We are in the midst of a massive cultural awareness of race and racism that future historians might define as an “awakening” (or Marxists as an “expansion of consciousness”).

In and of itself, this is not a bad thing. I have frank conversations with many people of color (POC) on race issues, and always come away shocked at how the nasty habit persists. In a multiracial society it is good and fitting that racism is a terrible taboo.

Ironically, not only is it not clear what to do about our remaining racism, individual efforts to address it are far out of fashion. This, in contrast to the last time we had a race awakening during the Civil Rights era, where much of the country was mobilized by productive action. Combined with the paradigm shift in gender roles, the progress then makes today’s seem non-existent.

It is the politics of today’s anti-racism, not the motivations, that are debatable. “If only,” more accurately; nobody in their right mind would call the divisions that we have over race any kind of debate. Rioting; fighting-over; screaming-past, with weaponized lawfare (with 6 figure lawsuits, and career-threatening), is what we have.

Channeling any candidate for a solution through our dysfunctional politics means a Minachean “good vs evil” struggle, where the tribe behind Z solution will necessarily be at war with the tribe wanting A solution. We are divided by the rudimentary science behind the public health challenge of the century that is the COVID pandemic. The management of a virus that affects Republican and Democratic Homo Sapiens equally morphed into Red vs Blue kulturkampf. And racism is a far, far more slippery concept. We libertarians say this is a good reason to keep all but the clearest social problems out of the realm of politics, and allow policy successes and failures to wax and wane, win and lose by “natural selection.” But few Americans are asking us.

The contentions come when we actually address the abstracts of consciousness with real-world policies that rewards some and punishes others. And we are trying to do it without anything like reproducible data on what racism is, or what actually works to mitigate it (those punished should contend what cannot be proven). Here is an article claiming that workplace inclusion training actually makes racism WORSE.

Indeed, the most definable issue of institutional racism in our society, the disproportionate effects on POC of the criminal justice system, is distorted by our knives-out politics: it is demonstrably true that POC suffer disproportionately by our myriad laws, expensively applied. Yet the Democrats, the party you would think carceral reform would come most naturally, picked 3 old-school incarcerators for the 3 top positions of leadership in their party: President; Vice President; Mayor of NYC.

What is to be done? For the political ecosystem of the Right, ranging from libertarian to old-school Republicans, the answer would be so obvious we would not need to make any public protestations (or policy): “go forth and do something about it.” If political solutions are useless (or worse), roll up your sleeves and get to lifting. It’s an argument that translates well to “Green” politics too: grandiose reorientations of the economy aren’t politically doable? Take smaller bites, like the acceptance of natural gas (or, gasp nuclear power).

Alas, “progressivism,” by its nature, in the phrase coined by David Mamet is “the abdication of responsibility.” Making other people do things about the problems they usurp the right to define is a feature of Leftism, not a bug. Leftists don’t volunteer because Other People’s Time (OPT) is just the flip side of Other People’s Money (OPM). Worse, the problems are defined politically, relative to positions of advantage in our partisan wars: how else to explain the blazing furor over racism with the backsliding over incarceration?

Some of this has to do with the American genius for commodification: not only did it become possible to package racial guilt for the internet (with social media), absolution was also only a mouse click away, apropos in the Amazon age. All it takes is to retweet an accusation of racism, moving the fingers, what, four times in four seconds? Box checked, no longer a racist, absolution! This goes hand-in-glove with the diminishment of traditional Christian culture: absolution could never be contingent on transferring guilt to some strawman “other.” Christians would call this a virtual Baal, to whom other people are sacrificed.

Here are a few narrow suggestions for remed.: California is very progressive, yet in Oakland, fewer than one in three public school kids (of color) read on a grade level (!?). All those progressives writing how much they have against Republicans on Facebook might mentor and tutor some of these poor kids on how to write. The fact that their party has been in effective control of CA’s education system for more than a generation should have them wanting to do something, if only out of guilt. Ah, but there is David Mamet pooping the party again: guilt is only felt by someone accepting personal responsibility.

I’ve said it in the pages before, and I’ll say it again: I spend most of my working day in disadvantaged communities of color, and for all the sturm und drang, I have seen neither hide nor hair of any of these progressives in what is supposed to be the intellectual pace-setter of progressivism, New York City. The nation is chock-a-block with communities who built their own institutions in the face of actual and definable racism, centuries ago, and they were much poorer (and much busier).

The statistics on charity bear this correlation out: cultures that emphasize the individual stewardship of the soul before God lead the developed world in time and money charity. Those cultures that make the state their absolver (and accuser) do much less to personally strive for it (I could find no data on those worshiping before Tom-feeder-of-Val-Dorsey and his virtual sacrificer).

If racism bothers you (I know it does me) go take responsibility. Go do. I know I do. Volunteer at a homeless shelter; join Teach for America; help a POC out with “their” resume; help them dress for a job interview; help them find a job interview; volunteer to help out with childcare for the huge numbers of struggling single moms out there; teach them a fun sport; teach them the joys of music (saved my life more than once); volunteer at a mental hospital (those people really do great things); go build houses for the disadvantaged (Jimmy Carter had been doing it well into his 90’s).

Put aside your childish virtu-war, with no victors, no vanquished, that is entertained only by the half dozen people you play with regularly on social media. No good is coming out of it, and much bad.

But that might make you outgrow progressivism. Two birds with one stone, I’d celebrate.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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