Objective Black Commentators

(June 18, 2021) Although I don’t know of an effective black commentator who would support Confederate Memory, protection of Confederate memorials can be advanced by blacks who have criticisms of Black Lives Matter, Slavery Reparations, Affirmative Action, Critical Race Theory, and Identity Politics.

One example is twenty-five-year-old Coleman Hughes of the Manhattan Institute. After graduating from Newark Academy in 2014 as one of 114 Presidential Scholars nationwide, he next graduated from Columbia University. Forbes magazine identifies him as one of thirty people under age thirty that might become prominent American leaders. You can get acquainted with his work at the “Coleman Hughes” YouTube channel. I particularly recommend his April 8, 2021, interview with Desi-Rae Campbell who has her own “Just Thinking Out Loud with Desi-Rae” YouTube program. 

Be advised, however, that Desi-Rae’s Jamaican accent sometimes left me confused about what she is saying, but Coleman expresses himself clearly and thought provokingly. Nonetheless, Desi-Rae is no dummy. She holds a B.A. in Biology from Bard College and has authored a book on crypto currencies. Consider watching “Why I Don’t Like Black Lives Matter” on her YouTube channel.

Desi-Rae is also a young black adult, but she grew up in Jamaica where nearly all the residents are black. After moving to America at age seventeen she was surprised that native-born blacks are obsessed with the legacy of slavery. By contrast, being black in Jamacia was just normal and did not confer any special victimhood privilege as American blacks regard as a virtual entitlement. Even though 42% of the African Slave trade was with the Caribbean and only 4% was with the United States, Jamaicans just don’t think much about slavery and its legacy.

Additionally, islanders refer to mixed race Jamaicans merely as mixed. There’s no obsession concerning what races are mixed.  Moreover, islanders with one white parent and one black parent gain no advantage by identifying with one race or the other. Coleman contrasts that with the arbitrary decision among similarly mixed-race Americans, such a Barak Obama, to identify as black. Desi-Rae says that would not happen in Jamaica. If born on the island, Barak would merely refer to himself as mixed because he would gain no advantage by identifying as black. 

At one point during the interview Coleman is ruminating on the concept of White Privilege and concludes by asking Desi-Rae, “What do you think of the notion of White Privilege?” to which she responds, “I think it is a farce. . .”  

As a young black man, Coleman might be a great college campus speaker capable of criticizing Critical Race Theory and similar dogmas presently gaining momentum in academia. I am aware of one alumni group that engaged another Manhattan Institute member to deliver a speech about the delusions of diversity obsession. That same group might wish to inquire at the institute about Coleman’s availability. While I don’t know what he might say about Confederate Memory and related issues, he can provide compelling criticisms of the divisive racial dogmas sweeping academia and the country at large.

Consider watching his Manhattan Institute video “The Parent-Led Challenge to Critical Race Theory.”  It is available on YouTube as well as the Manhattan Institute website.

Critical Race Theory at Washington and Lee

(June 17, 2021) Critical Race Theory (CRT) is presently the dominant branch of a social philosophy fashionable among modern historians known as Critical Theory. The latter postulates that the people of all countries are composed of two classes: oppressors and victims. It presumes that a nation’s accomplishments result from the former’s exploitation of the latter. Its roots lie with Karl Marx, who designated capitalists as oppressors and workers as victims. Critical Race Theory substitutes blacks as victims and whites—particularly white males—as oppressors. In principle, Critical Theory merits study. In practice, it is toxic because its disciples tend toward extremism and are prone to dictatorial conduct after their beliefs gain purchase among the cultural elite. Communism, for example, was repeatedly tried with disastrous outcomes including the deaths of tens-of-millions under tyrannical regimes.

Assistant Law Professor Brandon Hasbrouck is W&L’s most outspoken Critical Race Theory teacher. His “starting” recommendations to “reconcile” Washington & Lee for its racial offenses over the past 225 years are provided in his W&L Law Review article last year and include: 

  1. Removal of both namesakes. 
  2. Present faculty must confess to having “perpetuated racist thinking and policy making.” 
  3. Commitment to transform the student body from 3% black to at least 50% “of color” over the next nine years.
  4. Pledge to transform the racial constitution of the Board of Trustees, faculty, and administration to at least 50% “of color” over the next nine years. 
  5. Adopt Critical Race Theory and similar classes as requirements for all W&L students.
  6. Pay reparations to the “living descendants” of slaves once owned by the school.

