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Another Dream Deferred

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what, in the fullness of time, would become his most memorable vision from his 1963 magisterial “I Have a Dream” speech, he could not have known how much progress in civil rights would ensue over the coming half century, in no small measure because of his work.

Human progress in general, and moral advancement in particular, have been documented in detail in a number of recent books, including Hans Rosling’s Factfulness (2018, Flatiron Books), Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018, Spiegel & Grau), Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now (2018, Penguin) and The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011, Penguin), Gregg Easterbrook’s It’s Better Than it Looks (2018, PublicAffairs), Johan Norberg’s Progress (2017, OneWorld), my own The Moral Arc (2015, Henry Holt), Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist (2010, HarperCollins). Regular updates on humanity’s development are provided with copious data on such sites as HumanProgress by Marian Tupy and Our World in Data by Max Roser, aggregated with statistics from the World Bank, the UN, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Eurostat, and other sources. There has never been another time in history when it has been better to be alive than today, including and especially for people of color, women, and minorities of any type. Fifty-five years on we should be celebrating the instantiation of Dr. King’s visage:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Ever since the two major rights revolutions of the late 18th century and mid-20th century the moral sphere has been expanding to encompass all of humanity—a “brotherhood of man” in the parlance of the 1960s’ pre-feminist influence on gendered language. Lamentably, the past decade has witnessed what appears to be a reversal of Dr. King’s dream in the form of identity politics, or the collectivization of individuals into groups competing for status and power and perceived persecution by privileged identities. In Dr. King’s time, race was the primary political power dimension. Since the 1960s, identity politics has expanded to include not only race but gender identity, sexual orientation, class, religion, ethnicity, language, dialect, education, generation, occupation, political party, disability, marital status, veteran status, and more, all competing for political power in the public sphere.

Added to this new instantiation of ancient tribalism is intersectionality theory, in which membership in multiple intersecting identity groups brings more or less power, more or less persecution. Thus, for example, the historical subjugation of blacks by whites is measured along a single axis of race, while the oppression of women by men is assessed along a single axis of gender; that black women have different experiences than black men or white women can be traced along two intersecting axes of race and gender; a non-white transgender lower-class disabled Muslim woman faces a world different from that of a white cisgender upper-class able-bodied Christian man along these multiple intersecting axes, of which there are more than a dozen, including: White—Non-White, Male—Female, Light—Dark, Cisgender—Transgender, Heterosexual—Homosexual, Gender-typical—Deviant, Young—Old, European—Non-European, Anglophone—English as Second Language, Gentile—Jews, Rich—Poor, Fertile—Infertile, Able-bodied—Disabled, Credentialed—Non-Literate.

As philosopher Kathryn Pauly Morgan explained intersectionality, each of us may be identified and judged on where we fall “on each of these axes (at a minimum) and that this point is simultaneously a locus of our agency, power, disempowerment, oppression, and resistance.” The Chicana feminist activist Elizabeth Martinez worried what such hierarchical assessments might lead to: “There are various forms of working together. A coalition is one, a network is another, an alliance is yet another. But the general idea is no competition of hierarchies should prevail. No Oppression Olympics.”

Unfortunately, as detailed in three new books, Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg (2018, Crown), The Diversity Delusion by Heather Mac Donald (2018, St. Martin’s Press), and The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (2018, Penguin), the Oppression Olympics are well past their opening ceremonies in colleges, corporations, and Congress, tearing institutions asunder as conflicting cohorts vie for who has suffered the most historical inequities. This has resulted in a race to the bottom through what Lukianoff and Haidt call “The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.” They write: “As a result of our long evolution for tribal competition, the human mind readily does dichotomous, us-versus-them thinking. If we want to create welcoming, inclusive communities, we should be doing everything we can to turn down the tribalism and turn up the sense of common humanity.”

