The Persistence of Racism

Ross Douthat lends his voice to the recent firing of conservative writer John Derbyshire from the National Review for a racist article.  He approves of the firing and the offers this take on racism as a counter to a point made by Conor Friedersdorf:

This future is unlikely to be as ugly as the past, because the case for formal segregation and overt racial discrimination isn’t going to come back. Nor, as I’ve said before, do I think that race is going to be the controlling cleavage of 21st century America: Already, I think religion, political ideology and social class can trump the color line as a source of polarization and division, and I expect that pattern to continue.

But I can think of a half-dozen reasons why public expressions of race-based hostility (of all sorts, not just against African Americans) might become more common, not less, as the America of the Boomers gives way to the America of the millennials. These reasons include the Internet’s tendency to make the taboo not-so-taboo anymore, our growing chronological distance from the institutional injustices whose successful overthrow made racism taboo in the first place, our culture’s obsession with genetic theories of just about everything, the fracturing of the Christian common ground that undergirded at least some of the belief in human equality, the way that diversity seems to increase social mistrust, the social gulf that increasingly yawns between upper-class whites who are invested in a multiracial society and lower-class whites who feel like losers in it, the potential growth of a grievance-based white identity politics as America becomes majority-minority, and the fact that white guilt over slavery and segregation — the foundation of the anti-racist consensus at the moment — will necessarily be a weaker cultural force in a country that’s more Hispanic, more Asian, and more non-white in general.


It kind of gets to a point that I’ve been thinking about for a while: racism will in some form or another always be with us.  It’s not because America is somehow fundamentally more racist than other spots on the globe.  I think for a variety of reasons-from increasing diversity to the stagnation of the lower white middle class and the isolation of the black underclass- racism will continue to be a problem in American society.  We aren’t going back to Jim Crow, but I think economic and social forces will bring rhetoric like Derbyshire’s out into the open.

One thought on “The Persistence of Racism

  1. superdestroyer

    The real lesson for whites is to shut up about race and learn to use the language of obscuring. Learn to say that you are doing something for your children instead of saying that you would never seen your children to a school with a large number of blacks.

    Whites have to be even more careful in picking their neighborhood, their children’s school, their career, and the university they attend since slip ups are so much easier and the downside of failure is even greater.


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