seem to me like a capitulation to the racial double standards I was protesting in the first place.
Nonetheless, I was aware that others committed to those double standards would attack me for merely posting Taylor’s article. So I did provide a brief commentary outlining the difference between Taylor’s views and mine. In the commentary I wrote to accompany our feature, I described Taylor as “a man who has surrendered to the multicultural miasma that has overtaken this nation and is busily building a movement devoted to white identity and community,” agendas we “did not share.” I further explained:
“What I mean by ‘surrendering’ is that Taylor has accepted the idea that the multiculturalists have won. We are all prisoners of identity politics now. If there is going to be Black History Month and Chicano Studies then there should be White History Month and White Studies. If blacks and Mexicans are going to regard each other as brothers and the rest of us as ‘Anglos,’ then whites should regard each other as brothers and others as — well, … others. Within the multicultural framework set by the dominant liberalism in our civic culture, Taylor’s claim to a white place at the diversity table certainly makes sense. But there is another option and that is getting rid of the table altogether and going back to the good old American ideal of E Pluribus Unum — ‘out of many, one.’ Not just blacks and whites and Chicanos, but Americans.”
In the current issue of American Renaissance Jared Taylor replies to these comments and raises the fundamental question of whether America is or should be a multiethnic, multiracial society, or whether it was conceived and should be preserved “as a self-consciously European, majority-white Nation.” Among literate conservatives, Jared Taylor is the most blunt in expressing this vision, but it is a theme of others who might be called “Euro-racialists.” (This is a bastardized and somewhat incoherent coinage, but one that adequately describes a bastardized and somewhat incoherent perspective).
Prominent among the articulators of Euro-racialism are writers for the Web site Vdare, and Pat Buchanan, whose bestselling book “The Death of the West” articulates its most familiar version. If Buchanan’s last electoral run is any indication, Euro-racialism is a still a fringe prejudice among conservatives. But if it were to emerge as the view of conservatives themselves, it would in my view mean the death of the conservative movement. Since I consider the conservative movement the last bulwark in the defense of America and the West, it would ironically also fulfill the prophecy in the title of Buchanan’s book.
Taylor describes me as a “neo-conservative,” but I have no idea what reference this has to my positions or my work. The two most prominent theoreticians of neo-conservatism announced its death some time ago, because it had always defined the defection of a group of New York liberals from liberalism over its failure to stay the course in fighting the anticommunist battle during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War, neo-conservatism – at least in the view of its founders — has become indistinguishable from conservatism itself.
I have never identified myself as a “neo-conservative” because belonging to a younger political generation I did not share some of the social attitudes of the neo-conservative founders. Since attitude is fundamental to some conservative perspectives, I have preferred to define my own. To be a conservative in America, from my perspective, then, is to defend where possible and restore where necessary, the framework of values and philosophical understandings enshrined in the American founding. This should not be taken to mean a strict constructionist attitude toward every clause of the documents that constitute the founding. If the framers of the Constitution had presumed to see the future, or had wanted to rigidly preserve the past, they would not have included an amendment process in their document.
My brand of conservatism is based on a belief in the fundamental truth in the idea of individualism; in the idea of rights that are derived from “Nature’s God” and therefore inalienable; in the conservative view of human nature and the philosophy of limited government that flows therefrom; and in the recognition that property rights are the proven foundation of all human liberties.
Thus, for me, Taylor’s challenge goes to the heart of what it means not only to be an American but also to be an American conservative.
Because America is a nation “conceived” — and not just a nation evolved (although it is that, too) — the meaning of the American founding is and will always be a contested issue for Americans, and the answer to these questions about the meaning of the American idea and therefore of the American nation, will always affect its direction and its future. It is not coincidental, therefore, that the issue of the founding is the very first to which Taylor turns.
