Congratulations are in order. For whom? For America, of course! It’s March, but we’re celebrating the Fourth of July early. Because our great and noble country just fully realized its founding creed: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Those words—that revolutionary phrasing from the inspired nib of Thomas Jefferson’s quill—have stirred every young American’s heart since our nation’s advent. But they’ve never been more true now, today, in this year of our Lord, 2021.
Dr. King, rest easy; you too, James Baldwin. Jim Crow is hereby banished from the stage. And it’s all thanks to the junior senator from the state that first occasioned federal intervention over school racial segregation.
Senator Tom Cotton, best known for wanting to lob Tomahawks at any foreigner who looks at him askance, did the impossible: proved that the Democrats are, in fact, the real racists. During the testimony of associate attorney general nominee Vanita Gupta, Sen. Cotton cornered the civil-rights attorney on what’s become a catechism of the Democratic Party: that all Americans are hopelessly racists, whether or not they know it.
Cue the ad-spot money shot: “You said we all have implicit biases and racial biases. That’s all. Every single American you accused of implicit bias and racial bias. So, I’m asking you again against which races do you harbor racial bias?”
BOOM. Got her! Snared in Cotton’s Ivy League-certified logical trap, Gupta withered and folded like a desiccated hay stalk. She was railroaded into two choices: either admit that she, a self-appointed defender of minorities, was prejudiced against a particular race, or that her blanket-bias comments were fallacious. She was rhetorically hoisted by her own woke petard (am I still allowed to say that about a woman?).
The next moment was made for the movies. Gupta apologized for her earlier remarks, admitting not every American was racist. Then, like the Grinch watching the Whos warble Christmas cheer, Gupta’s heart grew three sizes. She praised America’s commitment to colorblind justice. The entire Congress, which happened to be stuffed inside the Senate chamber watching the exchange live, rose to their feet and cheered. Confetti rained from the ceiling. Everyone hugged—Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Speaker Pelosi actually snogged Minority Leader McCarthy, so overcome with jubilation after the racial antipathy’s final surrender. Fireworks shot up from the National Mall. President Biden went on television and declared “the era of racial discrimination is over!” A1 of The New York Times was headlined with “The War on Racism is Ended!” The Southern Poverty Law Center happily closed its doors for good. We never heard a word about “white supremacy” ever again.
Except nothing of the sort happened. Gupta didn’t fall for it. She deflected Cotton’s verbal jujitsu, turning it to an attack on America’s incorrigibly bigoted culture: “I am quite aware that I know that I hold stereotypes that I have to manage. I’m a product of my culture.”
Gupta doesn’t quite admit to being a racist, but rather fingers her own country as the perpetrator of her predisposed enmity. Cotton again essayed to draw out an admission of held racial bias, asking if the “Biden White House suffers from institutional racism.” Gutpa once more deftly avoided the bait, bringing up Ta-Nehisi Coates’s argument that slavery and redlining excuse economic underperformance and law-breaking overperformance among blacks.
His trivium-tinged assault failed, Cotton offered up the limp didacticism: “When you throw around allegations that every single American suffers from racial bias and every single institution suffers from institutional racism, you open yourself up to these kinds of questions by condemning your fellow Americans without individualized evidence of their beliefs, their words, or their deeds”
A sad trombone might as well have followed. Cotton discovered that jousting with Democrats isn’t like bombing Al Qaeda; his would-be direct hit was intercepted by the left’s preferred argumentative tactic: ignoring then doubling down on bad faith.
This isn’t the le-cœur-a-ses-raisons rationalization that the right mistakenly applies to its ideological adversaries. The left has a theory on race, discrimination, bias, and white dominance, but what it amounts to is gnosticism. And it’s fuller proof than bottom-shelf Everclear. It can’t be penetrated via gainsaying because anyone who endeavors to dispute it is inherently ignorant of the main point. Think the narrative of police brutality towards black Americans is overblown? Well, you don’t understand the contours of white supremacy and how it shapes law enforcement. Thus, you are prohibited from uttering a word on the matter—especially if your skin color is the least bit edelweiss.
Southern state-born, vanilla-white Tom Cotton naively thought he could argue with a person—a woman even!—of Indian origin. Her race, not to mention her gender and first-generation immigrant status, make her invulnerable to any white-American criticism. She has a hidden immunity that’s impermeable to simple-minded ofays like a Harvard-educated combat veteran—hence the gnosticism.
Cotton was foxed in assuming fair play on the oracular battlefield. He shouldn’t have expected a serious answer in taking the liberal proposition of implicit bias to its logical conclusion. The implication extends to anyone on the right, whether conservative, libertarian, or classically liberal, who wishes to engage in actual debate with leftist interlocutors. Reductive white supremacy is now a progressive article of faith. It’s inarguable, and it’s designed to box any protest out. Any appeal made to reason or data is dispelled with a blunt rejoinder: You don’t get it. You’ll never get it. So shut up, whitey.
And the right, so used to arguing amongst itself with traditional logical proofs, slams head first into a brick wall in trying to surmount what’s built to be an unimpeachable asservation. The left’s identitarian shut-out weaponizes the natural sympathy elicited from citing “lived experience.” It’s not just bad-faith disputation; it’s of no faith at all, just nihilistic ego petting.
Two years ago, Logan Albright lamented the lackluster state of civil debate and the “utter inadequacy of logic alone in convincing people of the truth or falsehood of any particular position.” Since then, the woke campaign against the white-supremacy bugbear has kicked into overdrive, so much so that the spate of killings at Asian-proprieted Atlanta salons is being framed as an example of racial terrorism, despite the killer’s admitted non-racial motive. But it’s impossible to rebut anyone who shrivels up and shrieks “white supremacy!” any time a white person commits a crime, or even a minor faux pas. As The Root writer Michael Harriot explains, “there’ll never be any data that says racial violence is because of white supremacy because most white supremacists don’t think they’re white supremacists.”
That means any charge of white supremacy is, as Andrew Sullivan points out, “unfalsifiable.” The truth of the claim is held only by the accuser, who dare not show their rationale’s work.
Civil discourse is impossible when one side insists on silencing the other with an unchallengeable precept. Which is, of course, the very point: dispossessing the un-woke right of any standing in the public square.