Writing in The New Republic, Jeet Heer accuses me of what he calls “anti-anti-racism” — a disease that he claims afflicts many on the right. “Despite the strong evidence pointing toward a racist motive, conservative pundits and politicians have been reluctant to call this a racist crime, and instead have spun a theory that perhaps Roof was motivated by an anti-Christian animus, a notion that has the unique merit of being completely without any factual foundation.”
Heer knows all about writing “without any factual foundation.” Let’s begin with me. Heer had to make a big effort to ignore the rest of my post, including these words: “The FBI is confirming that a 21-year-old man named Dylann Roof, who has been arrested twice as an adult and God only knows how many times as a juvenile, is the chief suspect is the despicable mass murder of Charleston church goers last night. Nine people are said to be dead, and at least one person is reporting that Root uttered vile, racist sentiments as he (allegedly) murdered innocent, defenseless people.” I continued, “The heinousness of a person who can sit for an hour studying the Bible and then open fire is unfathomable.”
Is there a trace of “anti-anti-racism” in those words?
Other conservatives, as Charles C. W. Cooke has noted, acknowledged the despicable racist sentiments of the killer without hesitation. In Commentary magazine, for example, Jonathan Tobin wrote: “The alleged killer was not only a racist but also someone who appears to have immersed himself in the symbols of the Confederacy.”
The bête noir of liberals, Fox News, was unstinting in its condemnation of the attack as a racist act.
The point of my original post, which Heer chose to ignore utterly, was that racism is such an ugly thing that the false accusation of racism is nearly as terrible. I offered one example, but could have offered hundreds, of Democrats falsely accusing Republicans of racism for cynical political ends.
To make his case about conservative “anti-anti-racism” Heer has combed National Review’s archives and come up with a squib that appeared in 1957. Seriously? Are we really going to play that game?
Just after the Russian Revolution, one New Republic contributor hailed the Bolsheviks, cheering that “they stand for rationalism, for an intelligent system of cultivation, for education, for an active ideal of cooperation and social service against superstition, waste, illiteracy, and passive obedience.”
Historian Charles Beard took to the New Republic’s pages to praise Mussolini, saying “Beyond question an amazing experiment is being made here, an experiment in reconciling individualism and socialism, politics and technology. It would be a mistake to allow feeling aroused by contemplating the harsh deeds and extravagant assertions that have accompanied the Fascist process . . . to obscure the potentialities and the lessons of the adventure – no, not adventure, but destiny riding without any saddle and bridle across the historic peninsula that bridges the world of antiquity and our modern world.” (H/t Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism.)
So let’s agree that the archives are off limits for today’s debates, shall we?
Finally, Heer writes that “American conservatives aren’t necessarily racists, but they are invariably anti-anti-racist. The creed of anti-anti-racism goes something like this: racism was a problem in the past, but no longer is a serious issue; the chief barrier for non-whites to advance in American society is their own behavior; attempts to remedy racism, such as affirmative action, are themselves a form of racism. For the anti-anti-racist, the very word ‘racism’ has a strange, talismanic power. To utter the word ‘racism’ is to create racism, which otherwise does not exist in the wonderful meritocracy that is America.”
That is a total caricature. Of course conservatives recognize and condemn racism when they see it. What progressives consistently fail to do is to acknowledge that the America of 2015 isn’t remotely like the America of 1957. It suits their purposes to pretend that vicious white racism has not changed and that the Democratic party is all that stands in the way of the return of Sheriff Clark. (A little ironic, since, if we’re tripping down memory lane as Heer seems to enjoy, the Democrats were the party of racism and segregation, but never mind). For heaven’s sake, we are now in era of the “microaggression” — when it is taken to be racism (at the University of California, for example) to even say “the most qualified person should get the job.” That is the sort of distortion of the concept of racism that conservatives energetically and justly reject.
Heer needs to come out of the archives and live in the world of today.