Just yesterday I read a fascinating article titled The Psychology of Progressive Hostility written by Mathew Blackwell, a young economics student from Brisbane. Blackwell opens the article by explaining the different behaviours he faces when he disagrees with conservative and progressive friends. He finds that he has no problems speaking his mind and entering into nuanced discussion with conservative friends, but thinks twice when discussing things with progressive friends:
“When I disagree with a conservative friend or colleague on some political issue, I have no fear of speaking my mind. I talk, they listen, they respond, I talk some more, and at the end of it we get along just as we always have. But I’ve discovered that when a progressive friend says something with which I disagree or that I know to be incorrect, I’m hesitant to point it out. This hesitancy is a consequence of the different treatment one tends to receive from those on the Right and Left when expressing a difference of opinion. I am not, as it turns out, the only one who has noticed this.”
The treatment Blackwell alludes to is the tendency for progressive thinkers to engage in hostile tactics against dissenters. Sometimes, this can even be directed at self-proclaimed progressive thinkers who may just speak up against a particular aspect of progressive thought. This is exactly what happened to Professor Brett Weinstein, a self-proclaimed ‘lefty’ who dared question the progressive student body at his Evergreen State College. The ‘Day of Absence’ is an Evergreen tradition in which students and faculty of colour meet off campus as a symbolic gesture that mirrors acts taken by people of colour during the civil rights movement. But last year, the student body decided it was going to require all people of white skin colour to leave campus instead. Weinstein, a jew, voiced his concern, which led to the student body turning on him, calling for his resignation and labelling him a bigot and a racist. The saga ended in Weinstein’s eventual resignation following a settlement with the university.
Weinstein’s story is one of many. It is part of a growing trend of people being targetted for having alternative views to left-wing progressivism. Dissenters are instantly labelled bigots, racists, homophobes, transphobes, Nazis and much more in an attempt to close down debate. It is this strategy Blackwell fears most; it’s the reason why he finds it hard to express his views to progressive friends.
I am not a progressive thinker. I’m a liberal in my political opinions with rightward leanings on certain issues. I was not at all surprised today when a progressive educator went out of his way to try and associate me with the alt-right and white supremacists after I expressed my not-so-progressive views on identity politics. As described, these tactics, designed to stifle debate, are all too common. It was somewhat inevitable. I am going to add commentary to certain aspects of this person’s blog and as I do so, I will not pay attention to these smears. I will leave free thinkers to make up their own minds about whether or not I am an associate of the alt-right or a white supremacist.
On Martin Luther King
This blogger takes offence to my use of MLK’s infamous I Have a Dream speech. It seems to be a common thought amongst progressives that to agree with something that someone once said or someone once did must mean you agree with everything that someone once said or did, and if you find disagreement, you must denounce them. I am an admirer of Winston Churchill. The burden Churchill bore as Prime Minister during Britain’s scariest period of time, working hard to keep the hopes of the people of the commonwealth alive, was heroic. His proclamation that “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” and others that are also inspired by stoic philosophy give me reason to stay optimistic. My admiration for Churchill’s wartime efforts and great speeches do not discount the racist views he had. His shortcomings do not mean I must cease admiring what he did, nor quoting that which he said that has had a profound impact on western culture ever since. I can agree and disagree with Churchill. Likewise, Nelson Mandela’s role in ending apartheid in South Africa is equally admirable. I cannot imagine the existential crises he must have faced during 27 long years in prison. My admiration for Mandela and his message of reconciliation do not discount the violence, including deaths, he inflicted on people. I can admire and promote Mandela’s message while acknowledging his shortcomings, just as I can with Churchill.
I can promote the ideas MLK spoke of in his I Have a Dream speech – ideas that have had a profound impact on western thought – without agreeing on everything MLK once said and thought and did. I should not, and will not, ignore his message of equality and the impact it has had just because I disagree with his other, less impactful, ideas on how to promote the prospects of African Americans. MLK and his ideas are not the property of the progressive left. His message of equality in I Have a Dream reverberates in every facet of western society, and I will continue to promote that message.
Black poverty and affirmative action
The blogger cites growing wealth inequality and ongoing poverty as evidence for ongoing, systemic racism and discrimination in the United States, asserting that a person’s own agency is not enough to overcome the accumulated wealth held by white people. He cites this in opposition to my belief that systemic, widespread and consistent discrimination and racism does not exist in western society. Despite the author’s failure to note that inequality does not necessarily indicate discrimination, I’m much more concerned by and deeply sceptical of the ‘black people are poor and there is nothing they can do about it’ argument. That sort of soft bigotry does not appeal to me. Not least because Asian students, another minority perceived to bear the brunt of white privilege, seem to be doing just fine in the US.
This trend is also seen in other liberal western democracies.
Further, research suggests it’s not so difficult to do well for yourself if you make the right choices. The non-partisan Brookings Institute has found that choices do indeed lead to better life outcomes. A person, no matter their skin colour, should 1) at least finish high school 2) get a full-time job, and 3) wait until age 21 to get married and have children.
“Our research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year). There are surely influences other than these principles at play, but following them guides a young adult away from poverty and toward the middle class.”
It’s common sense, but the blogger seems to disagree that this could at all be possible. I don’t buy his view.
Affirmative action is highlighted in the blogger’s post because I raised concerns that individual, hardworking young people were finding it harder to enter top universities due to the colour of their skin. I oppose universities that choose students on the basis of the colour of their skin. I think that is called racism. Organisations who opposed the ‘Asian penalty‘ agree. Striving for equity, often under the guise of diversity, has led to individuals finding it harder to enter the university in which they wish to study. As I have and continue to insist, we should be working towards equality of opportunity. That’s how things stay fair. Readers can make their own mind up on the issue.
The Golden State posters
So we get to the original subject matter of my original post. I’m not arguing that discrimination or racism does not exist; I argue that systemic racism and discrimination, that consistently oppresses minorities to the benefit of white skinned people, does not exist. It is, therefore, not appropriate to push the idea of white privilege onto our kids via the school system. This is the subject on which I disagree with progressive thinkers like this blogger.
I have already detailed why I am against these posters so I will not rehash my arguments here. I would like to raise one thing though. Although the blogger likes to make light of it, the devastating events of the Holocaust and Cambodian Genocide were indeed motivated by identity politics. It should signal a warning to us: grouping individuals, making assumptions about their individual circumstances, and assigning a set of perceived ‘privileges’ (or characteristics) to them, is a bad idea (It’s actually what most people call racism). The author seems to believe this position is an alt-right or white supremacist one. Despite what triggered progressives might say, this is not a white supremacist or alt-right position, it’s a liberal position. The rights of the individual should supercede that of the group. Left-wing progressives wish to swap that around and they shouldn’t be allowed to push that idea onto kids. That’s my position and I’m sticking to it.