Beyond his advice to W&L, Hasbrouck also recommends the federal government allot two votes to each black voter while restricting whites to a single vote. 

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Although Professor Hasbrouck’s recommendations seem excessive considering that slavery ended 155 years ago and affirmative action and Great Society programs have been operative for more than fifty years, they are similar to the viewpoints of leading Critical Race Theory practitioners. One example is Ibram Kendi of American University who wants to establish a new Federal Department of Anti-Racism (DOA) sanctioned to nullify, veto, or abolish any law. It could also censor the speech of anyone whose remarks are contrary to anti-racist dogma. The DOA would have no political appointees and instead be staffed by civil servant experts trained in anti-racism and empowered to investigate the applicable policies of private and public organizations. The new department would be unaccountable to voters or any branch of the federal government. In short, on racial matters it would be dictatorial and therefore more powerful than any other government branch.

CRT leaders argue that equality under the law is camouflage for white supremacy, patriarchy, and racial oppression. In 1993 pioneering advocate, Cheryl Harris, equated whiteness with property ownership. She recommended a suspension of private property rights so that land and wealth may be seized from the rich and redistributed along racial lines. Later advocates have attacked the principles of non-discrimination, colorblindness, individual rights, school integration, freedom of speech, and meritocracy. All may be sacrificed at the altar of outcome equality regardless of how it is achieved. 

According to the Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo, CRT would replace our system of equality with a system of so-called equity. Whereas equality seeks to protect individual rights regardless of race, equity seeks to divide the World into competing racial groups to guarantee race-based equality of outcomes, proactively using racial discrimination to achieve it. Finally, CRT disciples would abolish capitalism and replace it with collectivism. According to Kendi, for example, to be truly anti-racist, you must also be anti-capitalist.

CRT captured its power because it is a part of a coalition that includes feminists who imagine that women are dominated by a misogynist patriarchy. Like CRT adherents, feminists also reject equality of opportunity in favor of outcome equality. Yet women are often disproportionately represented in academic offices of “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” The applicable W&L website, for example, indicates that its “DEI” office is staffed by at least twice as many women as men.  Together with CRT advocates, feminists lead the intersectional coalition of so-called minorities that dominate the political left and have disproportionate cultural influence. 

As a result, the FBI has been holding workshops on Intersectionality. The Department of Homeland Security has been telling white employees they are committing microinequities and had been socialized into oppressor roles. White male employees of the nuclear weapons Sandia Laboratories were required to attend a three-day workshop where they were told they had created a white supremacy culture analogous to the KKK.

CRT intrusion in education is shocking. In Cupertino, California third graders were forced to “deconstruct” their sexual identities and then rank themselves in terms of power and privilege.  A Springfield, Missouri middle-school workshop for teachers told white, male, English-speaking, Christians that they were members of the oppressor class and must atone for their white supremacy. In Seattle the school district told white teachers they were guilty of “spirit murder” against black children.  

In sum, Critical Race Theory is not a movement that will blow over. It is deeply embedded in our educational and government institutions and rapidly gaining traction in Corporate America. Remaining silent will change nothing. It can only be checked if Americans gather the courage to oppose it. Like cowardice, however, courage is contagious.  Your voice matters, even if it is only in your little corner of the World.

Manipulating Statehood Admission for Votes

(June 14, 2021) After abandoning Southern blacks in 1877 the Republican Party lost its first postbellum presidential election eight years later in 1884 when Democrat Grover Cleveland beat Republican James G. Blaine by a popular vote margin of only half-a-percent.  Moreover, Cleveland would have lost the electoral college had he failed to win the popular vote in his home state of New York where his victory had only a tenth-of-a-percent margin. Since Cleveland was the first Democrat elected President in 28 years, Republicans were determined to deny him a second term in 1888 thereby restoring a long-term Republican dominance trend.  

The tariff, which was the chief source of federal tax revenue, was the major 1884 election issue. From an average 19% before the war, the postbellum rate on dutiable items averaged 44%. They caused the federal government to generate about 20% more revenue than it spent. Both parties wanted to reduce the budget surplus but differed concerning how. 

Democrats, particularly Southerners, argued that tariffs should be cut for two reasons. First, was to lower domestic consumer prices. Second, was to stimulate raw materials exports, such as cotton, to the Europe’s manufacturing economies. Lower tariffs would enable Europeans to increase their sales of manufactured goods to America thereby generating the exchange credits needed to buy our raw materials exports.    

