America needs anti-racialism

In the eyes of the anti-racists themselves, the campaigns against CRT, affirmative action, and progressive criminal-justice reform are just racism—a form of “white backlash” against the growing political power of minorities, which is all the more insidious for professing to be “color-blind.” Slightly more difficult to account for is the fact that, on many sensitive racial issues, nonwhite minorities are aligned against the positions of the progressive anti-racists. In a Pew Research Center survey from April, for instance, 59 percent of Black respondents, 68 percent of Hispanic respondents, and 63 percent of Asian respondents agreed that race should not be a factor in college admissions. Research from Zach Goldberg, a doctoral student in political science at Georgia State University, has shown that white liberals consistently express stronger agreement with many tenets of the anti-racist worldview than do minorities. More generally, as the Democratic Party has become more and more identified with anti-racism, it has actually shed support among nonwhite people, especially Hispanics.

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Some anti-racists have sought to explain away these phenomena by invoking concepts such as “multiracial whiteness”—the idea that minorities adopt “white” values in order to curry favor with a white-supremacist system. There’s a grain of truth there, in that many nonwhite people really are aligned with the mainstream American values derided by liberals as racist. But a better way to interpret their worldview—and that of many of the top critics of liberal anti-racism—is that it’s not racist at all. Instead, it’s what I call “anti-racialism.”

If liberal anti-racism is grounded in the idea that raising the salience of race is essential to achieving racial justice, anti-racialism holds that heightened race consciousness, and the racialization of disparities and differences that would obtain in any culturally plural society, more often than not cuts against fostering integration, civic harmony, and social progress.

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