Taylor contends that the national motto “E Pluribus Unum” refers not to many races or ethnicities when it comes to forming an American people but simply to the 13 colonies. But this is a rhetorical argument rather than a comment on reality, since it ignores the actual populations of the 13 colonies, which even at that time were multiethnic and multiracial. In 1776, American citizens included not only ethnic Englishmen, but Dutchmen, Germans, French, Scotch-Irish, Jews, free blacks and others.
In an attempt to anchor his rhetorical case in the attitudes of the founders themselves, Taylor quotes John Jay to the effect that Americans were a united and connected people because they had common ancestors. But Jay is obviously mistaken because this was certainly not true in any ethnic or racial sense. Even insofar as Americans were European in origin, “European” is not an ethnicity, and the history of Europe is the history of wars between its ethnicities and its racial groups.
An acquaintance of mine, of Scotch-Irish descent, maintains that his forebears came to the New World expressly for the opportunity to fight the English. Whether the memory is accurate or not, it illuminates the error made by both John Jay and Jared Taylor. America was created out of a British Empire that was virtually global in scope, and its various peoples, European and otherwise, far from being a cohesive group with a common ancestry, were the bearers of histories of hostility and war.
The fundamental mistake of the Euro-racialists is to confuse ethnicity and culture. How is race or ethnicity integral to the American idea or the American culture? Are not Francis Fukuyama, Dinesh D’Souza and Thomas Sowell quintessential Americans despite their Japanese, Indian and African lineage? The Jews have remained a people united by culture and — until recently — a language for 2,000 years; but as a people they embrace a world of ethnicities and races.
It is a culture that is crucial in shaping the American identity, not an ethnicity or race. John Jay’s observation that speaking a common English language is a critical element in uniting the American people transmitting this culture is probably correct. Here, there is ground for agreement. An American identity cannot exist outside an American culture. Even though that American culture can and inevitably must evolve and incorporate new elements, it cannot leave behind its European roots without losing, in some fundamental sense, its self. It is this American culture, not a racial or ethnic heritage, that we need to preserve.
Ironically, Taylor and the Euro-racialists have fallen into a trap set by the “multicultural” left. The left’s multicultural offensive is an attack on America’s national culture, not on its racial or ethnic composition. “Inclusion” and “diversity” are not the real agendas of the left — America has always honored both principles, however imperfect their implementation may have been. The idea of the melting pot is an American idea. The left, however, has never been interested in a “melting pot” that would assimilate diverse ethnicities into an American culture.
The left is hostile to the idea of assimilation. Its agenda is the deconstruction of America’s national identity and culture, of the American narrative of inclusion and freedom. Multiculturalism is not about the assimilation of minorities into the crucible of American freedom, it’s about their supposed liberation from American oppression. By accepting the left’s view of itself as a movement for diversity and inclusion, and responding with a call for Euro-centricity and exclusion, the Euro-racialists simply play into the hands of the multiculturalists.
Under the cloak of ethnic inclusion, the left has injected an anti-American curriculum into the American educational system, in an attempt to alienate America’s youth from its heritage. Under the smokescreen of “diversity,” it has rewritten America’s laws and subverted its Constitution. It has launched a campaign to institutionalize group rights and racial privileges in place of individual rights and laws that are race-neutral.
This is a perfectly diabolical scheme: In the name of diversity and inclusion the left is systematically destroying the framework of individualism and the rule of neutrality that make diversity and inclusion possible. But instead of fighting this sinister attack on the very foundations of the American system, Jared Taylor and the Euro-racialists are eager to validate it. They have even embraced the destructive narrative devised by the left whose purpose is to kill the American dream. Taylor’s construction of American history in his reply to my commentary directly parallels the maliciously distorted version of the nation’s history in works of such anti-American fanatics as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.
