America’s Race to the Bottom: Barack Obama and Critical Theory

Racism in America is an emotionally explosive subject not well-disposed to cool, rational discussion. The tragic shooting of a young man in Florida named Trayvon Martin has given rise to passionate calls for massive protests by all-too-familiar civil rights activists. The professional traders in racial antagonism claim to speak for a monolithic block called “the black community,” which presumes there can never be any long-term reconcilement between individual citizens of all skin colors in a truly diverse and racially tolerant American society. Such a future would assume unity around something other than race, such as a shared vision to promote the value of freedom, so vital to our country’s prosperity and generosity of spirit.

The radical left has successfully used race to distract Americans from the worthy goal of liberty, because its underlying animation is power. The rationale for such power may be to transform the world into a more equitable and socially just place; but the power to create such an imagined world entails the power to destroy the old one. The relics of the past world must therefore be swept away in the public mind, the left believes, so that mankind can be reformed; and if the Enlightenment philosophy that provided the germ of emancipation proved too potent in laying to waste the sources of oppression, then statists must erect new shibboleths to spur social tensions, thus providing their radical leftist associates with the opportunity to posture themselves as our emancipators. The shackles of state dependency and repression are nonetheless hammered out in the heat of our incendiary social conflict.

For this strategical maneuver to be successful, leftists must constantly level charges that the ‘white right’ is intrinsically and irredeemably racist. These accusations are nearly always unfounded, unprovable, and undeniable. They therefore stoke agitation through confirmation bias among radicals and their adopted minorities, and also stir up irrational counterattacks from the falsely accused. Once insinuated in the public mind, racial animosity can become a perpetual mechanism of mutual hatred, which can spin out of control into open violent conflict. Stage left: Enter the state to save us from ourselves.

The nation’s racial wounds, scraped bare by community organizers of Barack Obama’s ilk, were thus argued to be critically in need of salve. Such was the ideological backdrop that placed Barack Obama center stage in a mass media-contrived drama to redeem our country from its bleak history of racism, slavery, and black oppression. Never mind that the country was one of the first in the world to ban the import of slavery, fought a bloody civil war in part over the issue, and has steadily marched forward to universally apply the vision of The Founders that individuals have certain inalienable rights. The only way for us to wash clean the ‘damned spot’ of slavery was by electing a mysterious savior, one whose blank slate of mixed racial heritage allowed us to project upon him our national hopes of transcending the issue once and for all. But that naive hope among the ‘white guilt’ liberal segment of the population proved to be misplaced. Electing a president of mixed racial ancestry has done nothing to bring so-called whites, blacks, and hispanics together. On the contrary, the president has fueled racial resentment, and this is due mainly to his seeing the world through the lens of “Critical Race Theory.”

The left obviously would never admit to such a connection, just as they vehemently deny any significance of Barack Obama lauding the Critical Race Theory scholar Derek Bell while at Harvard or Mr. Obama including Bell’s work in his college syllabus on “Currents Issues in Racism and the Law” while he was an instructor at the University of Chicago. A balanced approach to examining Obama’s syllabus shows a tendency to focus on the “issues” of racism without the broader historical backdrop of the nation’s founding or the significance of the Enlightenment philosophy that played such a critical role in slave emancipation worldwide. Instead, the syllabus begins its “Historical Foundations” section with “Indian Removal,” and proceeds through “Slavery,” then “Reconstruction, Retrenchment, and Jim Crow,” and finally, “Black Responses.” What is mainstream in academia today, due in part to ignorance of the destructive nature of Critical Theory, is a historically and intellectually one-sided attack on the United States and on its exceptional value of human liberty.

A primary source on Critical Theory, Max Horkeimer’s and Theodore Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, gives an excellent, albeit convoluted, exposition of how it works:

Despite its great accomplishments, only power can commit injustice, for only the executed judgment is unjust, not the lawyer’s unexecuted plea. Only when discourse aims at oppression, defending power instead of powerlessness, does it contribute to the general wrong. But power, one-sided reason now whispers, is represented by human beings, By exposing the former, you make a target of the latter. And after them, worse perhaps will come. The lie speaks truth. When fascist murderers are waiting, one should not incite the people against the weak government. But even the alliance with the less brutal power does not imply that one should keep silent about infamies. The likelihood that good causes might be damaged by denunciation of the injustice which protects them from the devil has always been outweighed by the advantage the devil gains if the denunciation of injustice is left solely up to him. How far must a society have sunk in which only the scoundrels still speak the truth — and Goebbels reminds us that the lynch mob is still happily at work. Not the good but the bad is the subject matter of theory. (Emphasis my own, p. 181.)