That historical injustices were degrading, destructive, and deadly none of these authors (including me) denies, and even the most optimistic of us acknowledges that prejudices and disparities still exist, as poignantly highlighted by the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. Racism and misogyny, while in historical decline, may still be found in too many places in our society, as nightly news stories (with dramatic body camera footage) shows blacks citizens being shot by white cops, or powerful males being perp walked in the media before the testimonies of women they sexually harassed. Inequalities still abound in too many institutions of Western democracies, but these realities should not be mistaken as trend lines in reverse, as if we are lurching backwards to the disenfranchisement of women or a return to weekly lynchings of blacks. Once civil rights and liberties are achieved the people now enjoying them are disinclined to give them back, despite the racist rhetoric of a handful of tiki-torch wielding alt-right kooks or the misogynistic mumblings of elderly rat-packers.

Among the many elements of Dr. King’s dream included his faith that one day… “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” Within our culture in general, and on social media and talk radio and television in particular, the jangling discords of identity politics are said to be pulling us into another civil war, this one cultural instead of martial. With discordance arising from these many identities competing for power and influence that have brought out the worse demons of our nature, it is prudent to recall the dream of a civil rights crusader from an earlier century—Abraham Lincoln—as his country was on the eve of a real civil war over the enslavement of millions of people who wanted nothing more than to be treated equally as fully human with the same rights and privileges as those enslaving them. Speaking to the southerners who had already seceded from the union and formed the Confederate States of America, the Great Emancipator implored:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to eery living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Today’s cultural civil war is not remotely comparable to the one that killed over half a million Americans, but the division of people into such aggregate identities is a perverse inversion of Dr. King’s dream, now deferred by these movements for identity politics and intersectionality theory, however well intentioned their practitioners. My lament is echoed by the African American jazz poet Langston Hughes in his 1951 poem Harlem, when he asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”, which he answered in a series of rhetorical questions, most famously: “Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?”

Let us not allow Dr. King’s noble dream of judging others by the content of their character alone to wither on the vine under the collectivist drought brought on by these politically intersecting tribal identities, which we must shed if we are to return to the moral path leading to a unifying humanity.

Correction: an earlier version of this article misidentified a quote belonging to Kathryn Pauly Morgan as belonging to Michel Foucault. Quillette regrets the error.

Michael Shermer is publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. Follow him on Twitter @michaelshermer

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Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His latest book is “Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia,” published January 9, 2018 by Henry Holt and Co.

72 Comments

  1. Truthseeker says

    I am sure if Trump quoted Dr Martin Luther King the permanently outraged would be calling it “cultural appropriation”.

      • Jezic says

        Trump did when signing a proclamation in honor of MLK Jr. day last January. Of course, the usual crowd screamed that racism because that’s how bassakwards logic works.

      • Winged Biscuit says

        “Added to this new instantiation of ancient tribalism is intersectionality theory, in which membership in multiple intersecting identity groups brings more or less power, more or less persecution…”

        Intersectionality is a farce multiplier.

      • Jack B Nimble says

        Actually, conservatives have been misappropriating [not appropriating] Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech for decades. The list of misappropriators includes Presidents Reagan and Bush1, Gingrich, D’Souza, Linda Chavez, former CA gov. Pete Wilson and Ward Connerly. Even Jared Taylor has approvingly cited Dr. King’s speech, which brings to mind Shakespeare’s quote that “the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

        Source: https://academic.udayton.edu/race/03justice/justice06.htm

      • Fluffy Puffin says

        What simplistic and gullible tripe. Just garbage.

        Micheal, your history and your thinking suck. You seem to be taken in by anybody who can give a nice speech.

        Abraham Lincoln, despite his restored historical patina, could be legitimately style a war criminal. “Bonds of affection”? He jailed newspapermen and dissenters; used the Constitution for toilet paper; didn’t give a hoot for slaves and wrote just that in his letters and journals; allowed torture and starvation of Confederate soldiers; prosecuted a war he didn’t have to fight that ended up killing more Americans than all our other wars put together; and left half the country an economic wreck from which it has still not fully recovered.

        MLK was just as complicated. He was profoundly manipulative and devious man, both personally and in public. He was brave to say what he did, but he was no role model, and he had some really screwed up ideas, reparations and affirmative action being just two.

        But yes: both of them gave some nice speeches.

