What do you call it when some people want to ban any teaching about slavery that might make white children feel bad about it?
What do you call it when some people are opposed to even modest efforts to diversify colleges and universities?
What do you call it when some white people think they’re the ones being discriminated against these days?
I call it racism.
That’s not to mention the conspiracy theories about white Americans being replaced by nonwhites.
These are all expressions of greater or lesser degrees of white supremacy, where the white experience is venerated, and the Black and brown experiences are negated.
They should be called out as such and condemned by the bulk of modern society.
But to the mainstream media, those opinions are simply political statements, over which there are “debates”.
Racism? What Racism?
Our top journalists will stipulate that racism is wrong. New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger declared in May that there are “some moral issues that we, as a society, have rightly come to view as settled and beyond reasonable debate.” And his first example was: “Racism is wrong.”
But this stuff? It’s not racism! It’s just politics. It’s just the culture war.
Treating it that way normalizes the return of overt racism into our political discourse. It makes journalists complicit with racists.
And by taking the view that racism is the subject of reasonable debate, our newsrooms are not just both-sidesing something indefensible, they are leaving their audiences with the mistaken impression that both sides have widespread public support.
I’m sure there’s a radical racist minority of people who want students to be told that that slavery had its upsides. But the rest of us? I don’t think so. I would imagine that the rest of us are horrified. And so should the media be.
Instead, we get epic nonsense, like Saturday’s major Washington Post story by Toluse Olorunnipa, Hannah Natanson and Silvia Foster-Frau declaring that “The 2024 presidential race, nominally a battle to shape the country’s future, is increasingly being consumed by a roiling debate over reexamining, redefining and reimagining its past.”
(Let me rewrite that for you: “The 2024 presidential race, a battle to shape the country’s future, is increasingly turning into a referendum on racism.”)
And you get gibberish like:
The political and pedagogical firefight encapsulates a broader debate that has erupted across the country about what to teach about race, history and the intersection of the two. It underscores how the nation’s metastasizing culture wars — now firmly ensconced in the nation’s classrooms — have broadened to strip Americans of a shared sense of history, leaving many to view the past through the filter of contemporary polarization.
Also consider three examples I wrote about last week:
- A New York Times article that whitewashed the overt racism involved in a decision to rescind an offer to a Black professor, suggesting only that it revealed “wide divisions about diversity.”
- A Washington Post article about how Ron DeSantis is trying to rewrite Black history that didn’t even raise the possibility of racism or white supremacy as motive.
- A Politico article that cast Alabama’s defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that it give Black voters more power as a partisan “brawl.”
History will not be kind. People will look back and recognize this era as a period of racist backlash against civil rights, just like so many others in this country’s past.
Why don’t our elite political journalists get that?
On Monday, Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldman advanced a theory that could just explain it.
Waldman is a liberal, so I don’t think his intention was to make excuses for racist behavior. But his argument was that it’s not racism that animates the right. “[T]here’s a more complicated answer,” he wrote. “The true commitment of today’s Republican Party is not to racism… It is to what is best described as anti-antiracism.”
Citing a new research paper from two (white) sociology professors, Waldman wrote that what looks so much like racism is actually just “an expression of revulsion against liberals and everything they want to do.”
Adherence to anti-antiracist ideas has become “a matter of partisan identity,” going to the core of “what it means to be a Republican,” he wrote. His conclusion: “Anti-antiracism is one more way to own the libs.”
You might very well dismiss this argument as a laughable attempt to sanitize racism and blame liberals.
But I assure you that it resonates within our elite newsrooms, where contempt for liberals is basically a requirement for making it onto the political staff.
The Shared Hatred of Liberals
The belief that liberals have gone too far is newsroom orthodoxy. It’s essential to elite journalists’ ability to cast themselves as above the fray, superior to all parties, with ample amounts of contempt for either side.
So the notion of going to great lengths to distance oneself from those crazy hippies is not alien to them.
The big difference is that political reporters hate liberals because they are smug, and very often right. “Anti-antiracists” hate liberals because they’re convinced liberals are trying to take over their White Christian country, steal their hard-earned money, and give it to Black and brown people. In other words, they hate liberals because they’re racist.
Waldman acknowledged that “Anti-antiracism is fueled by White people’s unease with the growing diversity of American society, the knowledge that they’ve lost their dominant position” – in other words, racism – but then he added “and to boot, liberals keep trying to make them feel bad.”
One of the researchers acknowledged to Waldman that for “some” people, “opposition to antiracism is a way of expressing racial animus without explicitly endorsing it.”
But Waldman focused instead on the “others” for whom it is allegedly about “distaste, anger and frustration with antiracists themselves.”
What’s the ratio between “some” and “others”? Pretty high, I’m guessing.
“They want to be racist without the stigma,” journalist John R. Stanton tweeted.
The Research Has a Bug
The authors of the report concluded that anti-antiracism is “strongly associated with—though conceptually distinct from—various measures of anti-Black prejudice.” But there were some strong caveats.
Trying to measure racial prejudice is “likely to be subject to greater measurement error than is anti-antiracism, due to social desirability bias and self-presentation concerns,” they wrote.
In other words, some proportion of anti-antiracists are actually racist, they just won’t acknowledge that to pollsters, go figure.
The authors concluded: “This might have led us to underestimate” the overlap between whites’ racial prejudice and “their opposition to antiracism.”
So what’s the difference between an anti-antiracist and a racist? The former will admit it, and get sympathetic coverage.