Ibram X. Kendi, “Stamped From The Beginning”

Kendi’s National Book Award-winning study argues that racism in America has grown from deliberate policies rather than from emotional responses like fear or hatred. Starting with the Puritans, Kendi traces the development of racist ideas and their effect on racist practices through the lives of five thinkers, discussing Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis. Within these profiles Kendi, professor of history and international studies at American University, identifies three strains of thought about race: segregation, antiracism, and assimilation; outlines their differences, and points to how each can be discredited in order to free the nation for the post-racial era it has long yearned for.

Kendi is in conversation with Wesley Lowery, a national correspondent for The Washington Post and author of They Can’t Kill Us All.

What David Brooks (Still) Doesn’t Understand About America

The whole point of America is that we are not a tribe. We are a universal nation, founded on universal principles, attracting talented people from across the globe, active across the world on behalf of all people who seek democracy and dignity”?

.. America was in fact a tribal enterprise.

.. Brooks would have us believe that the United States began as a pristine crusader state on behalf of global democracy and internationalism, a “universal nation” devoted to “diverse hopefulness” as opposed to “fear-driven homogeneity.” No, the people who ventured onto these shores and then pushed westward inexorably were highly conscious not only of their religious provenance but also of their cultural and ethnic heritage. They brutally pushed aside the aboriginal peoples, declined to mix with them, and created societies that mirrored those of the Old Country, even naming their towns and cities after those inhabited by their overseas ancestors.

.. No one expressed more forcefully than Theodore Roosevelt this sentiment that newcomers must assimilate into prevailing American culture, for that culture had no intention of adjusting to the newcomers. “We freely extend the hand of welcome and good fellowship to every man,” wrote Roosevelt, “no matter what his creed and birthplace, who comes here honestly intent on becoming a good United States citizen like the rest of us; but we have a right, and it is our duty, to demand that he shall indeed become so, and shall not confuse the issues with which we are struggling by introducing among us Old-World quarrels and prejudices.”

.. Brooks is not wrong when he says that much of the Trump constituency is driven by tribal impulses. But he is wrong to say that these sensibilities are un-American and the result of bigotry. Tribalism is a part of the American story

.. Today, the main enemy is not aliens; it’s division—between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left.

.. Trumpist populists want to widen the divisions and rearrange the fences. They want to turn us into an old, settled and fearful nation.

.. The divisions Brooks laments with such invidious intent won’t vanish until the fears and concerns of Trump voters are addressed in ways that can alleviate, at least to some extent, those grievances.

In Defense of Western Civ

The West’s tolerance for anti-Western philosophies is a fairly unique feature of the West itself.

But, again, until pretty recently, that tendency wasn’t against “the West” so much as it was against the Enlightenment or democracy or capitalism. Western radicals argued that the West had taken a wrong turn, not that the East was better.

.. The whole reason liberalism is in trouble today is that it has lost the ability to speak confidently in patriotic and loving terms about America, unless it is in the context of selling some government program or pressing some nakedly political advantage (I’m thinking mostly about immigration maximalism and identity politics). Cutting Medicaid may be wrong, but it’s not unpatriotic.

.. Peter himself recently argued that Democrats need to refocus on the importance of assimilation if they want to be trusted on the issue of immigration. Well, assimilation to what? If American culture is worth assimilating into, so is Western Culture, because the two cannot be separated.

.. Right now, there’s a hilarious effort afoot to defend the anti-Semitic Saudi sock-puppet Linda Sarsour. She recently called for jihad against Donald Trump and insisted that American Muslims must never, ever assimilate into American culture.

.. In Trump’s telling, the threat to Western Civilization must be met with his favorite qualities: Strength! Will! Etc.! The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?

.. In Trump’s telling, the threat to Western Civilization must be met with his favorite qualities: Strength! Will! Etc.! The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?

.. The key to keeping Western Civilization alive isn’t fending off the barbarians at our gates, though that’s important. They key is keeping it alive in our hearts. Civilizations die by suicide. As Lincoln put it:

From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia . . . could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we will live forever or die by suicide.

Fending off suicide isn’t a matter of martial will, but of simple gratitude. The Left has convinced itself that there is nothing to be grateful for about Western Civilization. ’s idiotic. And they need to be persuaded otherwise, not pummeled into thinking Western Civilization is just a dog whistle for MAGA.

