Klavan On The Culture

The Racist Maze

The Racist Maze
Marcus Mulberry, of Steelton, marches with others down Third Street during a Baltimore solidarity rally, Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Harrisburg, Pa. (James Robinson/PennLive.com via AP)

White men invented nearly everything from the very concept of science to the internet.

White men held black people as slaves.

From Michelangelo to Mozart to Shakespeare, white men have created the greatest art, music, and literature on earth.

From Australia to the Americas, white men conquered and slaughtered native peoples.

From Greek democracy to Magna Carta to the Constitution, white men fashioned the ideas that led mankind to freedom.

Wherever they go, white men are guilty of imperialism, bigotry, and genocide.

All these statements, of course, are crap. Not just crap but pure crap, a level of crap that captures the very essence of crapiositude. They aren’t crap because of the tiresome arguments and rationalizations that can be marshaled to disprove or modify one or another of them. Their crappiness is far more craptastic than that. They are a crap unity. They are each the crap reflection of their crap opposite, and all a portion of a single central substance, which is crap.

They are crap because they rest on a concept of humanity that would be merely absurd if it weren’t also morally disgusting. Once you embrace that concept — whether in the form of Black Lives Matter or white supremacy, whether in a theory like intersectionality or a credo like the “fourteen words,” whether in racial pseudoscience or social pseudo-justice  — once you embrace the concept in any way at all, you have entered the racist maze.

It’s a fearsome maze, a satanic trap with hell at the center of it. Everyone is welcome and all kinds of people are there: left, right, black, white, religious, atheist, well-intentioned and just plain bad — all of them telling themselves they’ve found the right corridor, the one true path to the way out. Except there is no way out, only down, because the maze halls are built out of the concept that got you there in the first place. The more you think it through, the more halls you build and the deeper you go.

What is the concept that builds the racist maze? The concept is this: man is matter. A human being is flesh and blood, chemicals and electricity, an illusionary self in a machine of no more essential worth than the machines it will one day build to replace it. Is the machine defective? Abort it. Is it sad? Drug it. Is it old and sick? Kill it. Does it utter noises that offend you? Silence it. And has it done something of universal harm or value? Ah, well, then, attribute that crime or accomplishment to something mechanical, something that can be measured and tested and quantified: skin color, brain power, genes. After all, man is matter. What other sort of thing could be the cause?

It makes perfect sense to me that we end this week of hatred and murder by arguing over statues. In the racist maze, we’re all statues, just stuff in the shape of people.

Except of course — of course — we’re not. We’re spirits. We’re minds. It’s our ideas and our decisions that make us what we are, that make our neighborhoods and countries and credos what they are. Like everything on this earthly plane, our ideas and our decisions are instantiated in matter, in individuals who live in certain places at certain times. But the essence of those ideas and decisions, the goodness or badness of them, has nothing to do with who made them or when and where they arose. The vast complex interaction of forces and accidents and events and culture and history that cause a person to think or do a good thing here rather than there is way beyond our ability to understand. In fact, for all we know, forces, accidents, events, culture and history aren’t the causes at all. For all we know, each advance of human decency and wisdom is simply a gift to an individual from his Creator: a gift that he can then pass on to anyone willing to break free of his traditions and tribal loyalties and accept it.

How do we know what the good gifts are? By the whiteness or blackness of the giver? By his privilege or his victimhood? By his nation or gender or his sexuality? Do you really think so?

I don’t. I think that, because we are spirits, we know the good gifts by the fact that they contribute to our store of truth and beauty and love — truth and beauty and love, three things that are all, it turns out, one thing, the same thing — one living Being in whose image we are each of us fearfully and wonderfully made — and in whose footsteps alone we can walk away from the racist maze.