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US Supreme Court’s Ruling on Affirmative Action is a Wake-up Call For India

Self-proclaimed anti-racism activists push disempowering narratives of victimhood and policies which are neither helpful nor free from regressive thinking. The US Supreme Court struck a blow against such policies last week by outlawing race-based university admissions. India can and must follow suit by implementing a Uniform Civil Code.
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Supreme Court of the United States of America © Brandon Bourdages / shutterstock.com

July 04, 2023 22:57 EDT
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In the ongoing struggle for racial equality, the role of white liberals has often been highlighted as crucial. Advocates for progressive causes, they have fought against racial discrimination and championed civil rights movements. However, in recent times, the notion of “white liberal racism” has emerged, challenging the seeming benevolence of these individuals. 

“Liberal racial doctrine no longer curbs discrimination; it invites it. It does not expose racism; it recapitulates and, sometimes, reinvents it. Its tortured racial etiquette begets more racial epithets, as surely as hypocrisy begets hostility,” writes Jim Sleeper in his book, Liberal Racism, where he criticizes liberals for their excessive preoccupation with identity politics centered on race, to the point where they have forsaken their traditional objective of fostering a cross-racial American civic culture. 

White liberals often perceive themselves as enlightened crusaders against racial injustice, fervently advocating for marginalized communities. Their progressive ideology embraces the principles of equality, social justice and diversity. However, in their zealous pursuit of these ideals, they sometimes fail to recognize their own biases and patronizing tendencies.

Out of touch with the people they claim to represent

When Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently voted to strike down affirmative action in schools and colleges, in effect putting an end to race-based admissions, cries of “Uncle Tom” and “race traitor” rang loudly throughout the white liberal establishment. 

Thomas, an African American conservative, argued that the affirmative action admissions policies of schools contradict the principles of our Constitution, which advocates for a colorblind society. In his statement, Thomas emphasized, “Two acts of discrimination cannot justify a correct course of action.”

Despite the fulminations of liberal commentators, it is worth noting that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action aligns with the viewpoint of three-quarters of Americans. Indeed, 60% of Democrats are against considering race as a factor in college admissions. In addition, a YouGov/Harvard poll reveals that 64% of Black Americans believe that colleges and universities should not take race into account during admissions. This data is quite surprising when compared to the distorted coverage in mainstream media.

It has been shown time and time again that minorities do not vote or think as a bloc. Indeed, the majority of individuals who advocate for radical societal transformation on behalf of people of color are typically not individuals of color themselves. To expect a person from a minority community to share your pieties and your politics is in itself a form of racism. 

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion, which all five of his fellow conservative justices joined in. Roberts wrote said that both Harvard’s and UNC’s affirmative action programs “unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.”

“We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today,” Roberts wrote, finding that the universities’ policies violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. The clause bars states from denying people equal protection under the law.

American and Indian voices that challenge the politics of victimhood 

The eerie parallels between the vile voting-bloc politics of liberal America, based solely on racial considerations, and the despicable weaponization of caste by India’s leftist-communist factions, are not merely striking but downright unmistakable. In a calculated effort to strip minorities of their power, both ideologies shamelessly exploit immutable attributes like race and caste, reducing individuals to perpetual victims devoid of any personal agency. It is a reprehensible ploy orchestrated by the elite in both nations, deliberately crafting a perpetual underclass of victims, conveniently dependent on their empty promises, while callously disregarding any substantial measures to foster genuine economic growth for these marginalized communities. The hypocrisy is staggering, and the consequences are nothing short of tragic.

There is no dearth of influential figures from minority backgrounds who challenge the prevailing assumptions of these would-be liberal saviors. They reject the politics of victimhood and highlight the fact that minorities may not see themselves as helpless objects of pity.

It is crucial to include these voices in the ongoing discussion on race and identity because radical activists, mostly from white backgrounds, often try to silence their opponents by labeling them as “racist” in today’s climate. Accusations of racism hold significant force in power struggles, as being labeled as such suggests moral corruption and the need to be silenced.