In Taylor’s telling, America has become the racist nightmare of leftist fantasy. Taylor begins his historical reconstruction with Thomas Jefferson who “thought it had been a terrible mistake to bring blacks to America, and wrote that they should be freed from slavery and then ‘removed from beyond the reach of mixture.’” Taylor then describes a pantheon of notable Americans who were officers of the American Colonization Society designed to promote the same “solution,” including Andrew Jackson, Francis Scott Key and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. He observes that the capital of Liberia, Monrovia, is named after the chief architect of the Constitution, James Monroe, “in gratitude for his help in sending blacks to Africa.” Naturally Taylor includes the chief icon of the left’s deconstruction project, Abraham Lincoln, who “also favored colonization” and invited the first delegation of blacks to visit the White House in order to “ask them to persuade their people to leave.”
The purpose of Taylor’s pantheon of political leaders is transparent. It is to establish that white America is racist since politicians “are cautious people who re-circulate the bromides of their times.” Racism, in other words, is just the American creed.
This picture of the American mind is no less a caricature coming from Jared Taylor than when it comes from Louis Farrakhan or Howard Zinn. There are obviously many motives that could have prompted 19th century American statesmen to consider “colonization” a reasonable alternative to the problem of assimilating people who had been brought to America against their will and who had suffered grievous injustice at the hands of American citizens. But even granting, for example, Jefferson’s racial prejudice, the presumption that this fully expresses the complexity of his attitudes, and let alone his historic role in shaping the racial question, is both vulgar and absurd. This is the man who proclaimed that God had endowed men with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In short it was Jefferson who sowed the ideological seed not only of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution granting emancipation to slaves but also the 14th Amendment guaranteeing all Americans, black as well as white, equal citizenship rights under the law.
If Jefferson planted the seeds of this liberation, it is the American people who implemented it, through the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives in a civil war. The denigrators of Lincoln hate the fact that he resolved the schizophrenia of the American birth in favor of Jefferson’s idea that America was a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all man are created equal. Reactionaries like Taylor may want to take this country back to the pre-American social order that existed before 1776, but there are few Americans alive today who will follow them. Moreover, it is a gross historical misrepresentation to call this project “American,” as Taylor and his followers do.
Taylor’s recounting of the legislative past is equally selective and ahistorical. The fact that the first American naturalization bill made citizenship available only to “free white persons” or that it took more than 100 years to expand citizenship rights to all races and ethnicities, would have the significance he wants to assign it, only if the weight of American history were not behind the expansion of these rights, and only if the premise of that expansion were not the very principles embedded in the founding itself. The text of the Constitution does not contain the terms “black” and “white,” because it does not recognize racial distinctions in respect to citizens and their rights.
The delayed granting of citizenship rights to blacks is the fulfillment of the American promise. It is not to be confused with the seemingly limitless expansion of rights promoted by the left under the doctrine of a “living Constitution.” The “rights” the left seeks to create are not rights recognized in the classical liberal doctrines the Founders embraced, but are antithetical to them. They are the redistributionist rights of the radical tradition the Framers despised and that Madison himself described as “wicked.” Racial preferences, which have become the “civil rights” cause of left and which have been made constitutional by “liberal” courts are in fact an offense to the Constitution and the values it enshrines. Equality of citizenship for all races and ethnic ancestries, on the other hand, is clearly an expression the principles inscribed in the constitutional foundations, which are the foundations of a free republic.
To conclude his argument Taylor turns personal, which may be appropriate for a discussion that attempts to address both the universal and the particular:
“Mr. Horowitz deplores the idea that ‘we are all prisoners of identity politics,’ implying that race and ethnicity are trivial matters we must work to overcome. But if that is so, why does the home page of FrontPagemag carry a perpetual appeal for contributions to ‘David’s Defense of Israel Campaign’? Why Israel rather than, say, Kurdistan or Tibet or Euskadi or Chechnya? Because Mr. Horowitz is Jewish. His commitment to Israel is an expression of precisely the kind of particularist identity he would deny to me and to other racially conscious whites. He passionately supports a self-consciously Jewish state but calls it ‘surrendering to the multicultural miasma’ when I work to return to a self-consciously white America. He supports an explicitly ethnic identity for Israel but says Americans must not be allowed to have one … If he supports a Jewish Israel, he should support a white America.”
