Montgomery, Alabama (CNN) — One of my first thoughts when I arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, and encountered the spring heat was this: How did enslaved men, women and children endure day after day?
The exotically forenamed Nia-Malika Henderson is a senior political reporter for CNN who, according to her by-line, “reports on the politics, policies and people shaping Washington with a focus on identity politics.” Just wondering, would a reporter so named be pursuing anything other than identity politics? “Identity politics” has become a euphemism for an ideology whose central premise makes racism the defining feature of both historical and contemporary America and holds white Americans morally culpable for the all of the social and economic disparities that mark black-white race relations. White privilege and whiteness have become the twenty-first century’s scarlet letter with rituals of contrition and petitions for forgiveness as basic requirements for sustaining social and professional respectability.
Ms. Henderson recently wrote a piece for CNN about her visit to Montgomery, Alabama where she experienced The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration that opened on April 26th. She reports that “The memorial captures the brutality and the scale of lynchings throughout the South, where more than 4,000 black men, women and children, died at the hands of white mobs between 1877 and 1950. Most were in response to perceived infractions—walking behind a white woman, attempting to quit a job, reporting a crime or organizing sharecroppers.”
Some curious folks out there might pause and puzzle over just how much “peace” and “justice” will come out of this sort of a museum. But whatever skepticism or misgiving someone might entertain should quickly dissipate with the realization that “memorial” and “museum” are not quite the right words to describe what the creators of this project have in mind. Here is what a visitor will be in for.
From the website: “The memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.”
You need to read this slowly, pause and consider carefully what is going on and why it should make you very nervous and deeply suspicious, particularly, “Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror…” Whoa! Cultural Revolution, China, anyone? So, the old “white supremacy” monuments are being torn down at a dizzying pace, and now up goes a memorial-museum where the curators promise (threaten?) at some indefinite future time to come to your county of residence and determine whether you and your neighbors have “confronted the truth,” i.e., whether you constantly ruminate about how terribly, both in the past (enslavement) and present (mass incarceration), white people treat non-white people. What exactly will that confrontation involve and what will happen to you if your efforts to respond to the confrontation are deemed unsuccessful? Certified attendance at MLK prayer breakfasts will not be sufficient. It sounds like the “peace and justice” envisioned will be something like the fate of white farmers in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe or, closer to home, the experience of the property owners in Ferguson, Missouri staring at their burned-out ruins when the rioting mobs were done.
Somehow, the contemplation and understanding of history (what memorials and museums are supposed to be all about) do not seem to be what visitors to this site are supposed to come away with, and what exactly will the “reconciliation” look like? The objective is the stimulation of anger and bitterness on the part of black Americans; guilt and submission on the part of whites. This is another step up to the complete racializing of American politics which is increasingly marked by a systematic campaign of recrimination, resentment and hostility directed at middle class white Americans with the purpose of leveraging collective guilt through historical grievances and exerting collective retribution against people who had no part in it.
From the Legacy Museum website: “Why build a memorial to victims of racial terror? EJI [Equal Justice Initiative, the 501c3 non-for-profit sponsor] believes that publicly confronting the truth about our history is the first step towards recovery and reconciliation. A history of racial injustice must be acknowledged, and mass atrocities and abuse must be recognized and remembered, before a society can recover from mass violence. Public commemoration plays a significant role in prompting community-wide reconciliation.”
Whoever wrote this must live in an alternate universe. In contemporary America reminders of its “history of racial injustice” are relentless and ubiquitous. The main-stream media is obsessed with it. Pop-culture and the entertainment industry cannot get enough (“Black Panther,” anyone, The “Color of Water” or “Hidden Figures” just in the last year or so). Sports? Try watching ESPN or NFL football to attempt to escape the “national conversation on race” the professional scolds running our institutions keep telling us we have to have. Look at the content of public school curricula or the subject matter of social science and humanities courses at most universities and the reverence and sensitivity required whenever the “civil rights movement” is mentioned. Recall then-President Obama’s rumination that “racism is in our DNA.” Consider the single most memorable line coming out of the 2016 American Presidential campaign from Hillary Clinton. “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it.” So, this business of “publically confronting the truth about our history” is actually going on at a breakneck pace with truth as the biggest casualty.
