All decent Americans stand against racism. But if we’re to live as brothers, we must stop indicting all those who share a skin tone for the sins of others.
By Joshua Lawson JUNE 4, 2020
I was nowhere near the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street when George Floyd tragically lost his life. I wasn’t in Minnesota. I was more than 500 miles away. With the exception of the officers at that heartbreaking scene, there are more than 329 million additional Americans who had no part in that terrible evening.
So why are so many people acting as if it were their knee, not Derek Chauvin’s, that pressed down on George Floyd? The answer lies in the concerted effort of radical leftists and their unwitting accomplices to normalize the collectivization of guilt.
The Great Guilting
It’s nothing entirely new. In 1980, Howard Zinn and his Marxist, ahistorical, and repugnant textbook “A Peoples History of the United States” began mainstreaming the idea that Caucasians bore collective guilt for all of America’s past sins. By securing the blessings of the academic intelligentsia, he had support in the most valuable places.
Thankfully, Zinn didn’t have modern-day social media at his disposal. One shudders to think how wide Zinn’s reach could have been with a few million followers on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. But if you’ve looked around the social media landscape recently, you’ve witnessed the unleashing of a radical movement beyond his wildest dreams.
Leftist influencers have convinced millions of Americans that the only way they will be allowed in polite society, the only way they will be perceived as decent is if they accept culpability for Floyd’s death and the “systemically racist society” they apparently helped create.
The radical left demands Caucasians apologize for their “privilege.” They must read, internalize, and publicly praise books on approved reading lists in order to come to grips with their “unconscious” and deep-seated racism. They must shop at black-owned businesses on sites like WeBuyBlack.com, theblackwallet.com, and shoppeblack.us as further proof of their solidarity. But is there much doubt that if the color was changed from “black” to “white,” that the Southern Poverty Law Center wouldn’t label these sites sources of hate?
On June 2, Instagram was flooded with people posting pictures of black boxes in support of Black Lives Matter activists. Quickly, however, an ever-growing list of “suggestions” muddled the “rules” of who should post and in what manner was pleasing to the Blackout Tuesday folks. Actress and feminist activist Emma Watson was attacked on Twitter for both posting the boxes and for taking so long. You can’t win.
Branded for the Sins of Others
It is always good to remind people not to be racist—though it is doubtful just how much reminding is needed between the legacy media, television, and movies all constantly promoting that message.
What’s sad is that so many good, utterly non-racist Americans feel if they don’t go through the “approved” steps they’ll be roped together with actual white supremacists.
It would be ridiculous and unjust to blame a 20-year-old Russian for the heinous atrocities committed by Joseph Stalin more than 70 years ago. It would still be unjust to blame a 90-year-old woman who lived in the Soviet Union while Stalin was alive for the millions who died under his tyrannical rule.
According to crime statistics compiled by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, 2,925 black Americans were murdered in 2018. The details show that 88 percent of the perpetrators of these homicides were black themselves. Yet no logical, honest person would blame all black Americans for these deaths. To do so would throw blood onto innocent hands. The radical left, however, has been attempting this sort of collectivization of guilt with renewed vigor ever since the New York Times published its first “1619 Project” essays in August 2019.
A Natural Extension of the 1619 Project
The 1619 Project isn’t about making you feel contempt and anger for those who brought the first black slaves from Africa to Virginia four centuries ago. It’s about making all Caucasians and all Westerners feel as if they piloted the slave ships themselves. Its main thesis—and heinous lie—is that America is an irredeemably vile nation, conceived in sin.
In a disturbing example of the confluence of the 1619 Project and modern corporate guilt-tripping, Ben & Jerry’s issued a statement that reads like an updated version of the radical Port Huron manifesto—only it’s angrier and more incendiary. What does an ice cream company have to do with any of this? You’re not allowed to ask. Sit down and take your medicine.
“The murder of George Floyd,” the dairy brothers proclaim, “was the result of inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy. What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning.”
Then, to prove their outrage bona fides, they go for the gold and tag 1619 for the finisher: “What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is the fruit borne of toxic seeds planted on the shores of our country in Jamestown in 1619, when the first enslaved men and women arrived on this continent.”
The statement closes by calling on “white America” to “collectively acknowledge its privilege” and “take responsibility for its past.”
Of the host of problems with the screed published by Ben & Jerry’s is that even if it were legitimate for Americans to “take responsibility” for all of the nation’s past sins, not only is it functionally impossible to do so, but radical leftists aren’t interested. That’s not the point. The point is to keep the anger machine firing on all cylinders. That’s the only way they get the permanent revolution they’re after.
Unlike the sin that man commits to his fellow man, for the authors of the 1619 Project, there is no hope for forgiveness, no chance for reconciliation, no way to atone.
If, as the 1619 advocates claim, the seeds are toxic and the tree is poisonous, then the only thing left to do is burn it all down. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the author of the lead 1619 essay, recently told CBS News, “Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.” While all Americans are indeed created equal, Pulitzer Prizes are clearly not.
Rebuilding Brotherhood—One Brother at a Time
Americans want to stand with those peacefully protesting injustice. But the radical Left offers either the choice of self-condemnation for evils Americans had no hand in, or to be silent and stay that way. If the second option is chosen, that very silence is viewed as an indictment of “complicity” often seen by the Left as akin to violence itself. Ultimately, that’s no choice at all.
It now appears that Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin will be charged with second-degree murder. Justice will be served, and Chauvin will be tried by a judge and jury of his peers. If the court finds him guilty, the penalty—40 years in prison—will be harsh but fair.
It is horrible, it is sad, and it is tragic, but George Floyd will not be the last man to die at the hands of law enforcement. The next time a life is lost to an abuse of police power, it must be denounced once again, and the perpetrators subjected to our civilized courts of trial, deliberation, and justice. But we need to start finally viewing each other as individuals responsible for our actions, and our actions alone.
Every day, we each commit personal acts of vice, virtue, and all shades in between. As individual men and women, we bear the guilt and reap the penalties for our own sins and crimes. As individual men and women, we earn praise for righteous behavior.
This nation isn’t just built on freedom and equality. Central to the American experience is the chance for a new life, and with it, redemption. If we surrender that, we’ll be left with far too much anger and hatred. And we won’t like what follows.
Joshua Lawson is managing editor of The Federalist. He is a graduate of Queen’s University as well as the Van Andel School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College where he received a master’s degree in American politics and political philosophy. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaMLawson.
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