Thursday, April 29, 2010
Conservative Institutions and Race
Conservatives are always a bit testy when liberals point out the high degree of correlation between their views and those of racists. This is understandable. The response is generally to A)deny that they are racist, B)point out that liberals can be racist too, or C)accuse liberals of playing the race card, i.e. trumping up charges of racism to score political points.
But what you never hear is any serious discussion of the original claim: why is there a high degree of correlation between their views and those of racists? It isn’t something that can be denied. Overt racist groups always have conservative views. “Lone wolf” racists, like those showing up at tea parties, wouldn’t dare go to a liberal rally. And anecdotally speaking, we all know people personally who have expressed racist views and they are generally conservative politically.
So assuming this is true, conservatives should respond with an intelligent examination of why this is so. Alas, instead we get an endless defensiveness and victimhood. It is as if conservatives genuinely don’t care about racism. From an academic and journalistic standpoint, this is certainly clear: very few conservative journalists or academics have sought to understand it objectively. In fact, attempts to explore the issue of race in America and elsewhere are generally considered part of a “liberal bias”. This is the deepest form of epistemic closure, where not only are certain views not to be discussed, but entire sections of reality.
So the question then becomes, why would an ideological framework as large as conservatism be so opposed to dealing with something so important as racism? Some of it is certainly defensiveness. But this doesn’t account for the failure of institutional conservatives racism on in a serious way on their own terms.
In an individual, psychologists would call this denial – a defense mechanism that denies painful thoughts. Obviously, most conservatives oppose racism. But why would racism be any more uncomfortable to a conservative than to a liberal? There must be something intrinsic to conservatism that actively discourages its exploration.