The Woke: On The Wrong Side Of History
We need a racial politics for 2119, not 1619. Latinos will lead the way.
Of all the acronyms, euphemisms and sophisms pioneered by critical theory, one of the most revealing is the term “black and brown people.” You hear it all the time now. Whether it’s about “the lack of Black and brown representation in Hollywood,” vaccine hesitancy in “Black and brown neighborhoods in large cities,” the right to vote for “Black and brown people,” or “allyship between Black and brown people,” the “B&b” formula is now yet another ubiquitous media virtue-signal. It’s subtler than some others. It doesn’t shriek woke like “BIPOC”; it isn’t as instantly risible as “2SLGBTQIA+”; it gives “Black” a Capital Letter, and “brown” feels a bit like a lower-case add-on — but at least it uses actual English words, and doesn’t end in an X.
Still: what does it tell you that a staggering and brilliant array of totally different ethnicities, races, religions, histories and cultures can now routinely be reduced to just two drab colors?
I think it speaks to two things. The first is that today’s antiracism paradoxically requires the crudest of racist categories to justify and explain itself. A whole kaleidoscope of immigrant difference — from Kurds and Mexicans and Somalis to Dominicans, Chileans, Nigerians, and Pakistanis — has now been turned into one monochrome racial “brown” — just to fit into an oppressor/oppressed, white/black narrative.
Equally, a diverse African diaspora — ranging from Nigerian immigrants to descendants of Southern slaves to biracial men and women with mainly European ancestry who go back to this country’s miscegenated origins — is now just “Black.” And this new racial unit has one politics: left-Democrat. Individuals disappear; diversity of opinion within groups evaporate; all that matters is a single skin color and oppression.
The second aspect of critical theory that “B&b” helps reveal is that the crude binary of “black” and “white” simply has less salience with every passing day, as more and more races, ethnicities and cultures complicate and enrich our society, and render it structurally, demographically and culturally unrecognizable from even the recent past. To give one example: 60 years ago, four percent of Americans approved of inter-racial marriage; today, it’s 94 percent. Or check out the rapid decline in the “white Christian” share of the population — from 80 percent in
1996 1976 to 44 percent today. Look around you and you’ll see how the crude rubric of “white supremacy” is, in fact, wildly out of date.
This is why so many of the most passionately woke are so obsessed with history in America, and the further back the better, as the 1619 Project shows. The past is a world they are much more comfortable in than the present, a place where the racial divide was infinitely simpler, and racial inequality both brutal and actively enforced by the government. Before the Civil Rights Act in 1964, before mass non-white immigration began in 1965, before mass non-white illegal immigration since the 1990s, the “white supremacy” rubric had some lingering traction.
But in the 21st Century, it’s been hopelessly compounded by layer upon layer of mass immigration from every conceivable corner of the planet. The Latino population in the US is now larger than the African-American one; and Asians, of many different varieties, are now immigrating in higher numbers than Latinos. Before too long, the black/white dynamic may disappear into the multi-colored, multi-hued background entirely.
And when you take a look at the Hispanic population, you also see a very different set of beliefs than you do among African-Americans. In this week’s WSJ poll, for example, 37 percent of Latinos said they would support the GOP, and 37 percent said they’d vote Democrat. Likewise, in a Trump-Biden rematch, it’s a virtual tie — a massive change since the last election, and a stark contrast to African-Americans. A staggering 61 percent of Latino men now disapprove of Biden’s job performance.
Over time, this group is simply becoming more and more indistinguishable from the mainstream — moving slowly from Democrat to Republican like so many previous immigrant groups. The biggest swing toward Trump by Hispanics in 2016 happened with third-generation Americans, as Eric Kaufmann notes. And by 2019, only half of all nonwhites identified as Democrats.
Ruy Teixeira — who, to his credit, has been busy undermining a thesis he once popularized — argues that on crime, policing and immigration, Hispanics are often well to the right of other groups:
Latino voters evinced little sympathy with the more radical demands that came to be associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. In VSG data, despite showing support for some specific policing reforms, Hispanics opposed defunding the police, decreasing the size of police forces … and reparations for the descendants of slaves by 2:1 or more … They are also patriotic. By well over 3:1, Hispanics in the VSG survey said they would rather be a citizen of the United States than any other country in the world.
As a final rebuttal of the “Black and brown people” formula, Latino Trump voters regard themselves as more white-adjacent than anything else. According to Eric Kaufmann, who shows how on the questions of whether we need to “protect white European heritage” and whether “whites are under attack in the US,” there was marginally more support among Hispanic Trump voters than white ones! It’s so easy to forget that Latino immigrants choose the US in part because it is culturally different than their places of origin — and a lot “whiter.”
Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic Trump voters want to reduce immigration, which is why the Democrats’ assumption that there is some kind of monolithic consensus in favor of mass illegal migration is so condescendingly dumb (and racist). In fact, the biggest swing toward Trump among Latinos in 2020 was precisely along the besieged Southern border. This year, the border city of McAllen, Texas, historically Democratic, elected Javier Villalobos as their Republican mayor. It’s also true that conflating the views of Cubans and Mexicans, or of Hondurans and Colombians into a category of “brown,” misses huge differences and countless nuances in cultures and histories. My own view is that the very term “Latino” — let alone the monstrosity of “Latinx” — will need to be retired very soon. It is beginning to obscure more than it reveals.
The “B&b” formula, in other words, is on the wrong side of history. It is obsessed with a binary racial past that has long since been erased by a radically more complex future. It defines every group through the lens of “oppression” — at the expense of countless other complicating factors. Even within the CRT category of “brown,” there are those who identify as white, those who identify as black, and many whose own concepts of light, lighter, dark and darker skin are even more complex and bewildering. There are different nationalities, varying levels of socio-economic status, religions and languages — added to differences between men and women (the Latino political gender gap is very pronounced).
And that’s why the crude racial engineering the left elites are now so enthused about is almost certainly a dead end. It’s one thing to have a country in which white people clearly dominated black people in a society divided into those two categories; and to end the government’s clearly disparate treatment of those two groups. That was the 20th Century. It’s quite another thing to live in a 21st Century of mind-boggling racial diversity from every continent on earth, where Asian-American women now out-earn white men, where black men and Latino men have almost identical median earnings, and where native-born white Americans have a lower median household income than Indian, Pakistani or Syrian immigrants, among many others.
An attempt to craft systemic “racial justice” onto this ever-more complex and constantly changing sea of ethnic identities is practically speaking impossible. How does one adjudicate the racial power hierarchy between, say, first-generation Somali immigrants and fourth-generation Polish ones? How to measure the relative oppression of a millionaire Nigerian immigrant and a descendant of slaves in Alabama? Which groups are the oppressors and which are the oppressed? How much of this “oppression” occurs within groups as well as between them? And how can we know?
The more ethnically complex a society is, the more intense and unending the mutual resentment and recrimination such racial engineering evokes and worsens. The minute one group gets victim status, another group will complain it’s being left out. Remember the forever multiplying LGBTQIA+? It starts with the lie that lesbians, gays and trans people have equivalent life-experiences (like the B&b” formula), and then goes on to construct ever more sexual “identities” ad infinitum. The Oppression Olympics drama that turns every progressive institution over time into a bitter cauldron of racial suspicion will become more common throughout our society. It will make life hell for all of us.
The corollary to this, of course, is that there is one serious political arrangement that can manage such huge racial diversity without engaging in civil war or social breakdown: liberalism. Rest politics on the individual’s rights, regardless of his or her identity, and these toxic, unwinnable racial conflicts are far less likely. Tackle discrimination on an individual and not a group level, and our ever-intensifying multiracial society can function without a deadlock. Keep government limited, and let a vibrant, free culture sort through all these conflicts and nuances the way it always has in America. Left alone, we’ll figure out the complexities. But if forced to adjudicate every one on the basis of “oppressor” and “oppressed,” we’ll be in an endless, self-perpetuating race war before we know it.
Letting the multiracial culture of America churn and evolve is the right side of history — focusing more on 2119 than 1619, and aligning us to a future, and not to a past. The woke give the appearance of newness. But their politics is steeped in the poisonous racial categories and foul attitudes of a fast-eroding past. Instead of desperately shoring it up, why can we not finally let it go?
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s issue also includes: my detailed discussion with David Wallace-Wells on the looming threat of Omicron; a slew of reader dissents and other comments on my analysis of Roe’s presumed demise; my reaction to a self-righteous Hathos Alert involving Jussie Smollett; a Poseur Alert involving Yoko Ono; seven notable quotes for the week; a dozen links to other Substack posts we liked; a Cool Ad from a famous director having a bit of fun; a Mental Health Break of astonishing ski footage from France; an understated window view from Rome and a majestic one from North Carolina; and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
From a new subscriber:
This week I was enjoying coffee with an elderly friend outside a patisserie on Queen Street West, the centre of Wokedom in Toronto. After talking of our disappointment with mainstream media, I mentioned how much I was enjoying the podcasts of a gay, conservative, Christian, transplanted Brit in the U.S.
