The End of Racism
Dinesh D’Souza’s The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society is a tour de force on the race question in the United States. Controversial from the moment of publication, the book earned high praise from leading conservative acolytes as well as a cold reception from some liberals and attacks from two prominent African American conservatives.
D’Souza argues that the major premise of racial analysis, and thus of racism itself, is mistaken. Differences in the performance of blacks, whites, and Asians are not best explained by biological (genetic) variation but by cultural characteristics. Specifically, the failure of the black underclass stems from its cultural pathologies, not from racism, which is past as a systemic feature of American society. Black pathologies result in significant measure from unintended consequences of certain Great Society interventions in the life of the poor, which have helped destroy the black family by fostering a climate of dependence on the state, making paternal responsibility unattractive, and rewarding maternal irresponsibility.
Government action has also become counterproductive in another way. It destroys the fundamental principles of liberalism by undermining the idea of individual rights (as opposed to group rights) and the equal protection of the laws (as opposed to racial preferences). Disastrous policies should be abolished and their false hope replaced by united efforts among blacks to effect a rebirth of their community, supported and encouraged but not directed by the larger society. At this point, racism will die a natural death.
D’Souza believes that the current U.S. system of widespread preferential policies, which he terms “proportional representation,” in employment, college admissions, and other areas, is premised on the notion of the equality of cultures, or cultural relativism. Yet this relativism is incompatible with liberal democracy, which has certain requirements, such as separation of church and state (incompatible with the theocratic premises of Islam) and the rule of law and equal protection of the laws (incompatible with many traditional cultures). Behaviors, such as violent crime, that are destructive of liberal democracy cannot be excused on relativist grounds.
D’Souza also attacks the “proportional representational” premise of preferential policies, that when blacks (or other minorities) are not represented in employment, college admissions, or contract awards in proportion to their numbers in relevant communities, the reason is presumptive racial bias. Building on the work of economist Thomas Sowell, D’Souza argues that there is no reason to make this supposition, since racial and ethnic groups are never represented proportionally in numerous instances in which racial bias cannot be a factor.
Though liberals’ analysis of the causes and consequences of racism is mistaken, says D’Souza, they are blinded by relativism, cannot acknowledge the pathologies of the black underclass for what they are, and appear unwilling to hold blacks to the same standards of responsibility that apply to everyone else. In D’Souza’s view, the liberal application of relativism (and paternalism) has proved destructive of the most elemental preconditions of a decent life among the underclass. Moreover, the educational ideology of “multiculturalism,” founded on relativism and created to counter “Eurocentrism” and “institutional racism,” is intellectually bankrupt. The result is what D’Souza calls a “civilizational crisis.”
To sustain these conclusions, D’Souza develops a number of subordinate theses. First, racism is a Western idea that postdates 1500 c.e., but it did not originate in ignorance and fear, as is often maintained, but as a rational and scientific attempt to explain differences in civilizations that could not be accounted for by environment.
Second, slavery was not inaugurated or sustained as a racist institution. Chinese, Indians, Arabs, and sub-Saharan Africans, among others, practiced slavery without regard to race; nothing is intrinsically racist about slavery. Nor was slavery in America necessarily racist, since some American Indians and even blacks practiced it.
Third, civil rights activists of the 1990’s reject the idea of a color-blind society because blacks have not obtained equality of result. Their expectation of such equality does not take account of the black “cultural deficiencies” that “inhibited black competitiveness.” The assumption that white racism is the cause of inequality is false.
Fourth, charges of racism have multiplied despite an actual decline in racism because the civil rights establishment has a vested interest in repeating its charges: to extort money from guilt-ridden whites to finance its organizations. Without constant accusations of ubiquitous racism, civil rights activists and bureaucrats would be unemployed.
Fifth, the black middle class prospers and the underclass suffers because when motivated and skilled blacks leave the...
(The entire section is 2084 words.)