As a child of the ’90s, I remember a seemingly race-less world: Dawson’s friends and Captain Planet’s team would simply live their lives, absorbed indeed by all kinds of nonsense, but not by race. Yet now, 30 years later, race is everywhere.
Using the New York Times, simultaneously the “paper of record” and a leftist propaganda tentacle, as a proxy – mentions of “racism” have begun to rise exponentially at around 2012. Perhaps not coincidentally, against the background of Barack Obama’s second, more combative, presidential term. We see several decades of a relative plateau, then a slight increase, followed by an explosion. As Hemingway famously described the process of going bankrupt, our obsession with race has happened “gradually, then suddenly.”
Why we are where we are is a deep and complicated question. My own opinion, detailed elsewhere, is that we are witnessing the militant rise of a new religion, something akin to 4th century Christianity. Others certainly have different and varied views.
Yet another interesting question is “why racism?” Meaning, why exactly did racism become the queen of all vices? Clearly, nobody in biblical times saw things that way – the Ten Commandments make no mention of “thou shall not be racist.” The great men of Greece and Rome had also paid very little attention to the issue. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and Aurelius appear to not care at all about anything concerning our idea of race. They were busy excoriating other vices, such as dishonor, laziness, stupidity, excess, and cowardice but were very little troubled by race.
So wherefore racism’s reign as the mistress of all vice? Out of humanity’s Pandora’s Box of vices, where murder, deceit, aggression, and bad breath all reside, why should racism receive special treatment?
Well, my view is that it shouldn’t. Racism is a vice, no doubt. But is it worse than aggression? No. One can be a peaceful racist, whereas one cannot be a peaceful aggressor. Is it worse than deceit? No. One can quietly keep one’s racism to one’s self, but the mendacious deceiver cons and deceives others. Is it worse than bad breath? Probably, yes, depends on the sharpness of the putrid fumes of halitosis.
It is a tedious cliche and intellectually lazy, not to mention incredibly uncreative, to bring up racism again and again as humanity’s greatest boogeyman. If we use death by unnatural causes as a measure, meaning death due to causes that are not disease or old age, it is very hard to conclude that racism is a major contributor. Looking at deaths in America in 2019, the two leading causes for unnatural deaths were accidents (173,000 deaths) and suicide (47,511 deaths). So if anything, the princesses of vice should be absent-mindedness and self-hate.
I suggest a new front, then, in America’s culture wars. Instead of preaching anti-racism, which is trite, tedious, and not supported by data, let’s preach prudence, tidiness, precision, and spatial awareness.