Imagine my surprise as we were leaving when a very young woman sitting behind us asked me if I had been referring to Andrew Sullivan. Absolutely, I said. Smiling, she handed me a slip of paper with a list of more like-minded journalists I would also appreciate. I’m in my 70s and can hardly interest any of my close ultra-liberal friends in subscribing to Dish, but clearly your many young followers are sprouting in the most surprising locations. Keep up the excellent work.
P.S. I wish I could attach the view from my window, which looks across Lake Ontario to the USA and Niagara Falls, with its towers and vapor clouds. Have to wait for a clear wintry day ...
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Elliot Page, seen here in 2019 as Ellen Page, on hoaxer Jussie Smollett:
Read my reaction to the video in the paid version of the Dish, including my response to a Poseur Alert from the NYT.
Dissents Of The Week: A Roe Consensus?
You talk about polling numbers, but you keep the focus on the low number of women who want legal abortion with no restriction. Is that what the falling of Roe vs Wade is really about? No, Roe is not abortion without restriction; it is abortion until the point of viability — the main restriction people talk about!
Why don’t you share these Gallup numbers, showing that since 1989, support for Roe itself has never been lower than 52% and support for overturning it has never been over 36 percent? This year, support for Roe is at 58 percent vs 32 percent — and this includes both men and women!
Read my response to that reader, along with a few others, here. For more dissents and assents over Roe and Obergefell, check out the podcast page — which has largely become a letters page. As always, keep the constructive criticism coming: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New On The Dishcast: David Wallace-Wells
The Covid news keeps coming, and I wanted to understand it better, especially as Omicron makes its way across the Atlantic, and as vaccine effectiveness declines. Who better to talk to than David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine’s Covid specialist and environmental correspondent? He was on the Dishcast early this year, before the vaccines arrived, and he’s about as honest a broker on the pandemic as anyone. I also asked him to debrief Dishheads on the upshot of COP26, the recent Climate Change conference in Glasgow. I learned a lot — particularly about the waste of solar panels and the potential of nuclear power to help us get past carbon more quickly.
For two clips from my conversation with David — on his sobering assessment of the vaccines against Delta, and on Biden’s bumbling on Covid pills and testing — head over to our YouTube page. Listen to the whole episode here. That link also brings you to a bunch of smart commentary from readers on the looming repeal of Roe, a reader worried about the Dems dropping the ball on remote learning, and a Biden supporter trying to cheer us up with historical context. I toss in my two cents.
Meanwhile, as the University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas shatters women’s records in her senior year, after three years competing as a man, a reader writes:
I just got around to listening to your Dishcast discussion with Mara Keisling. If trans people continue to be permitted to compete in the sports of their choice, I think it inevitable that in some relatively short period of time, EVERY record in “women’s sports” will be held by a trans woman. I would expect precisely ZERO of those same records in “men’s sports” will be held by trans men. Further, it is evident, at least to me, that NONE of the trans women record-holders would be able to match their records with their biologically male record-holding counterparts.
Your question to Keisling was exactly right in my opinion: why not just make all sports co-ed (or omni-ed, if she prefers)? The answer, of course, is that such a move would be ludicrous and completely unfair to biological women.
Below is a clip from that convo with Keisling, a brilliant trans activist and founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality:
In The ‘Stacks
If you’re new to the Dish, this is a feature in the paid version that spotlights about a dozen of our favorite pieces from other Substackers every week. This week’s selection covers topics such as adoption animus, an essay on addiction, and a paean to ejaculation. Here’s a preview:
Copyranter — the curmudgeonly ad critic, old-school blogger, and Dish fave — makes a triumphant return on Substack. He was famously fired by Buzzfeed because he wouldn’t put up with their sponsored-content bullshit, among other things. Now he’s free to let loose against: cringey condom ads, bulimics barfing up their future selfs, and the lame conformity of Covid ads — including this compilation:
But Copyranter also praises stuff on “Non-Bad Ad Fridays.” Sign up for more — and consider throwing some support his way. His punchy posts are great MHBs throughout the week.
You can also browse all the substacks that Bodenner and I follow and read on a regular basis here — a combination of our favorite writers and new ones we’re checking out. It’s a blogroll of sorts. If you have any recommendations for “In the ‘Stacks,” especially ones from emerging writers, please let us know: email@example.com.
The View From Your Window Contest
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The results for the last week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today.
See you next Friday.