Karen Attiah of The Washington Post recently penned a post titled, “I no longer have hope in white America.” After reading her diatribe on the threat of American whiteness under President Trump, I tweeted that anyone who would like to confront Attiah on her racism should go for it.
She responded with a tweet of her own, challenging me to write a response to her arguments instead of raising a Twitter army against her. I agreed. I should have considered this in the first place, but I took the lazy route and turned to Twitter quips instead of reasoned debate. I was wrong and thank Attiah for her challenge.
Let me begin by stating why I called her article an example of racism. As we have learned from race studies on college campuses, there are many forms of racism. One is subtle racism, using snubs, assumptions, microaggressions, and stereotypes about a racial group to malign it. This kind of racism is not reserved for blacks. It can be leveled against anyone — by definition.
I believe this is what Attiah has done, even if it was unconscious. She addresses "white America" and, in essence condemns it as if all whites think and act in concert. She continues to use race as the dominant trait to cast all whites in the same frame. "White Americans hated and jailed" Martin Luther King. A "white American" killed him. "Demands for civility from the privileged, largely white political class." She cites a book about "Whiteness."
Certainly, her descriptor is not necessarily wrong in some instances, but the generalized focus on race for the purpose of castigating an entire group — "White America" — is racist.
This racist approach is particularly troubling since the starting point of Attiah’s article is Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ removal from a restaurant because she works for Trump. Everybody was white, yet Attiah uses this situation, which sparked discussions in the media about civility, to segue into the need for less civility by blacks who think they’re threatened by the Trump administration.
Attiah rejects those who quote King’s admonition to facilitate civility: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” She thumbs her nose at Michelle Obama’s advice, “When they go low, we go high.” Attiah seems to prefer Barack’s point of view: “When they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”
She implies this should be the attitude of blacks, not the "whitewashed version of a heroic nonconfrontational King." That’s because Attiah equates The Resistance against Trump with the Civil Rights movement of the sixties. In that era, she reminds us, King criticized “the white moderate who is more devoted to order than justice; who prefers negative peace which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you with the goals that you seek, but can’t agree with your methods of direct action.'"
Just like King, Attiah doesn’t want moderate whites telling her to be civil — not when there’s so much at stake. She writes,
As for going high? Trump rose to power in no small part due to his promises to bury the political accomplishments of the first black president. It is easy for those who have privilege — the privilege of never being denied the opportunity to serve in the military because of their gender identity, of never being afraid of police brutality, of never facing anti-Muslim animus, of never being a migrant forcibly separated from his or her children — to lecture us who do not enjoy such privileges to conduct peaceful resistance in a way that doesn’t make others uncomfortable. But these demands for civility from the privileged, largely white political class who claim a desire to oppose Trumpism and injustice sound very much like the stumbling block of white moderates that King wrote about 55 years ago.
I want to assure Attiah of something. I agree with her point about order and justice. If your civil rights are threatened, if you are being discriminated against with no legal recourse, if you have no voice in the public square because it is uniformly being silenced by the power of the government, then, by God, order is the last thing you need.
Fighting for equality before the law is a necessary act in the cause of freedom, and I support it wholeheartedly. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” I’m no moderate when it comes to freedom.
I also agree with the message of Frederick Douglass, who gave an impassioned speech about how the glories of independence had not been spread to all. With the chains of slavery still clanging in America’s halls, Douglass swore, "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse; I will use the severest language I can command” in condemning slavery as “the great sin and shame of America."
When slavery and injustice are instituted, civility pales and more must be done. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” Douglass said. "Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground."
Yes! From the American revolutionaries who fought for liberty against imperial England, to the Union soldiers — mostly white men — who bled and died to end slavery, their struggle was the path to freedom.
But can Attiah or anyone living in America today seriously equate their experiences with those of Douglass at the time of slavery or King when blacks were denied civil rights? Let’s consider some “arguments” Attiah makes to justify her parallelism to dark days of the past.
She first states, "Trump rose to power in no small part due to his promises to bury the political accomplishments of the first black president." This is false. Trump rose to power in no small part due to his promises to roll back the unconstitutional and centralized policies of a president beholdened to a Marxist ideology. His race had nothing to do with it. This is evidenced by the policies Trump has put in place, from reducing the size of government through deregulation, putting an originalist on the Supreme Court, to spurring economic growth for the benefit of all.
Attiah says, "Those of us who knew we were under threat from Trump have, since Election Day 2016, been told that America’s institutions will protect us from Trumpism...None of this has happened." Yet, Trump and Trumpism (which is essentially populism, not racism) have not been a threat to black Americans or to any law-abiding person living within our borders. In fact, black Americans have fared better under the Trump administration than Obama’s.
The unemployment rate for blacks hit an all-time low of 6.8 percent under Trump. Blacks participating in the labor force is up from when Obama was president. Incomes are higher, and not as many blacks are on welfare.
Unemployment for blacks reached a high of 16.8 percent under Obama’s leadership, falling only to just under 8 percent. As reported in The Hill,
Barack Obama, our first black president, won well over 90 percent of the black vote, yet from an economic perspective he delivered poor results. Black incomes from 2009 to 2014 fell more for blacks than any other racial or ethnic group. Just as an example of good intentions run amok: policies like raising the minimum wage increases had a statistically significant negative effect on black teenage labor force participation rates.
