Features Australia

Structural racism is a fraud

Identity politics is based on a fallacy

7 November 2020

9:00 AM

7 November 2020

9:00 AM

Last year I was lucky enough to spend a year on sabbatical, half in London at King’s College Law School and half in the US at the University of San Diego School of Law – probably the most conservative law school in America. Now I should explain what that means to all of you who went to university decades ago and have no real feel for how unbelievably left-leaning and unbalanced university law schools are (along with the entirety of the arts and social sciences faculties, economics being a partial exception). U. San Diego may have around 20 per cent of the faculty vote right which makes it clearly the most right-wing law school in the US (along with the home of the libertarians at George Mason University).  On a roughly similar basis, my law school here at the University of Queensland is Australia’s most conservative. So four out of five of your faculty vote left and you work at what is clearly the country’s most conservative law school. Go figure! And go figure why seven years of Coalition governments have done absolutely nothing about any of this. It’s a total surrender on the control of the institutions that turn out the next generation. And yet I have cabinet ministers ask me why they can’t find conservative lawyers to appoint to the Bench.

Anyway, where was I? Yes, the law school at the University of San Diego which houses some of the best thinkers anywhere on the approach to constitutional interpretation known as ‘originalism’, as well as some top-notch legal philosophers. One of them is the world-class legal philosopher Professor Larry Alexander, a friend. A fortnight ago Alexander wrote two pieces in the now online magazine Newsweek attacking identity politics and all claims alleging structural racism. They are a tour de force. Let me give you the gist of the points Alexander makes because these are tools all of us need in today’s cancel culture.

  1. ‘Identitarians’ see themselves as the heirs of the civil rights movement, but they’re not. The actual civil rights movement wanted to abolish, not impose, the using of one’s group identity when judging individuals. Put bluntly, they did not want to judge solely on one’s race or sex. Today’s identitarians do want to do this.
  2. The old civil rights movement focused on overt, conscious racism or sexism. Today’s identitarians focus on what they claim is a more pernicious, insidious sort of racism. They label this ‘structural racism’ and tie it to ‘white privilege’ and ‘patriarchy’. And get this. Structural racism occurs despite a total absence of any intended racial discrimination. So it’s not present in the hearts of actual real-life humans, in their conscious actions and thoughts. It’s ‘structural’, baby. (At this point sane people ought to be yelling BS about this and its cousin ‘unconscious bias’ for which there is no evidence at all, but let’s go on.)
  3. Here’s a nifty insight from Alexander. Identitarians never say what particular ‘structures’ in our societies cause these supposed ‘privileged-subordinated’ relationships. Alexander offers up some of his own possibilities to show they are laughable. a) the police? But what race benefits from not apprehending robbers, murderers and rapists? b) the nuclear family? Black Lives Matter, the avowedly Marxist group, wants this ‘disrupted’ (along with wanting the police to be defunded). But all the evidence is overwhelming. Dissolution of the nuclear family leads to – has led to – crime, poverty and lousy school results. Blowing up the nuclear family won’t deliver more fairness or equality. It will deliver social destruction. c) private property? As Alexander says, ‘we know what happens when private property is abolished and it isn’t pretty’. Give me capitalism, warts and all, any day. d) choosing based on merit? I am opposed to all affirmative action type programs but let’s be honest. In barely disguised form these programs permeate our universities and the public service and now big corporations – that’s why they want people to tick their ‘groups’, etc. Alexander is superb in pointing out merit is not ‘socially constructed’ and that society does better when the most talented occupy the jobs – unless, as he notes, ‘you don’t care whether your surgeon knows basic anatomy’.
  4. Too many people buy sloganeering claims of disadvantage without checking out the facts. Take how racial groups fare economically in the US. Asians do better than whites (why not then ‘Asian privilege’?). Indian-Americans are the wealthiest ethnic group in the US. And blacks from Nigeria and the West Indies are disproportionately well-off. And what about all the claims that suggest some systemic subordination of women? Over the last several decades half of all doctors and lawyers produced in the US have been women. And women hold roughly half of all management positions. And hey, who knew that women control more than half the US’s wealth? They suffer far, far fewer injuries and deaths on the job than men – the identitarians don’t push for quotas for that sort of work, or garbage collecting, do they?

Unless you see all women as automatons, easily gulled by indoctrination or victims of false consciousness (to the extent that concept has any coherence at all), then any earning differences are far more plausibly put down ‘not to discrimination against individual women, but rather to women’s autonomous career and lifestyle choices. To claim otherwise  is both patronising and scientifically ignorant.’ Alexander suggests, for those who want to see actual patriarchy, that they catch a flight to Saudi Arabia. And for real oppression catch one to North Korea. As for tangible racism?  Consider China’s treatment of Uighurs.

Bogus claims of oppression do no one any good, including supposed ‘victims’. You’ve won the lottery of life if you live in today’s West. For those who adopt what Alexander calls ‘bourgeois values’ (hard work, deferring some pleasures, finishing high school, no kids till you’re done school and with a committed partner, etc.) life has never been better. ‘Identitarian claims to the contrary are socially poisonous and psychologically debilitating.’ That’s just a taste of the many problems of seeing everything through the prism of race, sex, gender, sexuality – pick your favourite group. Right on my friend Larry Alexander! More of us need to speak up and utter these truths. Don’t be cowed by the identitarians and social media Twitter mobs.

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