        BLM and PoundMe2 are MOVEMENTS the way what I do in the bathroom are MOVEMENTS. They allude to some high-minded stuff once in a while, but the leadership are postmodern assholes focused on power and demagoguery. They are zero-sum made flesh, fronts for gaining influence by demonizing whites, men, conservatives, and more quietly, Jewish people. Both movements have disgusting streaks of anti-Semitism they do little to hide.

        Morevover, if you did indeed read MacDonald’s book, you know that the numbers say the Great Black Genocide by nasty mean police officers is propaganda; yet you bizarrely give it credence. Are you sure you read the whole book?

        This article comes across to me as fearful pandering. “…prejudices and disparities still exist”? Good grief… You seem to take great pains to be seen as one of the Nice Guys so that readers will agree with you and not call you the Pale Face Devil with a Peener. I wish you would have put your effort into being RIGHT rather than nice. Proving your woke credentials by referencing vulgar icons and tiptoeing around inflammatory issues just wastes everyone’s time and quietly grants your opponents’ presumptions. Either locate your nuts and SAY something, or give up the column inches to someone who will. We need Voltaire and Thomas Paine right now, not Neville Chamberlain.

        • Andio says

          Are the “vulgar icons” you refer to Lincoln and MLK?

          Your comment sounds like the stuff one might here from ideologues, religious extremists, authoritarians–condemn and purge the impure! Talk about garbage.

          • It is curious that the modern conservative’s heroes are Lincoln, an avowed white supremacist whose original idea was to repatriate free slaves to Central America (because it was cheaper than shipping back to Africa)–a position today consistent with David Duke’s politics–and MLK, an avowed socialist who supported affirmative action and racial reparations, and was well to the Left of Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez.

        • Greg Thrasher says

          BS….Spare us your angst, envy and deal with the racism and bigotry in White Jewish venues in America….No White or Jewish Americans have ever created an Icon like MLK or Mandela for that mater

          Shalom

    • Kristina says

      Yes! I’ve always been reminded of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch as political candidates compete for the prize of the most downtrodden. The most laughable was when even Mitt Romney tried to portray his upbringing as impoverished, instead of simply being honest. I’ve done (and regretted) doing a training program for “Democratic women” that encouraged only talking about identity, rather than ideas or accomplishments. I wished I could have sent the program participants the Four Yorkshiremen, sketch, but I would have been pilloried.

  2. Emmanuel says

    I am always amused to see that people who evoke the historical oppression of Blacks by Whites conveniently forget the historical oppression of Blacks by Arabs, Turks, Indians (traders from Gujarat were heavily involved in the African slave trade) and other Blacks. And I am not even talking about the historical oppression of Whites by other Whites or by non-Whites (unless you follow Edward Said’s version of history and pretend the Ottoman Empire never existed).

    The Identity Politics and Intersectionality narratives rely on a well-defined binary opposition between oppressors and victims which has little to do with real life. The SJWs are not only rejecting the inheritance of Martin Luther King, they are also rejecting every fact that does not fit their narrative, which is a bit more serious.

    • Sometimes it seems to me that context has been lost.

      A large part of the UK population lived in poverty, exploited by the rich, imprisoned, executed or transported for trivial property crimes. In a land where the upper classes thought that the poor were dirty, sick and uneducated because they were *incapable* of knowing better.

      Seen in the context of life in the UK at the time, how we treated our own, is it any wonder we thought slavery was OK.

      • Kristina says

        “‘And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth.'”

        –from Heart of Darkness, said as Marlow is on a boat going out the Thames estuary.

      • Sara Berk (@Berksa) says

        Michael:

        This seems like a case study in “half assed.”

        You think denouncing the fabulists who manufacture intersectionality and identity politics while dancing around how unfluffy the past was makes you objective and unassailable?

        Weak. Most weak.

        As a supposedly educated and thinking person with a platform, you have an obligation to attack terrible ideas, specious logic, and the baiting tactics the Muh Feelinz! Army employs. Tearing their arguments to bits is not ad hominem. They will try to say it is, but they ALWAYS shift the argument to identity when reasoning and abstract ideas prove inconvenient to their goals, so you might as well get started.

        It’s time to go “full ass”.

