Don’t Hug the Tar Baby of White Identity Politics

By John Zmirak Published on August 26, 2017

There’s a French proverb: “To understand all is to forgive all.” The sentiment rolls off the tongue. It makes you sound wise, compassionate and cosmopolitan. It even seems, if not quite Christian, at any rate Christian-ish. We can’t call the idea orthodox, since God does understand all. But He only forgives the penitent. He comprehends Satan perfectly, but that’s not going to open any doors Upstairs.

We can understand Satan too, if only a little. Every time we choose our own will over God’s, we repeat his “non serviam.” When we indulge in Envy we get really close to the hot, beating heart of Hell. Milton managed extraordinary sympathy for the devil in Paradise Lost. There he pictured the fallen angel, still picking the scabs where his pride had seared off his glory, skulking in Eden. Watching the two naked innocents. Hating them for their happiness, and planning to take it away.

Nuke Mecca?

It’s in this sense that I can understand why some white Americans are tempted by white identity politics. I’m fallen like everyone else. I’m subject to tribalist sympathies — just as black, Hispanic and Asian people are. What’s more, the left has gone so far in demonizing whiteness, maleness, Christian faith and sane, middle class life, that it’s easy to overreact. It’s diabolically tempting.

We live in a fallen world, and it’s our task to make the best of it.

Just so, some were tempted in the wake of 9/11 to intern every Muslim in the U.S. (You know, the way FDR actually did intern thousands of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor.) Some joked about “nuking Mecca.” They apologized, and were forgiven.

But no one is going to forgive you for dabbling with white identity politics. That might not sound fair. (But MOM! Al Sharpton’s mom lets him do it!) Earthly life isn’t fair. It really wasn’t fair for black people enslaved for 200 years, and denied civil rights for another 100. It’s not fair for Christians and other religious minorities across the Middle East. We live in a fallen world, and it’s our task to make the best of it. Not to whine, act out and make things even worse.

Our New, Improved Civic Religion

Inspired in large part by appeals to Gospel justice, our national civic religion changed, for the better, during the Civil Rights Movement. We were deeply and rightly ashamed at the sight of armed cops beating up passive, peaceful demonstrators, turning vicious dogs loose on them. Of churches smoking in ruins with the corpses of little black girls bombed by masked Klan cowards.

And good people don’t want to go back. I look around at the many ethnic groups who pray alongside me in church, or march outside abortion clinics, and I don’t want to go back. Neither do most white Americans.

We do want to get our nation’s borders under control. We do want to stop crime and keep cops safe on the job. And we want to fix the welfare system, so it doesn’t create another generation of hopeless dependents. None of those goals rest on racial animus. They are good things that wise people of every ethnicity can get behind.

Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams favor all those things, while white leftists like Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton oppose them.

Want to Help the Alt-Left Win Every Time?

If you tell people that the price of resisting multiculturalism, the vandalism of monuments, the purging of school curricula, is recalling white folks to tribalism of the Klan, of Margaret Sanger, even of Adolf Hitler, you know what’s going to happen? The left will win. On every front. For the rest of our lives, and our children’s lives too. It will accomplish just as much as when Black Panthers and other radicals led riots that burned down their own neighborhoods. The white racialists would make of America a vast, white Watts or Newark. Why should we let them?

But America is something better, rarer, more fragile than a traditional ethno-state.

And that will hurt everyone, except the class of race-hustlers who make a living by stoking division. If Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, David Duke and Richard Spencer all agree on a course of action, don’t you think it’s a safe bet to do the opposite?

Our Ancestors, Flawed Like Us

Yes, it is true that a strain of white identitarianism goes back to the founding fathers and before, to the colonists, who followed fallen human nature and thoughtlessly practiced tribalism. Who hunted and displaced Indians, and thought nothing of buying black slaves. But let’s not pretend there’s anything uniquely white or American about that.

If you tell people the price of resisting multiculturalism, the vandalism of monuments, the purging of school curricula, is recalling white folks to tribalism of the Klan, of Margaret Sanger, even of Adolf Hitler, you know what’s going to happen? The left will win. On every front. For the rest of our lives.

The Han Chinese ran China. The Arabs ran Arabia, and overran most of the Mediterranean. The Goths when they conquered Rome didn’t ask themselves whether they were exercising “Goth privilege.” (Would that mean having first access to jet black hair dye and EMO music?) The Poles want to dominate Poland — especially after centuries of other people marching in and ruining the place.

But America is something better, rarer, more fragile than a traditional ethno-state. (So was the Christian polity of Austria-Hungary, come to think of it, before fanatical tribalism wrecked it. But that’s another article.) The ethnic diversity which our history has given us demands that we move past a kin-based nationalism.

Anglo Liberties for All

As the great conservative thinker Samuel Huntington observed, what unites us, white and black, is our shared, inherited or adopted culture: tolerant Anglo-Protestantism. Even American Catholics have Protestant political habits, as Italian Jews have Catholic ones. That’s fine by me, as a Catholic. Looking at Spain and France today, I’d say we got off easy.

America wasn’t formed mainly by the Enlightenment principles of the Declaration of Independence. Because guess what? Virtually every Latin American colony that broke off from Spain embraced similar principles — from Mexico to Venezuela. But ordered liberty didn’t take root in those lands, for deep cultural reasons.

Thomas Jefferson’s words were not some global panacea. They were just a way of universalizing and making palatable to the French (who paid for our Revolution) traditional English liberties.

Those liberties grew from Christian faith, and Saxon hatred of tyranny. They were always implicitly for everyone, as Daniel Hannan has written. They now bless people from India to Hong Kong, from Belfast to the Falkland Islands. The English were the first nation in history to emancipate their slaves — then go to war against the slave trade. A British judge ruled that according to Common Law, British air was free — such that any slave who breathed it was thereby emancipated.

That’s our heritage, and it belongs to every last one of us. I won’t trade it for some sick, squalid cult of DNA-based group narcissism.

So yes, I understand the temptation to vicious, self-destructive and unpatriotic tribalism. I just renounce it, along with Satan, all his works and all his pomps.

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