While brighter minds than mine hash out what the word means, or whether it means anything at all, the word “anti-racist” is making a dent in unexpected places. The concept comes from critical theory, an aspect of which is that it’s not good enough to not be racist; if you aren’t a warrior against racism, then you’re a racist. Ibram Kendi says so, and I’m not allowed to disagree according to Kendi, so I won’t.
But then, Antifa combined the words anti-fascist, making it absolutely clear that claiming nifty words doesn’t make you one. But in the scheme of race, there are racists, non-racists and anti-racists, except both racists and non-racists are racists, because they’re not anti-racists, which is the only thing you can be to not be racist. I hope I got this right, because it can be confusing.
What if race isn’t the center of universe? What if you have go to work today to feed the little
shits darlin’s, so you can’t don your cute black outfit and attend the riots outside the Portland federal courthouse? What if you have dedicated your every breath to battling transphobia, and instead of having to go to work, search Jesse Singals twits in search of dog whistles?
Nope. You’re racist.
What if you’re a libertarian and therefore lay claim to being off the grid of social justice and critical theory? Nope. Racist.
— Jo Jorgensen (@Jorgensen4POTUS) July 10, 2020
Jorgensen is the Libertarian Party candidate for president, making her twit rather curious in that one would think a Libertarian wouldn’t be obliged to be, well, anything they don’t want to be. Yet, she asserts that it’s not enough to be “passively not racist.” It’s not that she’s against racism, but she’s against non-racism and in favor of anti-racism. That seems rather demanding for a Libertarian, which seems rather anti-Libertarian. But since I’m not a Libertarian, what do I know?
There was a time when a colorblind society was the goal, a society where people were not judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. Just typing those words makes me shake with anti-racist outrage.
As someone whose career was largely engaged in being what I suppose might be called anti-racist, keeping black and Hispanic people from being convicted of crimes, and as someone who has written thousands of times about racist assumptions by cops, courts and the law, who called out beatings, killings of black men that would likely not have happened had they been white, it seems odd for me to say what I’m about to say. This is not where I thought we would be by now.
Some will read the introductory paragraphs to this post and chastise me for hyperbole, for strawmanning anti-racists, and they will be right. But then, others will see the same words and tacitly agree that anything less than dedication to the cause is, indeed, racist. I see neither and both, as I’ve watched the extremes search every word, look under every rock, in search of secret hidden racism that only their finely-attuned ears can hear.
I’ve also seen others spend enormous efforts trying to rationalize their ideology to blunt the edges that expose them to criticism, so their cause can proceed without being subject to the unfair criticism of reason.
Years ago, some regular readers will recall, when the last wave of Black Lives Matter faded out of fashion as it morphed from fighting to prevent the needless murder of black people to beating white women who wore hoop earrings, I discussed this with my old pal, Elie Mystal, who took a pretty hard-line position that it wasn’t up to black people to tone down their demands of white people so as to form a consensus to fight to save black lives.
[W]hile some of us “good” white guys were on top of this well before he found his inner black outrage, I tried hard to stop him from going off on collateral issues, petty issues, while cops were still gunning down innocent people, innocent black guys. Elie told me I was wrong.
We sure is sorry bout botherin whites with our concerns. We tries our best to make it so you folks want to hep us.
I reject the premise that winning over white people is the job of the African-American community.
Winning over whites is, perhaps, the job *I’ve* signed up for. But black ppl are not here to beg for their respect
For that brief and shining moment, America, black, white and otherwise, saw people being killed and was outraged by it. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Philando Castile, Sandra Bland. Laquan McDonald. The list goes on, and continues going on, even though nobody notices anymore. Is it because “good” white people are still such racists that they can’t see what Elie sees?
Back then, I was a “good” white person, which is why I was permitted to engage in this argument with Elie. I suspect this wouldn’t be allowed today. Not that Elie would care, necessarily, but thousand of knights, white, black and Libertarian, would feel compelled to beat me to a pulp for using my white privilege to disagree with a black guy when a “good” anti-racist would shut up, listen, repent, atone and beg for forgiveness.
So I was anti-racist before it was cool, but in the spectrum of anti-racism today, I would likely be damn close to wearing a Klan hood given my lack of slacktivisim for the cause. But truth be told, I want to fix real problems of racism and end up with a colorblind society where Elie and I can have this argument and nobody blinks.
When I think of it that way, we’re more racist today than when I wrote that post, when it was still not racist to be non-racist. Nonetheless, I’ll do what I do, what I’ve always done, and let the people with dog-ears decide where on the spectrum of awfulness I fall. At least one thing is clear: I’m not Jorgensen’s libertarian.