THE PROBLEM OF RACE AND THE PROGRESSIVE STRUGGLE AGAINST RACISM
by Gennady Shkliarevsky
Racism is the central issue in the current turmoil that has engulfed America. This issue drives the protest movement in many American cities. It dominates the ongoing presidential race. Racial politics preoccupies American media. Many American educational institutions make a concerted effort to address the problem of race by reshaping their curriculum.
The progressives and their allies—BLM, Antifa, and others—play the leading role in this struggle against racism. They boldly state their determination to remake America in the way that will end racism in this country—a very tall order, indeed.
In light of the attention that the problem of race attracts these days, the fact that this problem is on the mind of many Americans hardly comes as a surprise. Those who are concerned about this problem realize that it can only be resolved through a better understanding of racism and its source.
There is a general agreement in America that racism is fundamentally about the domination of one group over another. Exclusion is at the heart of domination. Therefore, racism is ultimately about exclusion. Racism is a manifestation of exclusion; it is one of many forms that exclusion may take
In fact, the progressives and their allies acknowledge as much when they connect racism with other forms of discrimination—social, political, economic, as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The progressive agenda relates the struggle against racism with the struggle against other forms of discrimination. BLM, for example, proudly states its support for “queer and trans folks” in its principal documents.
If exclusion is the source of racism, as is universally recognized, then the only way to end racism is to eliminate its source—exclusion. The eradication of racism is impossible without the elimination of exclusion. If the struggle against racism does not address the problem of exclusion, it will not achieve its goal; on the contrary, it will preserve exclusion with all its manifestations, including racism. Many progressives embrace the logic, if not the letter, of the argument that if one does not combat exclusion, one actually perpetuates it. Ibram Kendi, one of the most prominent commentators on racism and the author of the well-received book How to Be an Antiracist, displays a similar logic when he argues that if one does not become an antiracist and does not actively engage in combating racism, one is actually preserving and perpetuating it.
The progressives and their allies who claim leadership in the struggle against racism do not engage in solving a more general problem of exclusion that is the source of racism. The evidence of their exclusionary stance is, for example, the fact that they reject important traditional American values: religion, nuclear family, the sanctity of life, and others. It is interesting that progressive allies—such as for example, BLM—also do not include in their discourse the traditional values and norms that have cemented the black community in America and are integral to its cultural heritage. Their general attitude to this traditional culture is one of condescending derision embodied in the derogatory name “Uncle Tom” that radical black activists use for those who show any tolerance toward whites. Kendi’s book on racism also offers many examples of his dismissive and condescending elitist attitude toward the older generation of his parents.
Thus the ideology and practice of the progressives and their allies is exclusionary. As a result, the progressive agenda cannot put an end to exclusion; on the contrary, it preserves and perpetuates exclusion and all its manifestations, including racism. Their failure to eliminate exclusion will preserve discrimination, domination, and elite rule that serves it. The inevitable result of the implementation of the progressive agenda will be the continued presence of racial and other forms of discrimination in America.
Attempts to end racism without eliminating exclusion will not solve the problem of racism. It will not benefit those who suffer from exclusion and discrimination. It will benefit only the progressive liberal elites and their allies who advocate this agenda. In other words, their struggle against racism will not lead to liberation. It will only perpetuate exclusion and domination. Their success will allow them to dictate their will to the American people and assert their domination over this country.
Gennady Shkliarevsky is a Professor Emeritus at Bard College, New York.