There is a lot that is wrong with this picture. To be a “prisoner” of identity politics is not the same as regarding race and ethnicity as “trivial matters,” and I don’t. To portray me as a political Jew, who identifies primarily with Jewish causes, or who would not rally to the defense of Israel if he were of some other ethnicity, is very wide of the mark. My political causes are public record and go back more than 50 years, and in my autobiography, “Radical Son,” I have even recorded my interior thoughts about why I took on these causes. None of them were ethnically motivated, which I believe is true for most people involved in similar ones. If there has been an ethnic group to which I have devoted the major portion of my political energies over the course of a lifetime, it has been black Americans, not Jews.
As a Marxist, of course, I was a deracinated Jew — never bar mitzvahed and a stranger in synagogues. As an editor of the left-wing magazine Ramparts, I did write a cover story called “The Passion of the Jews,” and did defend the existence of Israel as a “raft state” for survivors of the Holocaust, rejected everywhere else. But the article itself was a case against Jewish particularism, while recognizing its validity in a world in which Jews had become the objects of a program for their extermination. At the time, however, I still believed in a socialist revolution that would dissolve these prejudices and forge an international community free from such atavisms.
This utopian delusion was killed in me shortly after I wrote the piece, in circumstances I have described elsewhere. But to recognize the fact of ethnic particularity is not equivalent to becoming a racialist or a nationalist in the narrow, tribal sense to which Jared Taylor aspires.
Even after I rejected the progressive illusion, I did not become the prisoner of an ethnic calculus in selecting my (now conservative) causes. The American creed is universal, and a conservative will defend it wherever it becomes an inspiration for others. Call this American ethno-centrism if you will; it is a lot more inclusive than the white European nation for which Jared Taylor longs.
I do not fool myself for a moment into thinking that it would not matter to me as a Jew if the Arabs succeeded in their determination to destroy the state of Israel. But I also do not expect any American of any national origin to be unaffected by the infliction of great harm to his or her ancestral community. Despite this concession, I do not think ethnicity defines the way I, or most Americans, measure right and wrong, or decide to commit our political passions.
Israel is under attack by the same enemy that has attacked the United States. Israel is point of origin for the culture of the West and it is under attack for the same reasons that America is regarded by radical Islam as the “Great Satan.” In defending Israel, as I have defended other countries — Afghanistan for example, when it was attacked by the Soviets — I have no ambivalence about my national identity, which is American. It is not Israeli, and most certainly not “white.”
If I support an ethnic Jewish state in principle, it is because if Arabs were to become a majority in Israel they would persecute, kill and expel the Jews as they have for a thousand years. No sober person could believe otherwise. But I also support an ethnic Jewish state because this is merely the granting of equality to Jews among the family of nations. Would a Frenchman feel sanguine about a German majority in France?
America is different. It is a nation that from the beginning has encompassed many ethnicities and more than one race. It was created as a “new nation” and its creators defined its identity not in categories of blood and soil, but in a document articulating principles that are universal: we hold these truths to be self-evident. Most of the nations of the world are different from America in their essential construction.
One could argue, of course, that this very fact of America’s uniqueness proves the reactionaries’ case — that human beings are incapable of transcending their ethnic and racial particularities to form a common national bond. But that would require arguing that the two-and-a-quarter centuries of the American experiment have failed. I am not ready to believe this, even if Jared Taylor and the Euro-racialists are. I could very well be mistaken. But I would rather be wrong as an American, than the President of Jared Taylor’s Euro-white alternative. Moreover, I remain certain of at least one thing. America is such a multiethnic and multiracial experiment, and Jared Taylor and the Euro-racialists are wrong in contending that it is not.