The seductive but cognitively discordant passage, written in the signature Marxian style of slaughtering reason while sounding reasonable, provides a serpentine rationalization for Alinskyite radicals to unscrupulously mobilize power to counter-attack injustices that are defined and even contrived by the left themselves. The left will thus always provide an excuse to stoke and harness racial hatred to attack supposedly ubiquitous oppression, even while conjuring up anecdotes to falsely misrepresent “the system.” In reality, those on the left are merely turning individuals with dark skin against individuals with white skin for the cynical purpose of accruing political capital.

The question is thus begged: What is the left’s definition of justice implied with the critical race theory worldview? State-administered vengeance, where the scales of justice are perpetually adjusted according to the superfluous standard of skin pigmentation. What are the terms of social equilibrium? A racial admixture in society that is balanced and stable? Critical theory is mute on such ideological matters, just as it is mute on the question of “what is the good?” The theory’s aim is to destroy, not to promote the good; unless one holds that the good is the moral inversion of the world as it is. Peace is the absence of opposition to socialism.

If one understands the workings of Critical Theory (and its subset, Critical Race Theory), one will never be fooled by the left or misled into rhetorical blind alleys. The diversionary tactics of the media, the three-card monty of perpetual race-baiting, the baby games of Alinsky ridiculing of opponents, will all be flushed into irrelevance in one’s mind where it belongs. But unfortunately, the consequences of the public falling for the left’s racial warfare, which has devolved into a proxy struggle for the war on the free enterprise system, liberty and limited government, are utterly grave in importance.

The left is deadly afraid that the right will eventually connect the dots on its critical theory gambit. For a related example, the use of the women’s movement to promote the public financing of condoms was ridiculed in Alinsky fashion by Rush Limbaugh. When the talk show host satirically compared the spokeswoman for all women to a “slut,” he was immediately blitzed by a Media Matters for America orchestrated campaign to silence him. Cries of “Kill Rush Limbaugh!” on YouTube show how desperately the left fears that the right will catch on and use their own tactics against them. Leftists must perpetually play the victim, even as they wantonly attack the values of the country; and Democrat operative Sandra Fluke was the sacrificial virgin to play such a role.

So when the leftist media found a victim fitting the right racial profile, they pounced. The president was provided the cultural terrain in which he could give a speech on the Trayvon Martin shooting, making an unnecessary statement on the teenager’s race that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Newt Gingrich was right to point out the needlessly racialized component of the president’s overall “unifying” speech. President Obama is supposed to be the chief citizen of all Americans, and not the spokesman for “the black community” or any other particular community. But the American dream of the post-racial black president was just that: a dream.

That there is such a gulf between the Critical Race Theory vision of Barack Obama and that of Martin Luther King Jr., who hoped that one day people “would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” is something the left is desperate to conceal. The mentioning of the lunatic ravings of sermonizing race-baiter Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s pastor for twenty years, was said during the 2008 campaign to be off-limits. Early on in his administration, we were supposed to have a beer with Officer James Crowley after he was called out nationally for his having “acted stupidly” in the rightful arrest of black civil rights attorney Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The radical left and its associates in the mainstream media now urge us not to make anything of the president speaking at a 2007 engagement involving the New Black Panther Party, the same NBPP that has recently floated a sizable bounty for the “capture” of Trayvon Martin’s alleged shooter George Zimmerman. The same NBPP that called for “Cairo-style” riots in 2011, and have been presumably waiting for the opportune time, or perhaps even the go-ahead signal from the media, to mobilize one. Such would not be a surprising turn of events under a community organizer-turned-president who stated that the members of the Occupy Movement were the reason he ran for office. The left’s reaction to videos that show NBPP members teaching violent “black survival tactics” to youngsters is thus to trot out a presentable spokesman, as Alinsky advised, to speak in dulcet tones about the group’s admirable aims. Yes, this is the same NBPP whose members were exculpated from all wrongdoing by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, in a case noted civil rights attorney Bartle Bull called “the most blatant case of voter intimidation” he had ever seen.