    • @Emmanuel, They don’t talk about nonWhite ample oppression because it’s not about intersectionality or oppression for that matter. It’s about hating Western culture and wanting to destroy it with a vague idea that once it’s destroyed, something wonderful and utopian will replace it. With the upper class self flagellating Whites joining their “oppressed” groups to be in power of course. None of these SJWs see their jobs or livelihoods or power taken away. It’s the Other people who must be punished. It’s very similar to communism, fascism (with nationalism in reverse–instead of adoring their nation, they put it front and center by hating it), or a religious delusion.

    • @Emmanuel it does seem like a very selective choice of historical and geographical range, doesn’t it. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, area of the soft-sciences where this intentional and willful selection of range to validate a position will exist. Climate science does the same, intentionally selecting date ranges to show increases and omitting inconvenient periods or data points. Intersectionality follows the same trend.

      A very narrow clip from my academic history long ago is, I feel, relevant here. I was taking a course on intercultural communication and the lecture and textbook topics of the time were were discussing Hofstede’s dimensions. The professor gave us an exercise where he had us write down on 3x5s the various dimensions of our personal culture. We then had a whiteboard exercise where we created the union of all the dimensions we all identified and then put our names under the categories where we self-classified. Now, why did the professor do this? Simply put, to show us that we are all an amalgamation of different subcultures. More importantly, no two persons were the same and we all had 1 or more common dimensions with each of our peers. As the course was focused on communication, this lesson became the grounds for further discussion — that we all shared “something” common in our past experience, our common subculture which allowed us to build context with one another and bridge a communications gap.

      This is what has been lost today due to the intersectionality/critical theory craze that has infected far too much communication. Rather than seeking out the common dimension to build rapport and understanding from which dialog, discussion, and satisfactory conclusion is possible, the I/CT of activists seeks to avoid acknowledging these common threads. It is likely the reason for the infighting between SJW groups going on throughout the Left right now and becoming even more contentious in Dem primaries. What the media failed to blast far and wide, for example, is how the champions of Abrams in GA deplatformed her opponents in the primary debates; shouting them down and inhibiting their ability to even make opening statements. Of course, Abrams did not denounce the behavior (imagine if Trump supporters had done the same to HRC and Trump didn’t denounce 15-20-50 times!).

      Recognizing that no person is a single culture, all are made up of intersecting cultures (the true point of intersectionality) and using that as a source of common ground and context to guide understanding and drive meaningful conversation is the basis of Diversity as well — not the bastardization it has become. Ironically, Yamiche Alcindor challenged Trump’s self-identification as a Nationalist pointing out how that term has become mis-appropriated (by the Left) as synonym for Nazi. Yet the media and Left ignore the fact that Diversity suffers from the same misappropriation.

      • Emmanuel says

        Regarding the matter of educated leftists’ hatred for Western societies and “Whiteness”, I believe French philosopher Jean François Revel’s description of the reason intellectuals supported communism is still relevant : he explained they used to compare the imperfection of real life capitalism with the utopia of what communism ought to be rather than with what it was in real life. It’s the same with the SJWs ‘ view of Western societies : they compare the flaws of those societies with a perfect Other which does not exist outside their imagination (pre-colonial Africa wasn’t exactly Wakanda, unlike what some people seem to believe), while taking the achievements of Western societies for granted.
        Slavery, genocide, racism, sexism, conquests, war, inequalities etc… have historically been universal. The leftist intelligentsia’s attempt to present them as being the Evil Heterosexual White Man is deeply dishonest.

        @ Bill, one of the major dogma of the intellectual left is that every situation should be understood as a manichean opposition between evil oppressors and good victims. With that kind of perspective, it becomes impossible to grasp the extreme complexity of real life historical and sociological situations. The triumph of left wing ideas in academia is a major intellectual catastrophe in that regard.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Emmanuel:

          “It’s the same with the SJWs ‘ view of Western societies : they compare the flaws of those societies with a perfect Other which does not exist outside their imagination”

