When civil rights shifted from punishing mandatory segregation to punishing the lack of integration, it ceased to be a movement pursuing freedom and instead became a totalitarian movement.
The Religion of Racism
Accusations of sinfulness usually tell us more about the values of the accuser than the accused.
If racism is America’s original sin, then its redemption lies in anti-racism. For liberal theologians, Christian and Jewish, who no longer believe in the traditional biblical sins, racism is a godsend. It provides the moral drama of damnation and redemption, confession and absolution, in a way that is compatible with the larger secular culture and their own political ambitions.
Fighting racism isn’t just a cause, it’s a religion. And all that remains of major religious denominations.
The most resonantly dramatic events for Christian and Jewish liberal denominations remain the fight against slavery and the struggles of the civil rights movement. They revisit and recreate them ceaselessly. And each protest movement, whether it’s Muslim migrants at airports, illegal aliens from El Salvador at the border or Black Lives Matter racists at coffee shops, is a religious revival experience.
The trouble is that the hunt for this particular sin has come to pervade our legal system, taint workplaces, terrorize campuses and unleash social media mobs on random offenders. We are not in a libertine age just because sexual morality is as dead as disco and drugs are on the verge of being legalized. The sins of traditional morality have been replaced by an even more ruthless moral code.
Employees, employers, students and businessmen still fear being fired, expelled and hounded out of society for offending the sensibilities of a fanatical sect and its zealous enforcers. They hide behind hypocrisy, denouncing others while living in terror that their own private offenses will be outed.
A drunken tweet, an indiscreet joke or a mere implication can end even the most respected career.
The religion of racism has become a twisted creed that has perverted its own origins. What began as a unitary effort to bring together different races around religion has instead become a cult that uses its beliefs to divide us with white people as perpetual sinners and black people as unstained saints.
Its fetishization of black victimhood is bad for black people and its conviction that white people are inherently sinful is bad for everyone. As real racism has diminished, its conviction in the ubiquity of this particular sin has not. Fighting the overt discrimination of segregation turned into hunting for covert bigotry by working backward through disparate impact creating a guilt through lack of association.
If black people weren’t visiting national parks or living in sufficient numbers in Utah, it was evidence that national parks and Utah were racist. Racism was no longer something to be discovered by witnessing its presence, but by noting the absence of some ideal multicultural diversity statistic. Civil rights shifted from lifting state sanctions that mandated discrimination against black people to imposing state sanctions that mandated discrimination on behalf of black people. Like the segregationists, they were abusing government power to impose the version of the ideal racial balance that they wanted to see.
The absence of the realization of this vision became its own evidence of racial sinfulness.