Posted on May 1, 2021

Race and the Coming Liberal Crackup

Bret Stephens, New York Times, April 26, 2021


But what about a case like that of Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager who was shot and killed last week by Nicholas Reardon, a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio, at the instant that she was swinging a knife at a woman who had her back against a car?

Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, accused the Columbus police in a tweet of killing “an unarmed 15yo Black girl.” {snip}

An alternative view: Maybe there wasn’t time for Officer Reardon, in an 11-second interaction, to “de-escalate” the situation, as he is now being faulted for failing to do. And maybe the balance of our sympathies should lie not with the would-be perpetrator of a violent assault but with the cop who saved a Black life — namely that of Tionna Bonner, who nearly had Bryant’s knife thrust into her.

That’s a thought that many, perhaps most, Americans share, even if they are increasingly reluctant to say it out loud. Why reluctant? Because in this era of with-us-or-against-us politics, to have misgivings about the left’s new “anti-racist” narrative is to run the risk of being denounced as a racist. {snip}

And yet those doubts and misgivings go to the heart of what used to be thought of as liberalism. {snip}

Morally and philosophically, liberalism believes in individual autonomy, which entails a concept of personal responsibility. The current model of anti-racism scoffs at this: It divides the world into racial identities, which in turn are governed by systems of privilege and powerlessness. {snip}


{snip} The idea that white skin automatically confers “privilege” in America is a strange concept to millions of working-class whites who have endured generations of poverty while missing out on the benefits of the past 50 years of affirmative action programs.

Similarly, the idea that past discrimination or even present-day inequality justifies explicit racial preferences in government policy is an affront to liberal values, and will become only more so as the practices become more common. In Oakland the mayor backed a private initiative that was to provide $500 a month to low-income families, but not if they were white. In Vermont, the state has given people of color priority for Covid vaccines.

Ibram X. Kendi, the most important anti-racist thinker today, argues that “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Some liberals will go along with this. Many others will find themselves drifting rightward, much as a past generation of disaffected liberals did.