When confronted on wrongdoing, including high-ranking knowledge of the exposed Fast and Furious operation in the Department of Justice, Eric Holder predictably tried to deflect attention by accusing his questioners of racist motives. This would presumably make Holder the victim in a scandal where a U.S. government operation to traffic guns to Mexico resulted in thousands of deaths, including the killing of an American border patrol agent. We are supposed to ignore the repeated examples of race antagonism by the president and his administration, and white people are to presume their own guilt for even thinking anything untoward of such inherently admirable individuals, whose unimpeachable virtue is that they were born with a specific skin color.

While overt racism did exist in the United States for much of its history, and darker-skinned people of African heritage did suffer inexcusable injustices, this deplorable legacy was the consequence of an egregious and intellectually dishonest double standard applied by the majority of citizens to their fellow human beings. It was not an inherent flaw of the Natural Rights philosophy that animated the American revolution and championed the essential equality of all people.

When Thomas Jefferson penned the immortal words in The Declaration of Independence that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” he was not excluding the equality of slaves of African heritage from his thinking. Although his personal holding of slaves represents a conflict between his idealized view for humanity and his transgression in the real world, Jefferson brilliantly articulated the agenda to eventually see all men become free.  Truly radical for his age, Jefferson originally proposed to condemn the entire practice of slavery in the original drafting of The Declaration. Eleven of thirteen colonies agreed with him; but alas, the passage was not entered into the agreed-upon version.

It took two centuries for the nation to overcome its legacy of slavery and legal bias towards blacks, but the left is not content to left the issue be resolved through national unity because it politically has so much at stake in keeping us divided. The radical left preys upon the visual circumstances of racial differences by twisting them into de facto evidence of racism under the condition of inequality. But the left has done more to promote inequality in the black segment of the population through its purposeful perpetration of welfare dependency and its subsidization of self-destructive behavior than the free market ever has. To argue contrary would be racist in one’s presumptions that individuals are inherently unequal by race and can’t compete in a level economic playing field. Previously discriminated against peoples, such as Catholics, Mormons, Irish, Germans, Italians, the Chinese, and other immigrants, prove otherwise how individuals can overcome the animosity of other Americans to attain to the middle class lifestyle.

But the radical left does not want the narrative of immigrants and black Americans overcoming adversity told because the hard left doesn’t believe in the American Dream of working hard, supporting one’s family, and aspiring to personal happiness. Leftists seek a world dominated by the state, one where everyone is dependent upon the social engineers for one’s daily bread, or whatever else the statists deem just. In order to reach such an end-point, the institutions of liberty must be deconstructed, including all those conducive to self-reliance, initiative, and independence from the state. If the statists on the left can frame such a drive as “progress” towards ultimate freedom or racial justice or economic equality, that is what they will do. But it our duty as Americans to keep focus on what really matters: liberty, individual rights, and limited government.

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One Comment

  1. Just a few highlights which I found unbelievably well-put and crucial to the overall argument:

    The “inexcusable injustices” which those of African heritage suffered for much of American history was not “an inherent flaw of the Natural Rights philosophy that animated the American revolution and championed the essential equality of all people.”

    Thus, violently overthrowing the “established order” or the American system that has been built upon Natural Rights philosophy – which some groups have espoused – is not at all the equivalent to “justice.”

    “But the left has done more to promote inequality in the black segment of the population through its purposeful perpetration of welfare dependency and its subsidization of self-destructive behavior than the free market ever has. To argue contrary would be racist in one’s presumptions that individuals are inherently unequal by race and can’t compete in a level economic playing field.”

    I have often tried to put this very thought into words. The assumption (which the left often makes) that arguments against pervasive welfare are inherently racist is itself a racist assumption, because it assumes that certain “racial” groups are incapable of competing in a free society.

    Excellent work.

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