The orthodoxy of pervasive, systemic, institutional racism as the defining feature of American society is well defined and ruthlessly enforced by the most powerful forces that shape our culture. As it is with all firmly entrenched orthodoxies, punishment falls heavily on any and all transgressors. Nothing outside the boundaries of orthodoxy can be countenanced as the truth. Religious orthodoxy bans transgression as heresy; communist orthodoxy banned it as false consciousness and counter-revolutionary thinking; identity politics orthodoxy dismisses it simply as “hate.” Recently Mark Zuckerberg in an appearance at a Congressional hearing seemed genuinely flummoxed when asked by Senator Ben Sasse to define “hate speech.” One gathers from his dumbstruck look that he thought that the answer was just too obvious. How could anyone as bright as Sasse even raise it as a serious question? Hate speech is whatever would stimulate the disapproval of the feminists, black studies professors and sociologists who populate the faculties of our prestigious universities or would upset the diversity commissars who manage sensitivity training sessions and enforce speech codes at the corporations.
Consider the fate of Amy Wax, a senior law professor when she strayed outside of what are normally the tightly secured boundaries of identity politics orthodoxy at the University of Pennsylvania. Together with her colleague Larry Alexander, she published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer that among other things said:
“America’s less progressive culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”
One might be tempted to think that not following this script might have something to do with the current “mass incarceration” of black males which is one of the grievances of EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice. But Professor Wax’s suggestion that something other than racism has had a bearing on this ongoing catastrophe was clearly a transgression of major proportions. This along with some of her other violations of the PC code has aroused the fury of students and colleague faculty members at Penn and she is now a persona non-grata, pulled by her dean from teaching first year law courses and routinely pilloried by the illuminati in the local and national media outlets. Only tenure has saved her from a complete professional decommission, termination and expulsion from the university.
The rage and condemnation cascading down on Professor Wax is completely understandable and instructive. She is not some unemployed West Virginia coal miner who supported Donald Trump, or your run of the mill bigoted Republican politician from fly-over country. She is a brilliant, full Professor at an Ivy League university with a record of teaching excellence who possesses a medical degree from Harvard in addition to her law degree and who also happens to be Jewish. Which make her the ultimate insider, a member of an elite club that prides itself on its progressive politics and its unconditional embrace of the ideology of victimhood. As a high-status member, you do not step out of this pristine, prestigious tent, turn around and piss back in. The keepers of the tent are all about making sure an insider, especially one with her stature, is punished to the max for violating the code. Otherwise, someone on the outside might begin to suspect that the members of the club are not quite as virtuous or perspicacious as they pretend to be.
But let us return for a moment to the alternate universe of the EJI and the truth we are supposed to confront. “EJI believes that publicly confronting the truth about our history is the first step towards recovery and reconciliation…” The “first step”? Really? Apparently the last 50 years or so of race relations in American society have gone down the memory hole for these earnest EJI reconciliation specialists. Much can be said on this topic, but consider just a few highlights that might be considered as “first steps” and beyond: the 1964 Civil Rights Act; the creation of EEOC; Affirmative Action; Section 8 of the Housing Act; Minority Contract Set-Aside Program; University of California v. Bakke (1978) decision; Oprah; the official beatification of Martin Luther King Jr.; two black American Presidents (Bill Clinton, honorary per Toni Morrison), two black Secretaries of State, two black Attorney Generals; black domination in national athletics and prominence in the entertainment and music industries. One can go on and on, but this should be sufficient to demonstrate that it would highly delusional to believe that “community wide reconciliation” is where any of us are heading.
I wish the best for the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum and hope my county of residence will be ready for the coming confrontation. In order, however, to advance their efforts at “publicly confronting the truth about our history” now that O.J. Simpson will soon be walking freely among us, let me suggest that another memorial should be erected close by: The Nichole Simpson Brown--Ron Goldman National Memorial. It would be dedicated to victims of racially motivated miscarriages of justice. It could be set up as a site of interactive learning with Johnny Cochrane impersonators doing seminars on race pandering and jury nullification. It could also feature galleries with photos of the bloodstained crime scene, OJ trying on the gloves, video clips of the OJ white Bronco-Police caravan, the circus courtroom antics and best of all, the wildly jubilant black response to the announcement of the jury’s not-guilty verdict. "Who cares if he did it? The white bitch and her Jew boyfriend had it coming", I think, was the message the jurors were sending. (For the record: no white rioting followed this grotesque perversion of justice.) This memorial, however, would eschew the “peace and justice,” and “reconciliation and recovery” crapola that the EJI folks use to disguise their own project of grievance mongering and racial animosity to sound like anything other than what it is, casus belli.