Republicans did not want to cut tariffs since restrictive duties enabled protected Northern manufacturers to have domestic monopolies. They instead wanted to reduce the surplus by spending it selectively on their constituents. The result was the 1887 Dependent Pension Bill that increased the monthly stipends and generously expanded family member eligibility. It was an effective bribe for Union veterans to vote Republican. 

In 1888 Indiana and New York flipped into the GOP column after having voted for Cleveland in 1884. As a result, Republican Benjamin Harrison replaced Grover Cleveland as President. Significantly, however, Harrison lost the popular vote by about one percent. Thus, during the Harrison Administration Republicans anxiously sought ways to maximize chances that he would win reelection in 1892. 

Frist, they further liberalized Union veterans’ pensions, with the Dependent and Disability Pension Act signed by Harrison in 1890. They kept tariffs high by telling Union veterans that high tariffs were necessary in order to fund the soldiers’ pensions. Second, in 1889 and 1890 they admitted six new states from the Western Territories that had previously provided states that reliably voted Republican. The six new 1889-90 statehood admissions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho would provide twenty additional electoral votes. 

Although Republicans expected to win all twenty for Harrison in 1892, they only won fifteen because of a surprise Third Party candidate who took four of the twenty electoral votes. Nonetheless, Republican politicos reasoned correctly that the six new states would do little for Democrats. Although Cleveland beat Harrison and won a second non-consecutive term in 1892, he got only a single electoral vote from the six new states. Unfortunately for the South’s export economy, however, Cleveland was never able to successfully reduce tariffs. That would not happen until Southern-born Woodrow Wilson became President in 1913.  

In short, the nineteenth century anti-Southern Republican Party set an example for today’s Democrats as they try to solidify their control of the federal government by creating new states like Washington, D. C. The frightening point, however, is that today’s tyrannical Democrats may establish a long-term dynasty just as the Republicans did from Lincoln’s 1860 election to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Both Parties used, or are using, the same win-at-all-cost tactics. During the 1860 – 1932 period, Democrats were only able to elect two Presidents: Cleveland and Wilson. Cleveland’s tariff initiatives failed, and Wilson would not have been elected but for the rupture of the GOP between Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft in 1912.    The more I study postbellum politics, the more concern I have over America’s future.   

What is Critical Race Theory?

(June 12, 2021) Critical Race Theory (CRT) is presently the dominant branch of Critical Theory. The latter postulates that all nations are composed of two classes: oppressors and victims. Its roots lie in Karl Marx’s Communism, which designated capitalists as the oppressors and workers as the victims. The Frankfurt School of sociology refined Marx’s principles into Critical Theory during the 1920s. Their methodology was to identify the oppressed and the victim classes of a studied country with the presumption that the nation’s accomplishments were wholly derived from the exploitation of the former by the latter. 

For decades after the Frankfurt refinements the two classes were described in economic terms. After the rise of academic grievance studies such as Feminism and Black Studies, however, Critical Theory started including other classes demarcated by characteristics like skin color and sex. Consequently, when women and blacks are classified as victims the Critical Theory process of elimination leaves white males as the oppressors. For the so-called victims it is a self-serving Theory mutation because it releases all women and blacks from personal responsibility. 

While rejection of personal responsibility is bad-enough, the deadliest poison that Critical Gender Theory and Critical Race Theory pump into America is a justification to hate whites, and especially white males. That’s why a female, psychiatrist of color educated in CRT invited to speak at Yale’s Medical School two months ago shamelessly remarked:  

“The cost of talking to white people . . . is the cost of your own life as they suck you dry. There are no good apples out there. White people make my blood boil.”

“I’ve had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person . . . in my way . . . and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away guiltless. . . Like I did the world a damn favor.” 

Another popular CRT proponent, Ibram Kendi, astonishingly opines that judging a man by his character instead of his skin color is racist: “Imagining away the existence of races in a racist world is as . . . harmful as imagining away classes in a capitalistic world—it allows the ruling races and classes to keep on ruling.” He adds, more simply, “To love capitalism is to end up loving racism.” He frees blacks from personal responsibility by writing: “When you truly believe that the racial groups are equal, then you also believe that racial disparities must be the result of racial discrimination.” He thereby stunningly implies that the preponderance blacks among wealthy NBA players results from racism, not merit. In Kendi’s fantasy World, blacks have no responsibility for the high rate of fatherlessness in their communities.

