What Makes a Liberal Racist? Composing, 10/06/2016

This late post is brought to you by an absurd day I spent yesterday dealing with extensive plumbing work to my apartment building, rearranging meetings, and going to more meetings. It means my argument is more skeletal than it would be, but maybe that makes it more direct. 
• • •
I watched a clip of a CNN debate on California’s primary night that confirmed in video a lot of what I’d come to conclude about the new reactionary movement in America. Probably the most philosophically comprehensive treatment will come from Phil Sandifer as he drops Neoreaction: A Basilisk officially over the next little while.

In short, the CNN panel basically piled on their pro-Trump contributor Jeff Lord when he tried to spin Donald Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel as actually being anti-racist. Multiple commentators have called on CNN to sack Lord in response. 

But I think CNN is doing a valuable public service by giving a long-ignored – if horrifying – set of political values the light of mainstream news media attention. When I discuss Trump with a lot of my friends, they dismiss his supporters as uneducated racist idiots. That’s true of some. 

Pictured: Not my Daddy.
But there’s a powerful intellectual movement behind the rise of Trump. Trump is to today’s neoreactionary movement what Sanders is to the post-Occupy movement. Someone who came along at the right time, who has thought in parallel for a long time, and who provides a charismatic figurehead for the movement’s voice in a major state election.

Sandifer will go into the movement in much more detail – he’s already written a 50,000 word book on the subject, which will be published once he finishes all the bonus content for his wildly successful Kickstarter.

But here’s the conceptual skeleton of why the alt-right (or neoreactionaries, or 4chan ghouls, or Milo’s children, whatever you want to call them) think Donald Trump is fighting racism when he says that a Hispanic is in a conflict of interest when ruling on his pending civil case.

The alt-right are the most radical individualists you will ever meet. They’re so individualist that they don’t even believe that systemic racism exists. They don’t think it can exist. They don’t even believe in systemic causality.

It’s kind of understandable. Systemic causality – the causality of conditions, contexts, and tendencies – is very different from our common sense causality of bats hitting balls and such. But an alt-right person – much overlap and ideological similarity with libertarians – only believes in individual social causality.

Now, when I talk about systemic causality, I’m talking about how an institution or a broad social-economic context can foster inequities. And those inequities – when we’re talking about the United States and a global civilization in a centuries-long colonialism hangover – usually racialize. 

These systematic structures and institutions constitute and reinforce inequities along racial lines. It’s not necessary for any of the individuals involved to hold any toxic racist beliefs themselves to take part in, perpetuate, maintain, be harmed by, or benefit from any of these racializing systems. 

The intellectual roots of the right-wing belief that there's
no such thing as systemic causality are in Friedrich
Hayek's Road to Serfdom, a massive popular book
throughout the United States in the late 1940s & 50s.
Multiple times in that book, Hayek describes sociology
and any appeal to any form of human causality
beyond individuals' beliefs and actions as conspiracies
to establish totalitarian government. Seriously.
That’s all that terms like “white privilege” actually mean. But if you don’t believe in systemic causality, you think all that I’ve described in the last two paragraphs is total bullshit. These days, you probably think it’s shit that I made up to justify my individual racist hatred of white people. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d be called a self-hating white.

Having such radical individualist beliefs as a libertarian/alt-right intellectual blinds you to understanding the systematic nature of human life. So they conclude that any appeal to positionality, social-economic structure, or anything other than pure colour-blind judgment is itself an expression of your own racism.

If you believe in systemic causality, you understand that ending racism as a society requires repairing material and institutional inequities that racialize people without individual racism being necessary. End laws and contracts that hold police above rebuke for violence and focus their discipline on racialized communities. Rebuild urban geography to integrate different ethnic communities.

But if you don’t believe in systemic causality, you think none of those material conditions actually matter. More than that, you think that pointing to any racial difference as a problem is itself racist. 

You think that, to paraphrase USA Chief Justice John Roberts, we will end discrimination on the basis of race if and only if we no longer make any distinction on the basis of race. Even to address inequities that are already racializing.

So when a progressive points out racializing inequities, the alt-rightist sees the progressive as themselves racist because they’re making distinctions on the basis of race. That’s why Jeff Lord can be entirely sincere when he says that Donald Trump is an anti-racist and Al Sharpton is a racist. 

To him and the modern neoreactionary, Trump is calling out left-wing hatred of white people dressed in the guise of redressing racial inequities. 

Holy fuck, this is where we are now.

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