Listening to Biden’s inaugural address, I was struck by his mentions of racial justice. I’m not a fan of the word “justice,” used too often to promote whatever outcome someone preferred. It was the go-to word for why convicted killers had to be executed. It was “justice,” we were told. But pairing the word with “racial” confused me even more. I keep hearing the phrase, but I don’t know what it means. It sounds good, but it doesn’t tell me anything.
In his inauguration speech, the president pledged to defeat “white supremacy,” using a burst of executive orders on Day 1 to declare that “advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our government.”
The phrase “white supremacy” used to mean something. It meant something bad, awful. But then Jamaal Bowman, congressman from New York for the past couple weeks, confused me.
So Tuesday is a pillar of white supremacy if you string the words together, or is it just thrown in whenever there’s something you want to get rid of? Or the newest member of the Squad, the token male, just makes stuff up? Maybe it’s because he’s kinda dumb. Maybe it’s because he believes his tribe is dumb. Maybe both. But now I no longer know what he’s talking about. Then again, he’s not the president, so his words aren’t that important. Back to Joe.
“advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our government.”
Biden lists four things in a series:
- Civil Rights
- Racial Justice
- Equal Opportunity
If it was necessary to express each of these things separately, each must be different. Two of these words are familiar, both from usage and law. Civil rights is a catch-all phrase used to describe the bundle of individual rights of all Americans protected by law. Equal opportunity is one of the rights within the bundle, which prohibits discrimination that places a detriment or allows a burden upon an individual based upon a protected classification.
This last part of that sentence is important: not all discrimination is unlawful, and most of it is commonplace, widespread and entirely permissible. We discriminate against three-year-olds by not letting them drive, drink whisky or serve as president. We discriminate against the intellectually challenged by not allowing them licenses to perform brain surgery. You get the point.
Then there’s the word “equity” in there, which is distinguished from equality as being outcome as opposed to opportunity. The premise is that since there are no innate differences between people of different races, genders, etc., the outcomes must reflect their demographics. On the back end, this could be the manifestation of “Harrison Bergeron.” On the front end, this could be the deprivation of inputs, such as funding education, decent housing and food, health care, that enable a person to become all he could be.
This is complicated by cultural factors, like bourgeois values of hard work, education, avoiding drugs, crime, violence, and even disfavored values like the ability to write and speak standard English, which is considered racist in its denial of African American Vernacular English as a stand-alone legitimate language. Or the ability to do math, which has objectively correct answers, such as 2+2=4 in the second grade curriculum, which is now subject to debate.
Which of these things is President Biden emphasizing? Some are anodyne, at least among most Americans. We favor equal opportunity. We favor civil rights. We find racial and sexual discrimination anathema and want to eradicate it, and we want to provide every child with the opportunity to make the most of his or her life possible. What’s the problem, then?
The paradox, of course, is that to achieve “equity” you have to first take away equality for individuals who were born in the wrong identity group. Equity means treating individuals unequally so that groups are equal.
This paradox is often covered up by cute analogies or cartoon images of what is meant, the objective being to paint them as good or bad. An example of an analogy is “But we can’t take chains off a person in the middle of a race and expect it to be fair.” There there’s this visual representation:
Whether this is what Biden is talking about is unclear. At the moment, they’re just words which seem to bend in the wind. What matters is what he does with those words, as they may well be in conflict, contradictory, if equity means that equality is denied. While he strung those four words and phrases together as if they each represent a cognizable goal, Biden offered no clue what he was talking about. Was he saying that his administration would refuse to protect and defend the Constitution like his predecessor, just from the other side?
And those policies are obviously unconstitutional. The federal government cannot actively discriminate on the basis of race, sex or group identity under the Constitution. It cannot strip women of their rights as a distinct biological class. It cannot void religious freedom for individuals. Biden’s woke rampage in the federal government won’t last, because it cannot last if our constitution means anything. So let the lawsuits commence as Biden alienates and inflames his moderate supporters and snubs practices that most Americans take as common sense.
Biden has tapped Susan Rice to “embed” racial justice into everything his administration does.
Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, who is leading Mr. Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, is charged with ensuring that the new administration embeds issues of racial equity into everything it does. In an interview, she rejected the idea that doing so is a “zero-sum game” that benefited some groups of Americans at the expense of others.
Rice can say so, but that doesn’t make it so. There are only so many seats in a Harvard classroom, so many corner offices and so many presidents. Sure, in America, anyone can grow up to be president. Everyone cannot. Biden says he’s all for civil rights and equal opportunity. Biden also says he’s for equity and racial justice. Biden needs to define his words.