Notwithstanding that America and his school would not exist without Robert E. Lee or George Washington, CRT proponent and W&L Law Professor Brandon Hasbrouck concludes, “Both Washington and Lee were perpetrators of racial terror and . . . should be removed from the University name.” Regarding Lee he adds, “A [W&L] financial model with Lee at the center is no longer feasible . . . in light of the current Black Lives Matter movement.” Concerning Washington, he defies common sense by writing, “Washington would have his [slaves] whipped for no reason at all . . .” And then contradicts himself by dubiously adding “such as walking on the lawn.” Finally, Hasbrouck labels his fellow faculty as white supremacists: “[I]nstitutional racism is created and sustained by such [institutional] actors [as Lee and Washington] . . . [T]o move forward . . . the [W&L] faculty must acknowledge its significant part in perpetuating white supremacy.”

Since CRT requires the American history student to identify victim and oppressor classes, her perspective is as limited as the architectural student who evaluates New York only by inspecting its sewers. If each new paper the history student writes to enlarge her understanding of American history remains captive to CRT, the result is as predictable as the architectural student who expands his study of urban style by visiting the sewers of Chicago. Only by putting his head above the street will he see the magnificent skylinesi in either city. By remaining in the underworld neither student will every understand why Americans who don’t limit their knowledge to the dark dominions are proud of their country. 

In principle there’s nothing wrong with teaching Critical Theory as a partial explanation for a nation’s accomplishments, but in practice it invites extreme distortions. First, the extremes don’t work. Communism, for example, has been repeatedly tried with disastrous outcomes including the deaths of millions under totalitarian regimes. Second, since it classifies everyone as either a victim or an oppressor, dissenters are presumed to be evil oppressors, not decent people with a different opinion. As the quotes provided earlier document, the dissenters-are-evil interpretation is especially pernicious in Critical Race Theory. It invites race war. Third, once Critical Theory controls a society it concentrates power within a small group of cultural elites who rule autocratically and censor nonconforming viewpoints. In short it creates the cancel culture.

Last Days of Washington and Lee University?

(June 10, 2021) Specifics about the recent decision to preserve the name of Washington & Lee University are so corrupted with calumny against the two historical icons that the decision might be a deceptive tactic to avoid losing donations and legacies from aged alumni.  After all, forty percent of W&L’s operating budget is provided by its endowment, mostly obtained from former graduates over a period of 150 years. 

First, and foremost, critics of Washington, and particularly Lee, fail to appreciate that the school would likely not exist without their contributions. In its day, Washington’s 1796 gift of James River Canal Company stock was one of the largest to any American educational institution. Later, when Lee arrived in 1865 the war-ravaged school had but forty students and four faculty. Upon his death five years later, it had four hundred students from many states and even a few foreign countries. The sweeping revisions of W&L’s traditions suggested by some administrators, faculty, and students should be dismissed because the ungrateful can never be satisfied.

Second, contrary to their claims, W&L’s administration has rejected good faith conversations with respectful alumni opposing their censorious viewpoint. During the past year they denied requests by venerable graduates holding history PhD’s to make video responses—in the same W&L-sponsored venue—to online speeches by historians biased against Lee. Moreover, the administration has not permitted anyone to provide a full-throated defense of Lee in that same forum. Instead, it has merely allowed only a tiny minority of ostensible defenses from discussion panel members so diluted with the zeitgeist of identity politics as to be spineless. 

Third, renaming the 153-year-old Lee Chapel as the University Chapel and stripping it of Lee mementos is downright wicked. Completed in 1868 three years after Lee arrived, it was one of the first new structures he requested. Although he desired students to attend, he abolished compulsory chapel two years before the new structure was finished. The decision reflected his maxim: “You should not force young men to do their duty but let them do it voluntarily and thereby develop their characters.” Characteristically, therefore, he encouraged attendance by example, regularly sitting in the second pew by the North wall. 

That maxim, and his lead-by-example conduct, were foundational to the school’s emerging student-administered honor system. That’s why freshmen traditionally took the honor code pledge in Lee Chapel. Abandoning that tradition will weaken code compliance by breaking the connection to previous generations of students. Without that connection they are like leaves without a branch. Nobody can tell where the winds of the future will blow them. Lacking respect for the honor code, W&L will provide graduates capable of rationalizing any misconduct.

Fourth, the repudiation of “Confederate nostalgia” is a vague gesture that disparages the long line of ex-Confederate alumni and their descendants that never failed to support the school. Given their donations W&L progressed to become one of the nation’s most respected liberal arts colleges. Condemnation of the donors ignores the wisdom of W&L Glasgow Endowment Lecturer and Texas novelist, William Humphrey, who wrote concerning Civil War Memory, “It is with kin, not causes, that the Southerner is linked.” 

