More recently, the same office doors have been covered with the now-obligatory sign “Black lives matter.” My students were reluctant to express any insensitive views. When I asked a Western Civilization course what was the dominant European religion in the Middle Ages, no one would answer—lest, I was later told a “religious or racial [sic!] Minority” be offended. But when I asked the same students to name the Five Pillars of Islam, most of the hands went up. However, although my students could indeed name the Five Pillars, they couldn’t explain what lay behind the words. For instance, they had no idea what the “Haj” was. Nonetheless, they ecstatically assured me, “Islam is a religion of peace.”
These are the raging bigots whom SJW columnist Alana Massey [Twitter] warns against in her New Republic piece The White Protestant Roots of American Racism , May 26, 2015. Of course, she never proves that white Protestants are inherently “racist.” She merely reports that a higher percentage of them believe that “police treat whites and blacks equally” than do blacks.
springs from the religious framework that undergirds American societal values. To deny the ongoing influence of Protestant ethics is to be willfully ignorant.While black Americans believe overwhelmingly that “police killings of black Americans were part of a broader pattern” and while 43% of American whites, according to a poll cited by Massey, embrace the same view, 62% of white Evangelicals think that the police are doing their duty in difficult circumstances.
Of course, Massey never mentions certain self-evident considerations: e.g., that young black males commit violent crimes at a ratio of 7 to 1 relative to their white counterparts; that most violence against blacks is committed by other blacks; that white police are increasingly targeted by black assailants; that black policeman as well as white put their lives at risk when patrolling black neighborhoods. She blithely ignores these inconvenient facts in rushing toward her preordained conclusion:
As we abandon our explicit ties to religion, religious ethics still inform our view of race, prosperity and even personhood.”Supposedly “religious ethics” have caused us to scorn black people—so we should dump this harmful legacy.
Because of lingering racist influences, Massey implies, the administrative state will have to reconstruct the white Protestant psyche. For example, Congress still features a fresco in the rotunda showing Washington and other whites in heroic poses. These plainly “white faces look down upon” an assembly that is “92 percent Christian and 80 percent white.” Massey clearly wishes to have us remove this artistic outrage, No doubt replaced by something more sensitive—like a mural featuring Al Sharpton showering government funds on his black followers.
“Black human lives whose uncompensated work built American prosperity—and the Capitol building—with their blood, sweat and tears are consistently forgotten.”Massey does offer one example of a racially motivated riot against blacks: in 1921, white vandals overran Greenwood, an affluent black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma and burned houses to the ground.
But even here Massey muddies the water by attributing the riot to “white mobs enraged by the incredible prosperity blacks had created.” More relevant were the then-festering racial tensions aggravated by returning black and white World War One veterans competing for jobs. Nor does she mention that the riot occurred in connection with a black accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. The local blacks, fearing that the accused would be lynched, took up arms. So did whites, who then proceeded to loot black homes—in a way that foreshadowed what black mobs are now doing in American cities.
This was not a pretty incident, but I’m not sure what kind of pattern it demonstrates. Also unmentioned by Massey: a white murder suspect had been lynched shortly before—and the local police chief was prosecuted and dismissed. But Massey prefers to couple her account with an attack the “Star-Spangled Banner,” an ode to freedom that was composed in 1814, “a time when the country was home to millions of slaves.”
So it seems we should be working harder to change an insufficiently sensitized country. Thus even though the black voting turnout has more than tripled since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (while Hispanic voters have doubled), and even after introducing governmental micromanagement of our social and commercial relations, we still apparently haven’t gone far enough in recognizing that “black lives matter.”
Massey further ascribes to the hated Protestants a continuing belief in the “Protestant work ethic,” which boils down to the following statements:
Just as material success indicated God’s grace, poverty was a sign that you’d been denied God’s grace. In this context slaves should be both blamed for their own plight and have the legitimacy of their labor erased.Although Massey pretends to be explaining Max Weber’s idea “from the seminal work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” I doubt the great German sociologist would recognize his theory in this reformulation. Certainly I didn’t recognize it, although what Massey presents may be taught in today’s college sociology classes as Weber’s real meaning.
Since The New Republic victimologist has had a go at America’s founding population, allow me, as a member of an outside group, to take my own shot.
Of course I am critical of WASPs, but for a reason diametrically opposed to Massey’s: namely for being such wimps and for permitting themselves to be vilified without protest. Needless to say, American Jews or American blacks (taking two self-conscious ethnicities) would never allow themselves to be freely pummeled the way Massey goes after WASPs. They would be denouncing their slanderers through well-heeled organizations, with Main Stream Media support.
I won’t even dare raise the question of what would have been the reaction from whites and blacks alike if the figure suspended in urine in an art photo by Andres Serrano, paid for by the National Endowment for the Arts, had been Martin Luther King rather than Christ. Mass protests may not have been the worst of our problems.
The question here is not one of tolerance but the sense of the sacred in a post-Christian, post-white society.
Certainly at the elite level, white Protestants behave differently from normal people. Like Elizabeth Warren, the descendant of New England settlers, WASP patricians may pretend their true ancestors were American Indians or like Jeb Bush, rush to take over Hispanic trappings and register themselves as Latinos in census surveys. Recently I was reading about some WASPy protestors in thirteen states, mostly in the South, who were burning Confederate flags to celebrate Memorial Day.[ Memorial Day Confederate Flag Burning: Small Groups Gather In 13 States To Symbolically Bury The Dixie Flag,By Angelo Young, IBTimes.com, May 25, 2015] These activists were demonstrating their revulsion for the racism of their region and presumably of their own despised ancestors. It is important to note that Alana Massey’s incoherent, unsubstantiated accusations are profoundly unbalanced.
She does not tell us, for example, that congressmen from the party in which the group she reviles is heavily concentrated voted overwhelmingly for the legislation that displaced them as a powerful political and cultural force. It was the predominantly WASP Republican Party that went further than its Democrat opposition in supporting the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act and Immigration Reform Act in the mid-1960s. It was Republican administrations that later created Affirmative Action programs for minorities and that periodically extended the reach of the Voting Rights Act to include districts that were placed under special surveillance, because of low minority turnout etc.
That the WASP Party has been spurned by those who are replacing them is entirely deserved. It is the well-merited fate of those who have given away the family business to an unappreciative competitor.
Paul Gottfried [ email him ] is a retired Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.