Sunday, January 15, 2012

Do we want to get rid of racism?

It is a most curious thing to see conservatism so often associated with bigotry, of various forms. I mean "associated" only rhetorically, as it is discussed in political and cultural circles. In my experience it is not conservatives who actually practice such bigotry, but they usually get the blame for it.

Given the history of the political left it is quite absurd to blame Republicans and conservatives for the racial sins of America's past. Let me bring a few facts to light:
  • who, by and large, supported and defended slavery while it was still legal in the U.S.?
  • who created the KKK?
  • who made, supported, and enforced Jim Crow laws?
In case you haven't guessed yet, and it seems many Americans would guess incorrectly, it was not Republicans who did these things - it was Democrats. This is why Martin Luther King and Martin Luther King, Jr. were both Repulbicans. And yet American culture seems to unquestioningly accept the idea that Republicans are responsible for these despicable episodes of America's past.

Ironically, for any on the political or social right to mention or do anything even closely related to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. they can be criticized for it. After all, it is not Republicans who have a reprehensible history with racial issues to make up for.

But there is a popular, though once again largely unchallenged, assertion that the Democrat party was controlled by "conservatives" back then, and today they are not. It is the Republican party who is dominated by conservatives today, so the racial sins of America should therefore belong not to Democrats, but to conservatives - who constitute the political right. Instead of blindly accepting this idea, as we are so encouraged, let us actually look at it.

The notion that "conservatives" wanted to keep slavery legal is a non-sequitur. That absurdity is what leftists tell themselves and the rest of society. But that is not what conservatism is about. At its core, conservatism holds that those with power over others aught to be reluctant to use it, because power corrupts and easily devolves into oppression. For this reason the political right prefers small government. It is also the reason the conservatives of the early Republican party opposed slavery, which showed their concerns to be valid. After all, if the government has the power to decide who is a person and who is not, shouldn't we expect there to be a people group who are denied their humanity (and by extension everything that goes with it)? It is also the reason conservatives are often reluctant to embrace change. Despite the fact that the political right was the main force for change when slavery was legal (they fought to change the law of the land so as to ban slavery) today the force for change by and large promotes more power concentrated into the hands of an ever increasing government. So while a people group are oppressed and legally robbed of their humanity (the American slaves were denied personhood itself) conservatives fight for change. But when the force for change seeks to increase government control over the people's daily decisions (such as forcing us to purchase a product or service) they oppose it. Conservatives seek to avoid oppression, not to preserve the status quo.

But acknowledging this fact casts suspicion back to Democrats. Was the Democrat party dominated by conservatives when slavery was legal in America? Does that mean there were conservatives on the right battling against slavery, and conservatives on the left fighting to defend it? Of course not. Because the Democrats on the left were fighting to maintain the status quo, in order to maintain power over others - the antithesis of what conservatives do. Conservatives resist power over others; they favor an individual's power over him/herself.

This is one reason conservatives oppose both abortion and attempts to redefine marriage. According to the primary tenet of conservatism, denying a group of people their very personhood so as to deprive them all rights (including the right to live) is oppression. Likewise, redefining marriage so as to force us all to accept an idea that alters one of the fundamentals of civilization has profound and unknown implications - change that may be good or bad. While there are many people who oppose changing the definition of marriage, I see no one supporting any law that would prevent a gay man from marrying a woman who would consent. Those on the political right who would support alternatives (such as the civil union concept) are given little recognition for it, if any. No one is preventing anyone from holding a ceremony or from associating with whom ever they wish. Yet, the dominant narrative on both of these issues is the Democrat narrative. Gays are denied the right to force the rest of us to believe something, but we are not to look at denying children in the womb all rights in the same terms. No, for abortion, we are only supposed to look this issue in terms of the rights of women. Once again, the basic human rights of one group (children in the womb) are denied in the name of the constitutional rights of another group (women). If the civil rights movement can legitimately be compared to one of these two contemporary groups, it is children in the womb - who are denied their very humanity, just as were the slaves. A woman should have control over her own body we are told, and we should pretend we know for a fact the child in her womb is not a person at all, therefore has no rights society is bound to respect.

Oppressors of all political stripes desire to maintain their power. This desire is "preservative" not "conservative". To conserve, by definition, is to minimize the use of something. In an environmental context conservationists are "conservative" are they not? They desire to conserve on energy and resources. Being "conservative" in a political context means to minimize the use of power over the people - to minimize the oppression of forcing people to do or believe something. But if we are to accept the idea that a desire to maintain power is conservative, then by this reasoning we are all conservatives. The Soviets certainly wished to maintain their power; shall we call them conservative? The Democrat Party wishes to maintain its influence in American politics; shall we call them conservative? Planned Parenthood wants to maintain its influence in American society; shall we call them conservative? What ever definition is used to label the pro-slavery Democrats of the past as conservative is so broad as to include everyone.

In the same light that the Republican party opposed slavery and opposed Jim Crow, it also opposes racial laws today. It is conservatives who seek a racially color blind society. It is conservatives who, just like the Rev. King, seek a world where the color of one's skin is entirely ignored, where race is treated as irrelevant.

It makes sense that Democrats so strongly support affirmative action: favorable special treatment for minorities, rather than the negative special treatment they would suffer by discrimination. And, as mentioned before, Democrats have much to make up for. But special treatment is not equal treatment. And affirmative action does not move us toward a racially color blind mentality. Neither does contemporary political discourse.

If one listens to the self-proclaimed defenders of civil rights today what do we see? We see incitement of racial animosity. We don't see the political left promoting an attitude of brotherhood among all races. We see them fomenting racial strife. After all, when one gets paid to find racism it becomes very easy to see it, even when it isn't there. The same can be said of other politicians, political pundits, commentators, activists, et al. Those insinuating the Republican Party is the party of racism are themselves not trying to eliminate racism. It is only conservatives who are trying to rid society of this evil; it is conservatives who promote the only method by which this endeavor can succeed - ignoring race, and treating individuals as individuals, not as members of a meaningless factional division. In an enlightened society skin color should have no meaning. It is not conservatives who treat skin color as though it matters, it is merely conservatives who get accused of such. So the question remains, do we really want to end racism? I can see that conservatives do. What about you?

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