“Woke anti-racism proceeds from the premise that race is real—if not biological, then socially constructed and therefore equally if not more significant still—putting it in sync with toxic presumptions of white supremacism that would also like to insist on the fundamentality of racial difference,” writes memoirist Thomas Chatterton Williams in Self Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race.

Williams comes from a background of mixed racial origins, having a father who is black and a mother who is white. In the book, he advocates for a society that goes beyond race, while also highlighting the resemblances between contemporary anti-racists and the very racists they hold in contempt.

Thomas Sowell, a renowned economist and social theorist, offers a penetrating analysis of white liberal racism. He argues that white liberals often prioritize their own self-image and feelings of moral superiority over the actual well-being of minority communities. In his book, The Vision of the Anointed, Sowell explains how white liberals tend to assume a paternalistic role, believing that they possess superior knowledge and expertise to guide the lives of marginalized individuals.

In his book Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America, linguist and commentator John McWhorter argues that, while racism undoubtedly exists, systemic barriers are not insurmountable. He critiques the concept of systemic racism as a “linguistic trick,” cautioning against the adoption of victimhood narratives that perpetuate a sense of helplessness. McWhorter’s perspective encourages individuals to focus on their own agency and transcend the limitations imposed by victimhood culture.

Shelby Steele, an acclaimed author, scholar and conservative commentator, has been a vocal critic of victimhood culture and identity politics. Steele argues that the focus on victimhood perpetuates a sense of entitlement and undermines individual agency. He has explored these themes in books such as White Guilt and Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country.

Chloé Valdary, a rising star in the intellectual sphere, offers a unique perspective on rejecting the victimhood mentality through gratitude and self-empowerment. In her work, such as the podcast episode “The Theory of Enchantment,” Valdary advocates for a shift in focus from grievances to gratitude, arguing that fostering resilience and cultivating positive narratives is key to personal growth and social progress. Valdary’s philosophy emphasizes individual agency and encourages marginalized communities to embrace their inherent power to shape their own destinies.

Acknowledging the contributions of these outliers does not deny the existence of systemic racism or historical injustices. Instead, it presents an alternative framework for advancing equality that focuses on individual agency and personal accountability. Ignoring these voices, often done for political expediency, reveals an unwillingness to move beyond long-held intellectual dogmas that hinder genuine progress.

Rejecting victimhood mentality in an Indian context

Like these Western authors Guru Prakash Paswan and his co-author, Sudarshan Ramabadran, present a fresh perspective in their book, Makers of Modern Dalit History. They question the commonly repeated notion that Hinduism is inherently against the interests of Dalits. The book becomes even more significant when we recognize the deliberate effort within academia and the foreign media to equate Western racial hierarchies with caste, a canard which has been repeatedly debunked.

The authors shed light on the lives of eighteen influential individuals who have shaped the history of the Dalit community. Notably, almost all of these individuals, including Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar himself, have had a positive association with Hinduism. Ambedkar, in his bookThe Untouchables,” paid homage to three Dalit saints: Nandanar from Tamil Nadu, a devotee of Lord Shiva; Guru Ravidas from Uttar Pradesh, a follower of Lord Rama; and Chokha Mela from Maharashtra, who worshiped Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Ambedkar also greatly admired Ramanujacharya, an 11th-century philosopher and social reformer from the Vaishnavite tradition. Paswan and Ramabadran emphasize that Ambedkar considered Ramanujacharya accepting a Dalit as his guru as a powerful message to society, highlighting the significance of integration as the only way forward.

The book also delves into the notable figures associated with two significant Indian epics: Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, and Veda Vyasa, the writer of the Mahabharata and compiler of the Vedas. These literary works have deeply influenced generations of Hindus, including Dalits, leading to Valmikis now being a prominent caste among Dalits.

