A few years ago, Newsweek's glossy cover asked "Is Your Baby Racist?" The baby looking back at supermarket shoppers, airline passengers waiting for their flight and patients in the dental office had blue eyes.
The labeling of racists as white has itself become a racial stereotype. And it's not an accidental stereotype.
Behind the left's support for affirmative action is the belief that white racism is the only kind of racism that exists. Black racism they insist is really called "reverse racism" and is a myth made up by white people.
It's not that the left believes that affirmative action isn't racist. It's that it believes that there is no such thing as racism against white people. Like the Knockout Game or white students who qualify on merit but can't get into college because of racial diversity quotas; it’s an invalid category. A myth.
And if it's a myth, then there's nothing wrong with a little racial violence or a few racial preferences.
Our system isn't immune to bouts of niche insanity. A sizable portion of Hollywood believes that their souls originated on another planet and that they will eventually gain superpowers. Much of Washington D.C. believes that money can be printed infinitely with infinite economic benefits. And the academic and non-profit establishment believes that anti-white racism doesn't exist.
The left is delusional, but it isn't completely insane. It doesn't deny that black hate crimes can take place. It won't even deny the occasional act of institutional discrimination. And that is where sanity parts ways with insanity because the left does not recognize racism except as a collective phenomenon.
The debate over affirmative action is about the collective and the individual.
"It cannot be entertained as a serious proposition that all individuals of the same race think alike," Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Schuette v. BAMN decision that permits a ban on racial affirmative action discrimination in Michigan. But that's the exact premise that the left operates under. Or rather it doesn't care whether members of a race think alike. It still chooses to address them as a group or not at all.
Racism, to the left, exists systemically. It exists institutionally. It exists collectively, but not individually.
All white people are racist. All black people are victims of racism. Any events to the contrary are exceptions to the rule. Racism can only exist one way between the majority and the minority.
Anything else is a mythical 'reverse racism'.
Conservatives view people as individuals. Leftists view them as parts of a system. To a conservative, racism is something that happens between individuals. To a leftist, it's the attribute of a system. Trying to convince a leftist that black racism exists or that affirmative action is racist is like trying to convince him that some of the cells in his body are plotting against him.
He doesn't see individuals, he sees a system.
The debate over affirmative action is really the debate over whether we see people as individuals or cells, whether the white and black students who want to be seen as individuals will prevail, or whether the totalitarian left with its insistence on viewing them as differently colored marbles in a single system will continue to get its way.
Similarly in politics, conservatives reach out to people who agree with their policies, regardless of race, leading to less diverse, but more intellectually robust groups, while liberals form racial coalitions. Liberals accuse conservatives of racism because they assume that they are not a coalition of individuals, but a racial collective, just like them. The lack of individual conservative racism occasionally registers, but is not processed because only the system matters.
And yet racial healing hasn't happened in America on a collective level. We haven't been readjusted as a system. We have changed individually.
That is what the left, with its obsession with systems, cannot see and cannot cope with it. The Great Society failed miserably because we were a great society all along. We weren't a great society because we were perfect, but because we were constantly striving to better ourselves as individuals.
And it is this trait which affirmative action and the left's collectivist view undermines.
Systems don't reject racism. Individuals do.
It is this fundamental truth that Newsweek's obsession with baby racism and the indoctrination of white privilege are meant to combat. Their collective message is that individuals are products of the system, puppets of their biology, forever damned by an original sin of racism that so thoroughly pervades every part of their being and mental state that they can never escape it.
Not unless the system changes.
That was the left's defeatist totalitarian response to class. The failure of its systems of economic management and the success of capitalism destroyed its credibility on class. The idea that the working class can never escape poverty under private enterprise has been buried as thoroughly as the statues of Marx and Lenin.
But instead of rethinking its paradigm, the left substituted race for class. The working class could succeed under private enterprise , but only as long as it was white.
And that's still wrong.
Race, like class, is not a systemic problem. It's not a problem of the system, but of the individual. There is no single collective solution, only the solutions that individuals find for themselves. We are not a nation divided between black and white, or between the even more absurd formulation of the colorless whites and the 'people of color'.
We are individuals. We always were.
Affirmative action denies that race is an individual experience. It denies that race is not the sum of the individual. It denies the suffering of those who are caught between the gears of the system because they are members of the 'wrong race.'
It denies the individual. It denies his identity, his worth and his agency. It puts the system above the individual and takes away the rights of everyone, of all races, genders and assorted identities.
The left is obsessed with the 'whiteness' of the system. Its obsession is not only racist, but it replaces an open system in which people can change and are changing... with a closed system under which they cannot. This totalitarian aspect of the system has been hidden under a sham of empowerment and the rituals of victimization that reward those who play the race card over those who try to do their best.
The system doesn't reward aspiration, it rewards only outrage. It is interested only in promoting the collective force that keeps its wheels turning, not the individual counter-clockwise rotation of dissent.
The white experience of black racism is illegitimate because it turns 'against' the system. And so it's a conversation that has to be shut down and an experience that has to be delegitimized with accusations of white privilege. White privilege is an artifact of systemic thinking that does not recognize individuals. It's an attack by the political immune system of an ideology that has absolutely no room for non-conforming experiences.
What will determine the outcome of the affirmative action debate and the larger debates over race and class is whether we approach them as individuals or as parts of a system. Americans resist being treated like interchangeable parts of a system, but the individual narratives that the left uses so effectively are cover for systemic approaches and systemic solutions.
The left has responded to institutionalized racism with institutionalized racism until it became the very racist institution that it was once fighting against. Institutions don't fight racism, they create it. The most compelling argument against the left's collective racial policies has always been the individual.
Organizations can create hate, but only individuals can replace it with love.