          There are many vectors involved in how we came to this, but one of them IMHO is that the Correct have elevated imagination to a position not only above reality, but replacing reality. I symbolically blame this on St. John’s ‘Imagine’ song. The idea seems to be that, in a properly drugged haze, if we imagine hard enough, it becomes true. Thus we imagine racial equality, we imagine that it is only Oppression that is keeping women from Equity in STEM, we imagine that all badness comes from the euro-white patriarchy, we imagine that a gay union is exactly the same as a real marriage, and so on. Most dangerously we imagine that all religions are exactly the same (except for Christianity and Judaism which are inherently evil), and that in particular, Islam is the world’s preeminent Religion of Peace (TM). If we only imagine perfectly then the clouds will part and we will find ourselves by magic in hippie utopia. But first all dissenters must be purged, they break the spell, rather like someone telling jokes during a seance.

          • Peter from Oz says

            Ray

            That is a very perceptive comment.
            I would riff off that by saying that another important thing is that the technological advances of the last 30 years have also aided the left’s collective dream of ”Imagine”. When we can now hold a complex computer in our hand that can do more than all the computers used in the moon landings, and we hear of new marvels everyday, it’s easy to see how people think it is possible to solve any social problem

        • Peter from Oz says

          Emmanuel

          Just a small point of order. ”Educated leftist” is an oxymoron.

    • Northern Observer says

      Inter-sectionality, like anti colonialism relies on a blinkered view of history that is Euro-centric and starts in 1492. It’s complete ideological hogwash. Some of the greatest “injustices” of World History are hidden as a result and the context of Europe’s expansion is lost in the process.

      Another meta irony is that the more diverse and multicultural a society becomes the less appropriate it is to organize social policy along racial and tribal line.

      • Emmanuel says

        @Northern Observer, you are perfectly right to use the word Euro-centric that vision : the modern academic left has adopted an intellectual perspective that heavily relies on the idea of Western or White exceptionalism. A negative exceptionalism, but still an exceptionalism. In France, Pascal Bruckner has written interesting texts about that idea.

    • Greg Thrasher says

      White America created Racial Identity Politics and the like in America centuries ago and still use this backward nonsense today 2018

      BLM

  3. Nick Ender says

    I don’t understand the game here. That tweet seems to imply – in the context of this article – that white women need to vote with non-white people. But why? If we’re all divided by these intersections of identity, and we’re all competing for an apparently finite amount of power, what’s the incentive? It appears to be just that you’ll feel more moral if you do what progressives say. But by their own admission there is no moral dimension, only a power dimension. So the goal is to get me to believe in something you do not believe in to modify my behavior in some way that is beneficial to you. If that’s not the definition of antisocial behavior then I do not now what is.

    This is what made the regressive left (and most of the non-regressive left) so mad about Trumps election. They played their game and people just doubled down. Kinda like false accusing someone over and over of the same crime. At some point they may just go commit the crime since it’s better to have gotten the benefit and be punished than to have gained nothing and still be punished.

    • I think the assumption is that white women don’t have white husbands or white boys nor will their descendants ever marry a white man. Thus they shouldn’t care what happens to white men. This assumption doesn’t hold for most white women.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Yes, the progressives seem to be prey to the zero sum fallacy in many areas. Thus a progressive will talk about national wealth, as if it would be the same if the entrpreneurs and capitalists hadn’t been there. The progressives think that if Rupert Murdoch is rich then masses of other people must be poor.

      • jolly swag, man says

        “Equality of opportunity and liberty are not a zero sum game”
        Actually, history shows that if you play with leftism your liberty, equality and opportunity inevitably end up zero (unless you’re part of commie-czar class).

      • Rossella says

        Equality of opportunity does not guarantee equality of outcome. I know as a fact from my 30-year teaching experience.

  4. Harland says

    Once civil rights and liberties are achieved the people now enjoying them are disinclined to give them back, despite the racist rhetoric of a handful of tiki-torch wielding alt-right kooks or the misogynistic mumblings of elderly rat-packers.

    Yes, but it is very useful to the Left to pretend that it is so. This enables them to use extreme rhetoric and actions to push their agenda that few support. If it is a civilization-threatening emergency, then all bets are off and they are justified in using any tactic, by any means necessary.

