In these days is it easy to focus on the negative. Europe is close to financial ruin, the U.S. debt load threatens to take our nation down the same path, oil continues to pollute the Gulf, and the tyrannical regimes of North Korea and Iran continue to stir up trouble.
And yet we should not lose track of the good news. I expect this year will revolutionize publishing with the rapid rise of multiple ereaders and related technology. The rise of the Tea Party movement illustrates that Americans are rethinking fundamentals as I have never seen before.
Perhaps the greatest long-term success story of our nation is the fight against racism, among the great evils of collectivism. The U.S. Constitution permitted slavery in 1787. Less than a century later, with the end of the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, slavery officially was abolished, largely fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence. A century later, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, despite its problems and contradictions, achieved some major advances by equalizing voting laws and outlawing racial discrimination by the government. Less than half of a century later, U.S. voters elected a black president (and, leftist paranoia to the contrary, with extremely rare exception nobody chalks up his Carteresque bungling incompetence to the color of his skin).
In personal terms, my grandfather lived through segregation, and I saw that many of his generation had to make a conscientious effort to overcome racist attitudes. Among my parent’s generation — the ’60s generation — racism was nearly universally reviled. And yet I was struck by a paragraph from today’s article by John Podesta and Robert Levy: “Nearly a century after the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that ‘marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man.”‘ That 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia, ended bans on interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had such laws.” Just a few years before I was born, states legally prohibited interracial marriage!
Of course President Obama may also be described as interracial. I was struck by this recent news account of interracial marriage:
Americans are more likely than ever before to marry outside their race or ethnicity.
Nearly 1 in 7 marriages in 2008 was interracial or interethnic, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center Friday. That’s more than double the intermarriage rate of the 1980s and six times the intermarriage rate of the 1960s.
Also, most Americans say they approve of interracial marriage, with more than 6 in 10 saying they’re OK if a family member marries outside his or her group. Thirty-five percent say they already have a family member who is married to someone of a different race or ethnicity.
It is a sign of great progress that, in roughly the span of my lifetime, our nation has gone from overturning laws against interracial marriage to mostly openly accepting it.
Obviously some people continue to hold racial prejudices, and some politicians relish racial strife and economic inequality as a pretext for more political controls, despite the fact that previous political controls largely caused today’s problems. Racism remains a live cultural issue. Yet, most of the time, most people don’t even think about race.
We needn’t make light of today’s problems, including residual problems of racism, to recognize how far we’ve come in fulfilling the promise: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Notably, the progress against racism has come, not from the “progressive” infatuation with group rights and collectivistic politics, but from the individualist regard for the rights, liberties, and character of each person.
Anonymous June 8, 2010 at 1:22 PM
I’m not so sure that I agree. The Left has been stirring up massive anti-white prejudice for decades. Look at the response to the Tea Party movement. The Left and the black and hispanic communities are reviling whites and blaming them for everything. There is so much black on white crime that it can be called an anti-white Intifada. Just a few months ago in your state of Colorado, there were black gangs that were targeting victims to kill just because they were white.
When the American welfare state goes bankrupt we will have the same type of riots that Greece has. Who do you think will be the majority of rioters? Middle aged white people? Blacks and Latinos will be the rioters. We just saw this in Arizona where Latino illegals were attacking the police openly in their “protest”. It is entirely possible that the US will burst at the seems in a type of racial Balkinization. Objectivists for some reason seem oblivious to this.
Ari June 8, 2010 at 1:36 PM
I disagree with most of what “anonymous” claims above.
I have not seen the left promote racism against whites; I have seen the left falsely accuse Tea Partiers of racism. That is quite a different thing.
I am not “oblivious” to fears of “racial Balkinization;” I merely think those fears are unwarranted. True, the welfare state has created a large economic underclass, disproportionately victimizing minorities. True, Denver saw some racially motivated attacks recently; see http://www.denverpost.com/ci_13837397
However, as the trend in interracial marriages illustrates, most people are not racist, and most people condemn racism and racially motivated violence.
We are a long way away from general rioting in the streets of the United States. If such rioting ever did occur, it would not be caused fundamentally by racial tensions, though people who turn to destructive violence tend to turn to other sorts of irrationalism such as racism.
Frankly I wonder at the motivation behind overblown racial fears.
Park June 14, 2010 at 9:11 PM
I would like to add a few things.
First of all, I would also like to point out with your realizations of recent change, that the Supreme Court decision overturning the illegality of homosexual sex (Lawrence v TX) was only decided in 1998. Until 12 years ago, you could still be arrested for having gay sex. How’s that for horrible, irrational beliefs being scarily recent?
Secondly, I would like to respectfully dispute your claim that “anti-white” racism is either overblown or non-existent. For evidence, I would simply point to the admissions process for higher education, where the color of your skin may be the deciding factor in getting into a top school (or any school). This isn’t even necessarily a problem with the ideas of the schools: they are often forced into it by the state legislature in the case of public schools, or brow-beaten into it by national organizations. For example, in the early 90’s George Mason Law School was threatened with a negative review of their ABA accreditation (basically required for a law school; graduates of unaccredited law schools generally can’t get a license to practice law) if they did not adopt an “affirmative action” policy, which they subsequently did. Don’t take my word for it, and I am not alone in this view. Take Onkar Ghate, for example: http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/culture/racism/119-The-Destruction-Martin-Luther-Kings-Dream-Colorblind-Society.html
One caveat: unlike the first, anonymous post, I do not ascribe anti-white racism to any broad group, and certainly do not ascribe those beliefs to any group based on that group’s race; that would be racist :) However, there are significant and powerful groups and individuals who desire to institutionalize anti-white racism (Jessie Jackson comes to mind, as do several Congresspersons). You cannot just write off this largely successful* movement to establish official policies that inculcate the collectivist tribalism of “pure,” us-against-them racism into America’s youth. (*RE “largely successful”: name an Ivy League school that doesn’t have race-based admissions, such as an affirmative action program. There aren’t any). Therefore, I submit that racism is alive and blossoming in America’s academia; it’s just that the racists now wear academic hoods instead of white ones.
Anonymous June 29, 2010 at 7:04 AM
I disagree with you that “We are a long way away from general rioting in the streets of the United States.” I expect it soon starting in any number of cities as a “scuffle” between the “haves” and the “have nots” that morphs into fighting along racial lines.
Ari June 29, 2010 at 7:10 AM
Anonymous: I believe and sincerely hope that such fears are unwarranted. However, if such a thing did occur, even among some tiny segment of the population, the government would need to immediately intervene to restore order and protect people’s rights, and the rest of us would need to immediately condemn and work against such violence. (Of course, already there is racially-motivated gang violence, but that problem remains relatively isolated, and the fundamental problem there is the tribalistic gang culture. This problem too must be seriously addressed at the law-enforcement and cultural level.) -Ari