CNN’s S.E. Cupp on Sunday reckoned it’s time for Americans to “pick a knee,” declaring which side of the latest culture war they’re on. “The one that knelt on the neck or the one that knelt to try to prevent it.”
In other words, you’re a racist operating to oppress black people, or you’re a repentant sinner bowing to collective groupthink to seek desperate exoneration for the inherent crime of being white.
Cupp’s binary choice is emblematic of the kind of thinking that has long existed within fringe, left-wing movements but has now permeated throughout mainstream American institutions, on full display in the cultural civil war following the outbreak of domestic terrorism sweeping the nation.
Battle lines are clearly being drawn. No justice, no peace. Silence is violence. You’re either with us or against us, there is no middle ground. Which side of history are you on?
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t be. We can acknowledge racial disparities, such as gaps in economic status, and work to improve them without resorting to binary branding of opponents as racist, which further polarizes our discourse. Counter to the newly emerging narrative characterizing anyone on the right as racist, most Americans, save for a few extremists roundly condemned by all sides, find police brutality horrific and share no stomach for racism.
As National Review’s David Harsanyi explains, there is a strong conservative case for social justice with policy solutions that have bipartisan support. We can ban qualified immunity, close the drug war, eliminate mandatory minimums, expand opportunity zones, and crack down on police and teachers’ unions protecting bad actors. All can be accomplished without hating our country.
Instead, extremism has infected those running our nation’s leading institutions. These left-wing campuses now teach that the United States is an irredeemably racist empire built for the sole purpose of oppressing black people. This rewrite of American history leads the next generation to conclude that every establishment in existence is run by white supremacists, and white Americans therefore must repent for past generations’ sins in a religious moment.
Columbia University Professor John McWhorter aptly describes the current moment as “anti-racism as a religion,” writing in 2018:
Third-wave antiracism is a profoundly religious movement in everything but terminology. The idea that whites are permanently stained by their white privilege, gaining moral absolution only by eternally attesting to it, is the third wave’s version of original sin. The idea of a someday when America will “come to terms with race” is as vaguely specified a guidepost as Judgment Day. Explorations as to whether an opinion is “problematic” are equivalent to explorations of that which may be blasphemous. The social mauling of the person with “problematic” thoughts parallels the excommunication of the heretic.
This false binary has now plunged the nation into a full-fledged cultural civil war that had been simmering for years. These deep divides over race, awakened by the death of George Floyd, threaten to erase what is left of American civility, which was already saturated with contempt.
All over social media, users are declaring they’ve lost friends and followers for their views on today’s ongoing unrest while many blatantly post that they’re proud of it, challenging anyone who disagrees with them, not to engage in discussion but instead to get off the platforms altogether. If anyone thought 2016 was a bad year for discourse — it was — 2020 has already shown to be far worse.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll four years ago, 15 percent, or one in six Americans, reported they had stopped talking to a close friend or family member over the result of the 2016 election. If today’s polarizing environment indicates anything, that number will likely be far higher this November.
The mob’s thought police are also out in full force. Just this week, an opinion editor at the nation’s preeminent legacy paper, The New York Times, was forced out by colleagues for publishing a well-reasoned op-ed by a sitting U.S. senator and combat veteran. The paper apologized for its apparent recklessness in the process despite its past publication of Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust and, more recently, Russian President Vladamir Putin and the Taliban.
HBO also announced Tuesday it would rip the 1939 classic “Gone with the Wind” from its library because it’s racist. Never mind that Hattie McDaniel was the first black actress to capture an Academy Award for her role in the film. This week, NPR also called on people to “decolonize” their patriotic bookshelves, replacing the books with literature deemed acceptable by woke leaders.
“Racist” is perhaps one of the worst names anyone could call someone in America, but now it’s thrown around to characterize anyone who doesn’t buy into the Black Lives Matter agenda to “defund the police” — and the exhaustively woke mainstream establishment has legitimized that usage.
There’s no room for dissent.