Interestingly, Ambedkar himself drew a parallel between the Constitution of India and a contemporary epic. He remarked that just as the Hindus desired the Vedas and called upon Vyasa, who was not a caste Hindu, and just as they desired an epic and called upon Valmiki, an untouchable, they turned to him when they wanted a Constitution.

Contrary to the commonly held belief that Ambedkar had anti-Hindu views, a thorough exploration of his life would certainly challenge this notion.

The urgent call for a Uniform Civil Code in India

In a nation that boasts about its democratic principles and social progress, the coexistence of divergent family laws rooted in religious beliefs is a jarring paradox. India must break free from the chains of outdated customs and wholeheartedly embrace a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that unconditionally guarantees equal rights for all its citizens, transcending religious boundaries.

The UCC stands as a beacon for gender justice, safeguarding the rights of women and fostering a united society that treats every citizen with unwavering equality and profound respect.

Moreover, the implementation of a UCC would fortify India’s unwavering commitment to secularism. By impartially treating all citizens, regardless of their faith, it upholds the fundamental principle of a state that remains neutral and reveres individual freedoms.

Ultimately, a Uniform Civil Code would endow citizens with the power to choose their own family law based on their beliefs and convictions. It would establish an extraordinary precedent for a forward-thinking and all-encompassing society, wherein every citizen enjoys unequivocal rights and limitless opportunities, irrespective of their religious heritage.

The truth about DEI

“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) initiatives have become prominent in recent times, but they have also attracted valid criticism from various quarters. One major criticism leveled at DEI is the issue of reverse discrimination. Proponents of this critique argue that in the pursuit of diversity, some individuals or groups may be unjustly disadvantaged or excluded based on their race, gender or other characteristics. They contend that merit and qualifications should be the sole criteria for employment or opportunities, rather than race or sex-based factors.

For instance, Asian American students have faced challenges in college admissions due to the perception that they are overrepresented in competitive universities. Studies have shown that Asian American applicants tend to have higher academic qualifications compared to other groups, yet they often face higher admission standards or quotas that limit their opportunities.

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), an organization established by Edward Blum, a conservative activist who opposes race-based affirmative action, initiated a lawsuit against Harvard in 2014, accusing the university of discriminatory practices against Asian-American students. Despite feverish attempts to suppress the lawsuit, Harvard was compelled to disclose 90,000 pages of information regarding its heavily guarded admissions process and emerged heavily bruised in the process.

In the words of one article published in Stanford Magazine,

Take, for instance, the claim that racial preferences help the “disadvantaged” In reality, as the Hoover Institution’s Thomas Sowell has observed, preferences primarily benefit minority applicants from middle- and upper-class backgrounds. At the same time, because admissions are a zero-sum game, preferences hurt poor whites and even many Asians (who meet admissions standards in disproportionate numbers). If preferences were truly meant to remedy disadvantage, they would be given on the basis of disadvantage, not on the basis of race.

DEI initiatives often place excessive emphasis on demographic diversity, neglecting other important aspects of diversity, such as different ways of thinking or varied life experiences. Genuine inclusion should encompass a broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas that go beyond visible diversity indicators. 

In real-life scenarios, we can observe instances where organizations prioritize achieving a certain demographic representation, but, in doing so, inadvertently suppress dissenting voices or alternative viewpoints.

For example, at universities in both India and the United States, there has been a growing concern about an imbalance of political perspectives among faculty members, with a significant overrepresentation of individuals holding left-leaning or progressive views. This lack of ideological diversity can lead to an echo chamber effect, where alternative viewpoints are marginalized or stifled. This can hinder intellectual discourse, limit the range of ideas being considered and compromise the quality of education and research.

Another example can be observed in certain media organizations or platforms that claim to value diversity but enforce strict conformity to a particular ideological narrative. In these cases, diversity of race, gender, or other demographic factors may be emphasized, but diversity of thought is often suppressed. Employees or contributors who hold dissenting opinions or challenge the prevailing narrative may face backlash, ostracization or even job loss. This creates an environment where individuals may self-censor their views, fearing professional repercussions or public backlash, leading to a lack of genuine intellectual diversity. 

