[This is the first of two blogs on the subject of race relations after Ferguson. See https://clarespark.com/2014/11/25/reflections-on-the-ferguson-aftermath/.%5D
Is there a thread linking the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner cases?
This blog is about the horrific consequences of abandoning the widely differing details of each of these deaths, in favor of collapsing unique events into the discourse of “race relations.” This, along with securitizing mortgages, was a practice initiated by the white liberal establishment in response to thuggish “cultural nationalists” who mounted urban race riots in the mid to late 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of legal integration was annexed to the Pan Africanism of “black power” with the blessing of cultural anthropology and the Democratic Party. This recent history, documented in widely available books, has either been ignored or forgotten or buried. For my blogs on this transformation see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/ and especially https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/ .
The most elite universities and foundations came up with the idea co-opting the mob’s “leaders.” Along with this mystification that erased individual differences for the sake of the organic community/multiculturalism/social stability/group cohesion, came the ratification of a certain kind of reactionary nationalism.
Recall that for decades, Nazis and “fascists” were believed to be produced by excessive “nationalism.” Only a few voices bothered to make distinctions between contrasting forms of “nationalism.” The anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, was one of these. Oddly the late historian Eric Hobsbawm was another, but he was arguing from the communist Left, whereas Sumner thought of himself as a moderate conservative.
First, Charles Sumner: For the lawyer Sumner, an admirer of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution (that he viewed as having the force of law, affirming human equality and negating slavery), the state had limited functions: national security and the protection of individual human rights (that meant equality before the law, rich and poor alike). He was also a modernizer who believed that all Americans deserved an excellent free education. See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/. For Sumner’s view of railroads as modern improvements see https://clarespark.com/2013/11/30/railroading-captain-ahab/, and https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. I see Sumner as a proponent of limited government. Were he alive today, he might be a libertarian with a bias in favor of meritocracy; he would surely be enraged by the inferior educations tolerated in ghetto schools. Sumner was a man of the Enlightenment, as was his intellectual descendant Walter Lippmann (see https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.)
Second, Eric Hobsbawm, who made crucial distinctions between liberal nationalism and conservative nationalism in a widely read Nation article: Liberal nationalism, unlike its conservative form, was about reducing privilege, step by step. Conservative nationalism was solely about the control of territory and resources, in competition with other states.
The cultural nationalism favored by today’s liberal elites who push “multiculturalism” based on racial identity or similar forms of artificial “community” (like affinity groups), would have to be rejected by that forgotten man, Sumner. Hobsbawm would probably go along with the ethnicity/race craze that has substituted for class analysis since the days of the Popular Front, even though 1930s Marxist-Leninists were strongly anti-racist before they got their marching orders from Stalin to bond with their prior class enemies, the “anti-fascist [imperialist, racist] bourgeoisie.”
Then the New Left came along, allegedly the friends of the downtrodden. Those who had benefited from prestigious educations went on to fight for the commanding heights of academe and journalism, which they now occupy, having been tolerated by weak-kneed liberals (conservatives having been banished from the respectable humanities owing to their “McCarthyism”). Their students have been indoctrinated into the belief that “African Americans” (a Pan-African term) are a cohesive whole, each one oppressed by “Whitey.” Some of these new model “anti-racists” even write popular television shows in which blacks not only enjoy interracial sex or marry with whites, but dominate them, sometimes behind the scenes (Scandal comes to mind: will Olivia Pope and her “gladiators”–other liberals masquerading as moderate Republicans– ever escape from her father’s net?).
Even some anchors on Fox News Channel accept the premises of identity politics: the police should “look like” the communities where they enforce the law, as if “white people” need to be reined in or “balanced” by members of minority groups. (Joe Hicks made two appearances on Fox, mocking such a premise, but he has disappeared from their channel as of this writing.)
If historian Michael Burleigh is correct, and the most salient feature of Nazism was the “racial state,” then I will have to drop my cautious use of the term “proto-fascist.” We are in for it, the real thing, shipmates.
The law is now a dead letter, as dead as Charles Sumner’s vision of limited but just government. (For an academic critique of nationalism that I found on the web see http://professornerdster.com/nationalism-why-wont-you-just-die-seriously/.)