For the last four years, I’ve been unable to settle to my own satisfaction the question of what poses the greater internal threat to the United States: the Presidency of Donald Trump, or the growing influence of Critical Social Justice Theory (CSJT). However, with Biden’s win now confirmed, my dilemma is resolved: with Trump on the way out, the threat he posed will soon disappear (or at least diminish considerably); with Biden on his way in, the threat posed by CSJT will become the greatest internal threat to American democracy.
As James Lindsay has recently noted, despite his official stance as a moderate Democrat, Biden has proven himself willing to pander to the radical left. The most disturbing indication of this, to my mind, is his having singled-out the eradication of so-called “systemic racism” as a central priority of his presidency. This suggests that he himself accepts some dimensions of the CSJT framework, which demands that we explain every disparity with a pronounced racial dimension as a manifestation of “systemic racism.” Biden’s hot-take on the Capitol protest-turned-riot/insurgency of this past Wednesday reveals just how far this has become the lens through which Biden himself sees the world. Taking a cue from his college-aged granddaughter, Biden insinuated that the differences in law-enforcement response between the BLM protests of last June and Wednesday’s pro-Trump criminality were due to “systemic racism,” saying:
No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true…
But do we?
Biden’s comment was prompted in part by a photo showing members of the National Guard lining the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during June’s BLM protests in a militaristic show of force. This is significant, because multiple news sources reported shortly after the event that the Capitol Police, who have jurisdiction at the Capitol building, refused offers of assistance from the National Guard in days prior to Jan. 6, in part because they had taken heed of criticisms leveled at law enforcement during the BLM protests and did not want to be subject to the same criticisms – in other words, they decided to enact exactly the kinds of changes in their approach to policing that the BLM protesters wanted. Suppose for a moment that this is part of the truth – the part that most directly explains why there was no show of force on par with what we saw in June. Where’s the racism in that?
Suppose that it had been BLM protestors at the Capitol yesterday, and that authorities had exactly the same level of advance warning that they, rather than a pro-Trump mob, would be there. Would the Capitol Police have reversed course and planned to have the National Guard present? If we accept that they were driven to take a different approach by a desire to avoid the mistakes and criticisms that accompanied the June BLM protests, the reasonable inference is that they would not have done anything differently.
In fact, this is just one of a host of differences between the June and January events which stand as confounding variables to the inference that the different responses were due to race-related differences in the two causes and the two crowds supporting them. To name just a few obvious differences beyond black vs. white, it was reasonable to suppose, in advance of violence breaking out in either case, that BLM protesters are predominantly politically left, anti-Trump, and have a negative view of law-enforcement, while Wednesday’s group was politically right, pro-Trump, and pro law-enforcement. Suppose the fact that conservatives are characteristically more committed to law and order, and to upholding our traditions and institutions, lulled the Capitol Police into a false sense of security. Or suppose the fact that Wednesday’s group was a pro-Trump crowd explains why Trump refused emergency requests to send in the National Guard after violence erupted. Where’s the racism in either of these scenarios?
Of course, many will reject such explanations for the difference in approach. But why? Until more is known, shouldn’t we give the Capitol Police the benefit of the doubt? Shouldn’t we accept people’s explanations for their actions unless we have strong reason to doubt that their explanations are true? Shouldn’t we consider all reasonable explanations before concluding that racism is the real explanation? Not according to CSJT, which teaches people to assume and dogmatically defend race- or other oppressed-class-based explanations while dismissing alternative explanations as oppressive power-plays by those invested in the very systems of oppression that CSJT assumes both to exist, and to be the fundamental realties in which we live and move and have our being.
When Biden’s granddaughter texted him “a little over an hour and a half after the chaos started,” on Wednesday, she said of the differential response to the rioters “Pop, This isn’t fair.” In fact, what isn’t fair is cynically assuming the worst about people when there are reasonable alternative interpretations readily available. This is exactly what those “cynical theories” of the CSJ family teach people to do, and it is exactly what Biden did in automatically construing this as a manifestation of “systemic racism.”