    Heck, just the other day a mob descended on Tucker Carlson’s house. They thought what they were doing was not just OK, but required by the extremely bad state of things in America today. That’s where the media does its part, creating an atmosphere of fear and loathing.

  5. Farris says

    “….despite the racist rhetoric of a handful of tiki-torch wielding alt-right kooks or the misogynistic mumblings of elderly rat-packers.”

    The author unfortunately omits the racism of low expectations. The racism of those who see themselves as the “Great White Benefactor” without whom blacks can not succeed. Those not working for charities who claim they are here to help want something in return (power votes, ect…) and don’t mind prostrating themselves or denigrating their own. Additionally when is society going to turn its attention to the greatest threat to blacks, not the random rogue cop but rather black on black crime?

    • Oh, you mean the calling of black men and women who don’t constantly denounce Trump and sometimes even publicly pronounce their support of Trump stupid, naive, and uneducated? I personally find it quite racist to declare that any person of dark skin pigmentation that doesn’t blindly vote Democrat is stupid. Any day now i’m waiting for them to call for some sort of education/proof of intelligence test before they let those “stupid” black folks vote…after all, they might vote non-Democrat! (yes, that was sarcasm…sort of).

    • Fred Eagle says

      “Additionally when is society going to turn its attention to the greatest threat to blacks, not the random rogue cop but rather black on black crime?”

      Is Morgan Freeman being paid millions to do Super Bowl commercials that encourage black children to eat and drink sugary snacks a black-on-black crime? It seems like it….

  6. Part of the problem was civil rights itself. Rather than doing more to force equal protection under the law (failed by both slavery and then segregation, policing/prisons, who can vote, non-equal tax rates, etc.), which is government based bias that should not be allowed, they decided to restrict the liberty of those they claim were oppressors (racists, sexists, whatever other hating term you may have). The government is the oppressor that the laws need to restrict to ensure equal protection. Demanding that individuals somehow lose their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to live your own life as you see fit so long as you are not directly harming the other’s liberty, we created the very tribes they were trying to get rid of.
    Today, we see blacks, Native Americans, women, Muslims, gays, and transgendered people winning political office, which is actual evidence that the various -isms are not a real problem as society advances its customs, as generations move along, as economics drive people to realize profits over some sense of hating other groups.
    But when you force groups together, when you say they must work together, the so-called person in power feels coerced and oppressed and thus tends to make matters worse.
    This can be seen, I presume, by many white men who may feel the need to defend men and whites in ways they’d never have dreamed of before, but if all other groups are getting theirs, then we need to get ours, which of course is not good government, the opposite of the goals of liberty and civil rights that limited our liberties.
    Liberty would have achieved the goals without resorting to legal coercion based on identity groupings that we also pretend are not meaningful — yet we give them legal power.

  7. Ray Andrews says

    A humble suggestion: We could at least de-fund the professional victims, this would not make them go away, but it might lower the volume a little bit. I read that Hungary (rotten Hungary) has recently de-funded all wiminz studeez. This saves a few bucks and it can reasonably be hoped that it will save a few decibels, too. Wimin who are determined to feel oppressed are of course still free to do so, but they won’t be paid to do it anymore. It’s worth a try.

  8. I don’t understand the modern conservative infatuation with King. King endorsed no only affirmative action but race-based reparations for Blacks. You can see his position from his interview with Alex Hayley:

    https://playboysfw.kinja.com/martin-luther-king-jr-a-candid-conversation-with-the-n-1502354861

    King felt that Blacks had been exploited for centuries, and so they deserved racial entitlements for centuries too. Built into his dream was a 400 year waiting period with racial preferences and entitlements for Blacks on a racial basis.

    An easy way to summarize is that King argued for racial equality when struggling against white supremacy, and when racial equality at least on a de jure basis was achieved, he argued for racial preferences and entitlements for Blacks based on centuries of disparate treatment. A “color blind” America was a direct antithesis of what he wanted, and only a tactical position he held at a tactical point in his struggle.

    It was always a bait and switch, and Buckleyite and Shapiro conservatives took the bait, and continue to take the bait.

    • Speaking of King’s argument, I think a pretty compelling case can be made for the descendants of former slaves and Blacks living under Jim Crow and American Indians receiving affirmative action.