Rich, who is on a mission to restore the good name of nationalism, asked whether the podcasters would still love America if it had different ideals. And they all said yes.

.. I’ve written countless times that nationalism is good in small doses and poisonous in large doses, save during times of war when it is channeled outward for legitimate reasons.

.. But it is not absurd to say that America is an idea. The Founders certainly thought it was. So did Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. They appealed to the idea encased in the Declaration, not to the nation. Appeals to nationalism can be appeals to ideas, but they usually are not. They are simply another form of populism, which says we’re right because we’re us. Appeals to ideas, particularly those that marry themselves to what is best about a nation, help a nation act in accordance with its best self.

.. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause

 

The European Crisis

In Europe as in the United States, recent trends in culture and economics have elevated an educated upper class while separating it, geographically and ideologically and in every other way, from a declining and fragmenting working class.

In Europe as in the United States, a growing immigrant population serves this upper class while seeming to compete with downscale natives for jobs, housing and social benefits. In Europe as in the United States, the center-left coalition has become a kind of patronage arrangement between the multicultural meritocracy and minority groups both new and old, while the white working class drifts rightward and votes for Brexit, Trump and now Le Pen.

.. these problems are worse in Europe, part of a systemic crisis that’s more serious than our own.

They’re worse because Europe is stuck with a horribly flawed experiment in political economy, a common currency without a common fiscal policy or a central political authority capable of claiming real legitimacy.

.. They’re worse because Europe has had sub-replacement fertility for much longer than the United States

.. mass immigration seem more culturally threatening to natives even as it seems more desirable to technocrats.

.. They’re worse because Europe is a continent of ethno-states without a strong assimilative tradition

.. Finally, they’re worse because European governance has a greater democracy deficit than the United States, and because the European ruling class already relies more than its American counterpart on illiberal methods — restrictions on speech that would be the envy of our campus commisars, counterterrorism methods that would make Jeff Sessions blush, even the spread of “voluntary” euthanasia as a solution to age and illness and unhappiness — to maintain the continental peace.

.. This is a tangle of problems that no single statesman or party, however brilliant, is likely to cut through; they can be only managed, not resolved.

But much of elite European politics seems to be organized around the premise that they are really problems only because they might lead to an extremist party taking power. So the important thing is to concentrate every effort on delegitimizing and defeating and excluding critics (be they right wing or, as in many Mediterranean countries, far left) rather than solving the problems that the outsiders often quite accurately identify.

.. the policy alternative that the right-wing populists often offer —

  1. hard limits on immigration, new financial support for families,
  2. a re-emphasis on national sovereignty,
  3. the unwinding of the euro

— is in some ways less extreme than the open-borders and onward-to-federalism fantasies still nursed by the elite

.. in which secularism gives ground to religious pluralism even as it firmly demands certain forms of assimilation.

Rep. Steve King Draws Rebukes for Immigrant ‘Babies’ Putdown

On Saturday, Mr. King tweeted praise of Geert Wilders, the anti-immigration leader of the Dutch Party of Freedom, running for prime minister, saying on Twitter, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

.. He said many people who come to the country illegally refuse to “assimilate into the American culture and civilization.”

.. Mr. King said his comments weren’t related to race, but to culture. “It’s the culture, not the blood. If you could go anywhere in the world and adopt these little babies and put them into households that were already assimilated into America, those babies will grow up as American as any other baby,” he told CNN.

.. In June 2014, he called former President Barack Obama “Kim Jong POTUS” for supporting canceling the patent for the Washington Redskins logo.

In July 2013, he criticized children brought to the country illegally by saying that “for everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

.. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office tied the comments to recent bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers and the Kansas shooting that targeted two Indian men and called for Speaker Paul Ryan to address the comments.

.. Ms. Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said. “The GOP Leadership must stop accommodating this garbage, and condemn Congressman Steve King’s statements in the strongest and most unequivocal terms.”

AshLee Strong, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman, said: “The speaker clearly disagrees and believes America’s long history of inclusiveness is one of its great strengths.”

When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism

And how moral psychology can help explain and reduce tensions between the two.