Human society is a complex phenomenon. To view it through a single lens is the worst sort of reductionism and rarely provides a true picture. Karl Marx and his followers looked at human action through the lens of class. Marxist analysis consistently has proven to be flawed.
The most recent lens for examining human action is race. It has become commonplace to claim that the United States is fundamentally unjust because of “systemic” racism. This is the charge advanced by Black Lives Matter and its antifa allies.
The source of the charge of systemic racism is “critical race theory” (CRT), a pernicious and reactionary philosophy holding that race is a social construct, enforced by those in power, specifically white men, which predetermines someone’s role and ability in society. There are two great flaws in CRT.
First it denigrates African Americans by stripping them of all agency. According to CRT, Blacks are simply inanimate objects, ciphers who are victims of forces over which they have no control. Nothing could be more demeaning to an entire group of American citizens, many of whom have risen to high status, than the claim that they are helpless victims of impersonal forces.
Second, CRT essentially absolves politicians of bad policy. The worst problems that African Americans face are most visible in urban centers, most of which are governed by progressive politicians, many of whom are African American themselves.
Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 advanced the political status of African Americans, much of the good was undone by the effects of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, a prominent victim of which was the Black family. For instance, as Thomas Sowell and others have observed, the percentage of Black children born out of wedlock before the Great Society legislation was less than 30 percent. Now it is 70 percent. Children of any color who are raised without fathers have much higher rates of crime, poverty and suicide.
It is easy to understand the rage of many African Americans. The promise of the Great Society never came to pass. But that failure is not due to “systemic racism,” but because of actual policies. Economists speak about the unintended consequences of human action. The unintended and dysfunctional consequences of the Great Society still afflict much of the African American community.
But the need to address real problems and their policy solutions has been hijacked by the fraudulent Black Lives Matter movement and its antifa allies. I for one subscribe to the sentiment that Black lives matter. But I reject the organization that has appropriated the name. Anyone who takes the time to check out the statements of its leaders will see that the goal is not to improve the lives of African Americans but to overthrow the “system.”
The BLM movement is a political action arm of CRT. Like CRT, it represents a species of Marxism, although a form associated with Antonio Gramsci, who held that the culture of capitalistic society had to be changed if socialist revolution were to be possible. The success of such a cultural change can be seen by how the young have embraced the idea that America is fundamentally racist to its core.
Those of us who truly believe that Black lives matter wonder why BLM engaged in an orgy of destruction that mostly harmed Black neighborhoods. We wonder why the movement does not address the dysfunctional policies that have wrecked the Black family and threaten the lives and livelihoods of African Americans.
Of course, racism exists. Racial prejudice, which is a different phenomenon, also exists. But Americans of good will strive to rise above our prejudices. We live in a country founded on principles that reject the concept of racial superiority. Living up to those principles is the best antidote to racial problems in this country.
This article originally appeared in Providence Journal.