      However, the Black beneficiaries of affirmative action are mostly the children of African immigrants, and the gaggle of other “victim” groups claiming special preferences makes it politically unacceptable to me in its current form. We should develop lists of former slaves and their descendants (like we do for native tribes) and limit affirmative action to descendants of that group.

      • codadmin says

        A massively disproportionate amount of welfare and various other tax payer funded benefits are already paid to African Americans. And that has been the case for many decades.

        I think the average African American household costs the US taxpayer 10k+ a year. The average white household is a slight net benefit. The average Asian even slightly higher than whites.

        That has to be factored into the debate. And if it is, then surely the case for reparations collapses.

        • And how much surplus profit went from slave to slave owner to banker to the rest of the economy for how many centuries, then lets assign a reasonable rate of interest, say 6% from 1864, compounding would amount to how much?

          • Window Licker says

            “And how much surplus profit went from slave to slave owner to banker to the rest of the economy for how many centuries, then lets assign a reasonable rate of interest, say 6% from 1864, compounding would amount to how much?’

            Historic calculus? Really?

            Quoting the great film Idiocracy, “Your shit’s all retarded.”

            I can go back a few generations, and it turns out the English owe my Scottish ancestors all kinds of swag. This sort of bickering gets us nowhere.

            Reparations and affirmative action are both stupid ideas. Disadvantaged Americans of African ancestry don’t need free money and getting bumped up to a better college than they would otherwise get into. Both cause as many problems as they solve. I have seen both in action. Ever followed the arc of a poor person who wins the lottery? How about a kid with borderline community college study abilities who gets into Yale because of his skin color? It’s a shit show.

            Many Americans of African ancestry need a decent society to live in, some training in managing the money they have (and often mismanage like CRAZY), jobs, and a fair chance at a college they can hack without preferences or doing fantasy majors. But we can’t seem to manage that, so we do this penny-ante crap and pretend it helps.

          • codadmin says

            @KD…Not much, because human labour is not very efficient. When Slavery existed in the South, the South was third world by todays standards.

            The wealth of the modern West, and all developed nations, is built on the back of science and technology. On the back of machines that have revolutionised productive capacity.

        • Farris says

          Once there is an agreement to pay reparations, persons like Elizabeth Warren will come forward to demand their 1/1,024 share

      • Andrew Mcguiness says

        It seems that MLK’s intention was that support, similar to the aid given to the Appalachians and the provisions of the post-WWII GI Bill, should be given to all those who needed it:

        “In any case, I do not intend that this program of economic aid should apply only to the Negro; it should benefit the disadvantaged of all races.”

        On the basis of the interview in Playboy (https://playboysfw.kinja.com/martin-luther-king-jr-part-2-of-a-candid-conversation-1502358645?rev=1389838616), it’s a reasonable interpretation that MLK wasn’t thinking of reparations or aid to American Negroes who were successful. Remember, he was speaking in a context of systematic discrimination. It wasn’t just that American Blacks were descended from slaves, but in the years since the Civil War they had been barred from employment in the civil service (into the 60s), buying houses in some areas, bank loans, etc. Quite a bit of this was down to government policy – when MLK talked about reparations, he was talking about compensation for the effect of government policy which was in effect in his lifetime.

    • ADM64 says

      Conservative support is not for Dr. King’s every political preference, nor uncritically. It is for the soundness of the ideas in his speech.

      • Yes, they like his rhetoric, but diametrically oppose his vision and his politics. I even think some of them think that by trying to co-opt his rhetoric, they can redirect politics. Yet looking at how things have evolved, it would appear that the conservatives are the ones who were co-opted. Of course, I am assuming that conservative actually ever had a vision at all and weren’t just lucky people willing to say what the corporate lobbyists paid them to say so as to stay on the payroll.

  9. codadmin says

    What that racist ‘womens march’ tweet tells us, is that white women ( people ) are politically diverse, and black women (people) are essentially ‘The Borg’ in their voting habits.

    It’s a terrifying tweet to behold. It enscapsulates the fascist left perfectly.