In contrast, the Board’s repudiation of racism is both superfluous and contradictory. The number of white supremacists among W&L alumni could not fill a rowboat. The presently obvious racism, however, is a fantasy termed Critical Race Theory (CRT), which imagines that America’s accomplishments are wholly derived from the exploitation of blacks and other minorities. That’s a stretch requiring a bungee cord. As late as 1940 half of the South’s sharecroppers were white and they lived under economic conditions nearly identical to black croppers. The wagon wheel ruts of white settlers on the Oregon Trail are still discernable to anyone who cares to see them. CRT is the racism of the age. It warrants unqualified and immediate repudiation at W&L.  

Finally, the removal of the Lee and Washington portraits from W&L diplomas is impudent. Our country would not exist without Washington and (as noted) the school would likely have failed without Lee and his devotees. It is a virtue-signaling tactic among those who wish to honor themselves by confessing to the shame of racism and slavery . . . and it is completely fake.

Real shame is emotionally one of the most painful experiences we can have. It is soul destroying and even the stuff of suicide. The actual experience of the mea culpas by virtue-signaling whites is not one of shame.  It is really the opposite of shame. It is display. It is preening. It is an act of separating themselves from supposedly unaware whites. By embracing an ostensible shame, the self-flagellating whites are showing how superior they are compared to the rest of us. In their minds, each has transformed himself into a kind of honorary black person. Therefore, they reason, the guilt does not attach to them but only to other whites.

In conclusion, there was a time when a lunatic fringe convinced a great majority of Americans to outlaw alcoholic beverages. It did not last. At another time an ungrateful minority spread a madness that endorsed a practice of greeting our returning Vietnam veterans with disdain. That also did not last. As Ralph Inge once warned, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

Phony Northern Indignation Over Secession

(June 3, 2021) During December 1860 and January 1861 when the seven pre-Sumter cotton states were seceding, at least ten Northern states passed joint legislative resolutions explaining their objections to secession. (Those reactions are summarized in my “Northern Response to Southern Secession” post at Civilwarchat.wordpress.com dated September 22, 2019.) None of the ten stated any desire to end Southern slavery. Instead, they mostly fulminated against secession, angrily labeling secessionists as traitors. The most concrete reason they commonly provided for wanting to preserve the Union was to sustain American prosperity. They perceived, for a variety of reasons, that their own prosperity depended upon maintenance of the Union. Thus, they undeniably saw disunion as a threat to their own economic future. 

In truth, secession was a remedy that geographically isolated political minorities repeatedly considered from 1789 to 1861. As a result, it tended to find favor within those regions that were out-of-power in Washington. In 1804, for example, Massachusetts threatened to secede over the Louisiana Purchase. The Bay State legislature adopted a resolution stating that the annexation “formed a new Confederacy, to which the states united by the former are not bound to adhere.”

Thirty-five years later in 1839 ex-President John Quincy Adams made a speech in which he said: “If the day should ever come . . . when the affections of the people of these [United] States shall be alienated from each other . . .  far better will it be for the people of the disunited states to part in friendship . . . than to be held by constraint.” Three years later in 1842 he presented a petition to Congress from a Massachusetts town requesting that the Union be dissolved. In response to criticisms of the petition, Adams said: “I hold that it is no perjury, no high treason, but the exercise of a sacred right to offer such a petition.” Opponents attempted to censure the ex-President, but their motion was tabled after two weeks of Adams’ spirited arguments in support of the secession petition.  

Two years later in 1844 the Massachusetts legislature passed a series of resolutions threatening to secede over Texas annexation. The second resolution read, “That the project of the annexation of Texas, unless arrested on the threshold, may drive these [United] States into a dissolution of the Union.”  A year later in 1845 the Massachusetts legislature resolved that the state “has never delegated the power to admit into the Union, states or territories beyond the original states and territories belonging to the Union at the adoption of the Constitution.”

Even during the 1860-61 secession crisis, many Northern newspapers and political leaders recommended acquiescence to Southern secession. The day after Lincoln’s election was assured on November 8, 1860, Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune wrote, “If the cotton states become satisfied that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in peace.”  Greeley continued to opine in this manner even after the cotton states formed a Confederacy in February 1861.  On February 23, 1861, he wrote, “We have repeatedly said, and once more insist . . .  that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed . . .  and that if the slave states . . . choose to form an independent nation they have a clear moral right to do so.”