Free Markets, Free People

segregation

Identity politics and the new segregation

I remember the Civil Rights era very well.  I was a teenager then and I remember the giants of the movement pushing the society they lived in to be treated as equal citizens.  They wanted “desegregation” and they wanted, as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, to be judged by the content of the character, not the color of the skin.  They wanted to be a part of mainstream America, not “separate but ‘equal'”.

And that’s, deservedly, what they finally won.

Until recently:

Racial segregation is back. That scourge of the 20th century, with its racialised drinking fountains and buses with whites-only seats, is staggering back to life, zombie-like. Only now its loudest cheerleaders are not old-fashioned racists with a Bible in one hand and lit torch in the other. No, it’s the right-on, small-l liberals, those who, in a serious abuse of the English language, call themselves “progressive”. Welcome to the era of PC segregation.

The question you have to have is “why”?  Why would those who supposedly were in the vanguard of destroying racial segregation now be a proponent of reestablishing it?  How in the world do you justify using skin color to segregate certain elements of our citizenry?

What we’re witnessing, not only in Australia but in other Western nations too, is the reawakening of the segregationist mindset. Segregationism has been given a makeover, turned from something that once made us wince — try looking at photos of an American “Coloured Drinking Fountain” without feeling horrified — to something that is treated as acceptable, even good: a “special measure” that can benefit certain groups.

The fashion for PC segregation is especially strong on Western campuses. In the US, students who think of themselves as decent, right-minded, left-of-centre people are openly demanding segregated spaces.

At Oberlin College in Ohio, student protesters are agitating for “safe spaces” for “Africana-identifying students”. At New York University, a student campaign is underway to create “an entire floor of the mixed-use building… to be dedicated to students of colour.” Students at UCLA want a floor of the student union building to be made African-American-only, on the basis that there needs to be a “safe space for black students”.

Ah, yes … dependency.  The plantation beckons. These delicate snowflakes need “protection”.   And segregation is the answer (as is historical illiteracy).  Separate them and wall them off.  Bull Conner and the boys would heartily agree with this approach.

So what happened to flip the focus from the content of one’s character back to the color of one’s skin (or gender, or culture, or ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc)?

Why?  Identity politics as pushed by the new Red Guard of “progressives” on campus:

This is what the politics of identity has wrought. As the old left-right divide has become emptied of real meaning, and as we enter what some refer to as a post-ideological era, more and more of us are defining ourselves by our race, gender or sexuality rather than by our moral convictions. And this has nurtured a really divisive dynamic.

Where once progressive politics was about “the common man”, about the shared interests of people of various colours and of both sexes, now it’s about the apparently different experiences and outlooks of whites, blacks, gays, women, trans people, and so on. Universal ideals are being subsumed by the relentless rise of a deeply sectional politics of identity.

The end result? Segregation. Although now it’s dolled up as a “safe space”. How long before we create a blacks-only zone on buses in the name of having a “safe space for black people”? We must fight anew against racial thinking, and restate the case for character being the only criterion on which we should judge our fellow humans.

This deeply divisive concept has fragmented a society, or is at least in the process of doing so, that was learning to pull together.  Make no mistake, identity politics is a child of multiculturalism which is entirely from and embraced by the left.

So we now have a complete reversal of what was a laudable goal … desegregation and equal treatment/opportunity for all Americans.

What is to become of these delicate snowflakes on campus that must have segregated “safe spaces” to survive?

The world is a cruel place; it’s impossible to make it through life without hearing something that offends every fibre of your being. It’s impossible to make it through without your feelings being hurt, without something piquing your anxiety, and without strongly disagreeing with other people’s ideas. Outside the comfort of your campus safe space, there are people who will inevitably trample all over your delicate sensibilities, and most of them won’t care. There will be no counselor to baby you through the sexist joke you overheard your coworker telling, and no place for you in the company should you require time off to address your mental state every time your boss doesn’t use the correct gender pronouns. You will find yourself unemployed and unable to afford anything when you decide activism is more important than being an adult and making smart decisions.

They are going to fail miserably.  And it will be your fault, because society, outside of academia is systemically (pick your favorite “ist” description concerning race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity and insert here) and no one cares about their delicate feelings.