    Let’s hope Candice Owens succeeds in her mission. If she does, she will be revered even more than MLK.

  10. Ted McEd says

    Hands up those middle aged men who feel like they have power over attractive young women?
    mmmm….I’m not seeing any hands going up.

  11. Can someone trace the axis of black-on-white crime? Where does that intersect? Come on, Shermer, let’s hear it. You’re not doing anything right now.

  12. Abhiraj says

    Even MLr King says ‘my children will be judged’.

    It’s not the skin color which is the enemy. It’s a bilological factor.

    He accepted the fact that we will be judged. No maymat what. We can’t eliminate that.

    We are different. We will remain different. Terms social justice and equality need a reconceptualization.

  13. dougtomtomcom says

    Worth noting the availability heuristic theory in concert with the dominance of news stories about events that are standard deviations beyond normal distribution…hence most folks are deceiving themselves about the statistical probability of these events. It takes much mindfulness and a tempered empirical stance when contemplating reality. And that was a mouthful…

  14. The author has a nostalgia for the morality of MLK. But this morality was an outgrowth of his Christian theology. Once the metaphysics disappears, the morality has nothing to sustain it and dies also, (allowing 1-2 generations lag to allow cultural changes to respond to philosophical assumptions.) There was nothing self-evident about his beliefs that represented a rational end point of human history. Another religion comes along. This is what history shows.

  15. Circuses and Bread says

    I’m coming to find articles like this funny. So let me get this right, the author is disappointed that in the 50 or so years since MLK Jr. died, that politics hasn’t delivered racial harmony or unification of humanity? Really? Say it ain’t so! I’m shocked, nay, stunned!

    Just out of curiosity, at what point in history did politics ever come to deliver beneficial ends in society over an extended time? That magical time period seems to have eluded my notice.

    This is what happens when we start to conflate God-like attributes to politics. True Believers start expecting the Blessings of politics to rain down upon them. Sort of like manna. Hilarity ensues when it doesn’t quite work out that way.

    But perhaps there is an opportunity here? Maybe we can write a new set of Psalms for the politically forelorn? Politico 135: “I called out my lamentations, but yea verily my wokeness was unfulfilled.”

  16. Red Robbo says

    Days after his death Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination in housing basis of race, religion, or national origin. Decades later, Obama’s ‘change’ meant business as usual. Today, racism is waxing not waning, 40 million Americans live in poverty, the top 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, and ‘just 1 in 10 black Americans believe civil rights movement’s goals have been achieved in the 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr was killed’ (The Independent., 31 March). And this, from Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer winning historian, says it all (probably unwittingly) : ‘all the issues that he raised toward the end of his life are as contemporary now as they were then’ (NY Times, 4 April).

  17. Greg Thrasher says

    MLK is dead ..I am so tired of Whites like Shermer pimpin him and his legacy …..So it took him and others decades to realize his genius

    Whites like Lehmann, Shermer and others are underdeveloped thinkers on RACE in America that is obvious by their scholarship . I have civil rights fatigue waiting on them to come around

    BLM

  18. EmmaZunz says

    Surely the author can appreciate that the point of speaking from a minority/female/LGBT/etc. standpoint is precisely to convey how members of such groups feel excluded from MLK’s dream of one society of equal dignity for all. When an African American asks you to try to understand things from his point of view, he is giving voice to a racialised reality which white people don’t usually observe, in the hope that society will reform itself so that he doesn’t have to suffer such racial indignities any more. Really this article is an exemplar of a classic conservative move whose tradition goes back at least to Jim Crow: i.e. blaming people from disempowered groups who raise issues of unfairness for stirring up the division and hatred they suffer from.

  19. Lukianoff/Haidt “…turn down the tribalism and turn up the sense of common humanity.”

    This formulation reveals a fatal “pulling of the punch” to defeat the problem. The avoided killer zinger is this:

    “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” – Ayn Rand

    To slay collectivist/tribalist culture requires championing the individual. This includes ruthless identification that any attitude or law putting individual minds under coercion (the entire Progressive Project, for instance) is void.

    I am aware that Michael Shermer is a non-Rand-fan. However, Ayn Rand has this particular issue nailed cold.

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