The Spirit of Martin Luther King Day

On this day let’s keep in mind what Martin Luther King stood for:

“Identity politics is not a path to empowerment. There is no ‘unique voice of color’ or of women or of trans, gay, disabled, or fat people… Today’s social justice scholarship leads scholars and activists to deny the possibility of a universal human nature, which makes empathy between groups very difficult. This denial does not bode well for minority groups, and this view was not shared by Martin Luther King Jr., or by the liberal feminists and Gay Pride activists of the 1960s and 1970s. Their overall message was strongly (if imperfectly) liberal, individual, and universal, and it succeeded by appealing to empathy and fairness. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” said Dr. King, appealing to white Americans’ pride in their country as the Land of Opportunity and their sense of fairness, and making common cause with them in their hopes for the next generation. He called upon their empathy and stressed their shared humanity. Had he, like Robin D’Angelo, asked Americans to be “a little less white, which means a little less oppressive, oblivious, defensive, ignorant, and arrogant,” would this have had the same effect? We think not. An understanding of human nature is essential to any attempt to improve society… What is most frustrating about [woke] theory is that it tends to get literally every issue it’s primarily concerned with backwards, largely due to its rejection of human nature, science, and liberalism. It allots social significance to racial categories, which inflames racism.” (Cynical Theories, pp 257-258)

So let us:

  • Affirm that racism remains a problem in society and needs to be addressed.
  • Deny that Critical Race Theory provides the most useful tools to do so, since racial issues are best solved through the most rigorous analyses possible.
  • Maintain that racism is defined as prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behavior against any individuals or groups on the grounds of race and can be addressed as such.
  • Deny that racism is “prejudice + power”, that it is hard-baked into society, that it is unavoidable and present in every interaction to be discovered and called out.
  • Maintain that each individual can choose not to hold racist views and should be expected to do so, that racism is declining over time and becoming rarer, and that we can and should see one another as humans first and members of certain races second, that issues of race are best dealt with by being honest about racialized experiences, while still working towards shared goals and a common vision. (Ibid, pp 266-267)

Happy MLK Day!

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