Well, yeah, that’s right about the lack of caring.  When you’re a 21 year old adult, you’re going to be treated like one and expected to be tough enough to endure the uncompromising reality presented by “the real world”.  This isn’t the dorm, you’re no longer in the echo chamber and not everyone agrees with your take on life, or your sentiments concerning segregation, safe spaces or race and gender.  “The real world” doesn’t much care what you think about these things, it expects you to produce and earn your way.  If you can’t or won’t then they don’t want you.  And no, it most likely won’t be because you’re whatever race, gender or sexual preference you are.  It’ll be because you have no skills, are immature and have no concept of what is required by “the real world” to survive.

Of course, there’s always academia to fall back upon.  Go back and infest the hallowed halls with your nonsense, only this time as part of the establishment.  And wait for the next generation of special snowflakes to show up and do to you exactly what you’re doing to this generation of “establishment” progressives in those ivy covered halls.

There is an alternative, however.

You could just grow up.

~McQ

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 23 May 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Rand Paul, this week’s elections, and the stock market.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Misrepresenting Libertarianism

The editors of the New York Times misrepresent libertarianism by way of Rand Paul and his statements about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying:

As a longtime libertarian, he espouses the view that personal freedom should supersede all government intervention. Neighborhood associations should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, he has written, and private businesses ought to be able to refuse service to anyone they wish. Under this philosophy, the punishment for a lunch counter that refuses to seat black customers would be public shunning, not a court order.

It is a theory of liberty with roots in America’s creation, but the succeeding centuries have shown how ineffective it was in promoting a civil society. The freedom of a few people to discriminate meant generations of less freedom for large groups of others.

It was only government power that ended slavery and abolished Jim Crow, neither of which would have been eliminated by a purely free market. It was government that rescued the economy from the Depression and promoted safety and equality in the workplace.

Let’s start with the most obvious canard, which is the proposition that Jim Crow had anything to do with free markets. They were called “Jim Crow Laws“, not “Jim Crow Markets”, the obvious reason for which is that separate accommodations were mandated by state governments, not organically grown in some mythical garden of free association rights. Indeed, the entire reason for the corrupt deal behind the presidential election of 1876 was to throw the South’s support behind a president who would end Reconstruction.

It was government–in this case, the state governments in the South–that imposed Jim Crow, and government that forced private companies to impose the desired restrictions on blacks.  If government intervention was required to Jim Crow, that was only because governments had imposed it in the first place.  And it certainly wasn’t the free market that imposed racial segregation on federal government employment, or military service. Nor was it the free market that imposed poll taxes or literacy tests aimed at preventing blacks from voting in elections. The argument of the New York Times’ editors is essentially that because one level of government ended the racial segregation that another level of government imposed, this shows the superiority of government over the free market.

Now, this is not to say that the owner of a drug-store lunch counter would have served blacks.  Some most certainly would not.  But we’ll never know how long that state of affairs might have lasted, because the state governments of the South did everything in their power to ensure that it would last, until forced to do otherwise. And to argue that the free market would never have eliminated Jim Crow is to argue an unprovable negative.  What we do know, however, is that there are examples, such as bus companies refusing to make blacks sit in the back of buses until forced to do so by state law, that indicate otherwise.

To the extent that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was necessary, it was only so by virtue of eliminating state laws that imposed segregation, and restricted free markets from functioning.So, what “succeeding centuries have shown” is that government restriction of free markets kept segregation alive for a century after the Civil War. In presenting such a revisionist version of history, either the editors of the New York Times are abysmally ignorant, or they are actively malign.

Or both.

As far as government rescuing the economy from the Great Depression, a number of serious economic historians would argue precisely the opposite. To the extent that the government did end the Great Depression, it did so by absorbing 12 million citizens into the armed forces, and producing billions of dollars worth of war materials, a great proportion of which were destroyed between 1942 and 1945, along with about half a million of those uniformed Americans. Which, I shouldn’t have to point out, hardly commends it much as a general recipe for escaping economic downturns.

In any case, the child-like trust the editors of the New York Times seem to have for government action hardly seems warranted in either instance.