It’s early for sure, but so far Trump has done more for black economic progress in six months than Obama did in eight years. The other issue that is critically important to black and Hispanic economic progress is good schools. No president has done more to advance school choice so that every child can attend a quality school public or private. In cities like Washington D.C. and Milwaukee, 90 percent of the children who benefit from these programs are black.
Due to the financial good Trump has done for black Americans, support for Trump in this group has increased during his term, not decreased. If he were the threat Attiah makes him out to be, he would hardly be gaining black supporters as these numbers show:
Broken down by gender, Trump's support from black women has nearly tripled from 4% to 11%, while his support from black men has nearly doubled from 13% to 23%.
Attiah cites a recent Supreme Court ruling, which upheld Trump’s travel ban from countries the Obama administration had targeted for terrorism, as a threat to people of color. Yet, the basis of the ruling was purely constitutional because the Executive Branch has the right and duty to make decisions about immigration to the United States.
She mentions immigration a couple of times as proof of “Trumpism” being a threat to minorities like her. But the real threat to minorities is not Trump’s policy to enforce established immigration law, but illegal immigration, amnesty, and open borders — all of which, I assume from Attiah’s “argument” one must support not to be a racist.
While Attiah might disapprove and find fault with Trump’s rhetoric, particularly when he was on the campaign trail, his policies are not a threat to blacks. His immigration policy in particular is a great help to black Americans. This is evident from a letter written by a civil rights leader to Obama in 2014 warning him that his policies on immigration harmed blacks.
Peter Kirsanow, commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights wrote that Obama’s immigration initiatives “would have a deleterious effect on low-skilled workers, particularly black workers.”
In 2008, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a briefing regarding the impact of illegal immigration on the wages and employment opportunities of African-Americans.6 The testimony at the briefing indicated that illegal immigration disproportionately impacts the wages and employment opportunities of African-American men.7 The briefing witnesses, well-regarded scholars from leading universities and independent groups, were ideologically diverse. All the witnesses acknowledged that illegal immigration has a negative impact on black employment, both in terms of employment opportunities and wages. The witnesses differed on the extent of that impact, but every witness agreed that illegal immigration has a discernible negative effect on black employment.
Kirsanow showed that "granting work authorization to millions of illegal immigrants will devastate the black community."
Since 1986, we have seen that granting legal status to illegal immigrants, or even mere rumors that legal status will be granted, increases illegal immigration. Likewise, the evidence indicates that the flood of illegal immigrants across our southern border is mostly attributable to your directive granting temporary legal status to people allegedly brought to the United States as children. This is unsurprising. When you incentivize bad behavior, you get more of it.
Is Kirsanow, a black civil rights attorney, a racist for holding to the same views as Trump? I think not.
Attiah says all of these points led her to the conclusion that "For those who have been working to fight for civil rights for people of all creeds, colors, genders and nationalities, it is a very dark time." Is it really?
She has failed to justify this claim. The facts say otherwise. If Attiah wants to pivot from her points in this article to innocuous "institutionalized racism" and "unconscious bias" and all the other forms of racism coming out of intersectionality insanity, even she must admit, if she is logical, that these claims pale in comparison to the slavery Douglass witnessed and the injustice King endured.
The fact is every citizen in this country has equal rights under the law. This doesn’t mean there aren’t violations of that law or failures, at times, to uphold that law. But this is true for any violations that affect people of any color. The fact remains that the institutions of the United States are just, upholding liberty for all. Blacks, as a group or as individuals, are not subject to any laws that discriminate against them. They are not threatened by the possible institution of any such laws, and there are not a substantial number of failures to enforce established anti-discrimination laws to constitute systemic injustice.
Should we be ever-vigilant to guard liberty? Is it a struggle? Yes, and I join with Americans of any color in that effort, for there are threats to our freedom in the form of ideologies and political agendas that undermine our Constitution — the legal source of our freedom. There are movements designed to create the impression that the government is oppressing minority groups, robbing them of justice, when no such oppression is taking place regarding race.
Douglass once said the American people have something very serious to learn. “That where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”
I ask Attiah to consider this statement. Poverty is enforced nowhere in America. We do not live in a nation where free people tolerate the denial of justice. Justice is rightly given in hundreds of thousands of court decisions across this land. Justice is rightly protected by hundreds of thousands of police officers throughout the nation every day. Most blacks and whites work and live together in harmony and, I’ll say it, love.
But, ignorance does prevail as lies about race relations and "whiteness" in America are spread in the name of social justice, causing too many people who are benefiting from the fruits of the free markets and principles of liberty — which still shine even with flickers in our halls of government — to despair.
Attiah says she now questions hope. That's because she has embraced despair. Community organizers, agitators for power not justice, and malcontents have made her and others who share her misplaced fear to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them. Having believed this lie, she now wields despair like a political weapon. I encourage her to find hope again and the truth from which it springs.
DC McAllister is a journalist and cultural/political commentator based in Charlotte, NC. Her work can be found at a variety of outlets, including PJ Media, The Federalist, Conservative Review, and Real Clear Politics. She has been a guest on Fox News, CNN, BBC, NRATV, NPR, Hannity radio, and BBC radio. She is the author of A Burning and Shining Light and co-author with Dan Bongino of Spygate: The Framing of Donald J. Trump, to be released in October 2018.