Viewed as a whole, American history is not systematically racist, but systematically anti-racist. Even though, at the beginning, half the nation practiced human bondage, the authors of the Declaration of Independence put themselves on record confessing that all men are created equal. By doing so they knowingly set up a standard by which they would be judged for all time to come.

Lincoln appealed to the Declaration in opposing slavery; Martin Luther King appealed to it in opposing segregation; and the country has worked hard over the years to convert its principle from an aspiration to a lived reality. This purpose met strong resistance, right up to a civil war, but the line of development is clear.

On the other hand, if we consider not American history as a whole, but specific institutions, we still do find many laws, attitudes, and policies that have been promoted either with the intention of holding poor people and non-white people down, or with complacency about the fact that they do, in fact, hold them down.

Exhibit A: Pro-poverty programs, misleading called anti-poverty programs. These devilish traps methodically incentivize not only becoming but also remaining dependent on the government, which is merely poverty of a different kind. The resulting culture of multi-generational dependency is so overwhelmingly documented that there is no plausible motive for continuing such programs in anything like their present form, except, perhaps, to produce a tier of wholly-owned clients for the political party that embraces them. The mentality that drives the policy is not charitable, but feudal.

Exhibit B: Aggressive promotion of abortion and other anti-natal practices in non-white communities. It is hard to see how it helps poor and non-white families to kill their infants, is it not? Only viewed as a eugenics program does such a policy become comprehensible. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger epitomized this view when she complained, “Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly” (The Pivot of Civilization, 1920). Why no hue and cry to tear down Sanger statues, by the way? The people who pull down statues consider her a heroine.

Exhibit C: Advocacy of laissez-faire attitudes toward sexuality and marriage. Though most fervently promoted by the well-off, these attitudes have wreaked the greatest damage on the families of poor and working people, especially non-whites, and have tended to impoverish their children by depriving them of the consistent care, encouragement, discipline, and example of married moms and dads. You won’t hear this from the left, but stable marriage is by far the most genuine anti-poverty program.

Exhibit D: Opposition to school choice. The children of non-white and poor families caught in crime-ridden inner-city neighborhoods are also caught in inferior and crime-ridden schools. Charter schools would give them a way out, but lawmakers who can afford to send their own children to any school they want are perfectly content to leave poor kids in the jaws of the trap.

Exhibit E: Racial quotas in various institutions, such as colleges and universities. Such institutionalized biases perpetuate a cruel hoax on persons of minority race, not only setting up unqualified applicants to fail, but placing smart, qualified applicants under a perpetual cloud of suspicion that they got by only because they weren’t white. Policies so damaging to non-whites would make sense only if their proponents believed that the races were inherently unequal, and wanted to string along their supposed racial inferiors.

To the degree that America does labor under something that might be called systematic racism, it seems to be all on the left – and the people crying out against it want more of it still. American history as a whole represents the gradual purging of racism; progressivism represents its entrenchment.

This article has been republished with permission from Professor J. Budziszewski’s blog, The Underground Thomist.

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J. Budziszewski

Dr J Budziszewski is a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, where he also teaches courses in the law school and the religious studies department.  He specializes...