“Defund the police” movement invites ridicule

Race-based activist organizations like Black Lives Matter (BLM) have surged to prominence, fueled by incidents of police brutality such as the tragic case of George Floyd that ignited massive protests and led to vandalism and destruction of private property—owned by minorities in many instances—on an unprecedented scale. 

While it’s necessary to address the systemic issues leading to tragic episodes of police brutality and the use of violent force on unarmed black youth, BLM and similar organizations tend to view society through a myopic lens, reducing complex social issues to simplistic narratives of racial oppression. By demanding that the police be defunded, and publishing opinion pieces with titles like “In Defense of Destroying Property,” they further polarize the debate and invite ridicule on what started out as a well-intentioned movement.

The activists advocating for defunding the police unfairly tarnish the entire law enforcement community, inaccurately portraying them as corrupt and immoral. Such broad generalizations are far from the truth. Police officers are true heroes within their communities, displaying immense bravery and unwavering commitment as they put on their badges each day, fully aware of the risks to their own safety.

Admittedly, as in any profession, there are a few individuals among police officers who engage in misconduct. However, just as it would be unfair and outrageous to vilify all teachers based on the actions of a few, it would be unjust to condemn the vast majority of defenders of public safety due to the mistakes of a handful of officers. 

The safety of American communities has significantly deteriorated compared to even a year ago. The surge in crime rates can be directly attributed to the widespread adoption of the slogan “defund the police.” The correlation between cities that have reduced their police budgets and those that have seen an alarming increase in violent incidents is undeniable. One notable example of this trend is Portland, Oregon, which is projected to exceed 1,000 shootings by the end of this year. Similarly, New York City has experienced a disturbing 81% increase in shootings during the first 14 weeks of 2021. Another concerning statistic can be seen in Oakland, California, where carjackings have risen by nearly 88%. Unfortunately, these examples merely scratch the surface.

Corrupt activists siphon relief funds

Moreover, there are legitimate concerns about the potential manipulation and corruption within race-based activist movements. The focus on collective grievances and historical wrongs becomes a breeding ground for opportunists seeking to line their own pockets. For instance, in a lawsuit filed last year, former colleagues accused Shalomyah Bowers, the leader of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, of embezzling over $10 million in donations from the organization for personal gain.

Worse still was the case of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of BLM, who used the massive corpus of funds raised by the organization for various expenditures that were unrelated to activism. As indicated by the organization’s IRS Form 990, which is mandatory for all non-profit organizations, less than half of the revenue was allocated towards supporting victims’ families, local chapters, and other programs aimed at empowering the black community. The remaining funds were utilized for the organization’s additional expenses, such as a $4 million operating budget which covered the salaries of only two employees. A single private jet flight taken by Cullors cost $73,569. One particularly egregious expenditure by the organization was the acquisition, tax-free, of a $6 million mansion spanning 7,400 square feet in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles. The property, dating back to the 1930s and known for hosting notable figures like Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart, boasts six bedrooms, a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, a guest house for two, a music studio and enough parking space to comfortably fit 20 vehicles.

On the Indian side, Rana Ayyub and Teesta Setalvad, two notorious swindlers known for siphoning and misusing funds raised for public welfare, come to mind. One could be forgiven for speculating that Cullors and Brown derived inspiration from their counterparts in India.

Shelby Steele was right when he identified the underlying causes leading to the economic weakening of Black America. In his book White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, he refers to liberal discourse on race as “the formula that keeps black America underdeveloped even as we enjoy new freedom and a proliferation of opportunity. No worse fate could befall a group emerging from oppression than to find itself gripped by a militancy that sees justice in making others responsible for its advancement.”

It is time that India’s intellectuals and leaders also discarded cynical narratives that further divide the country along historical and religious fault lines and work instead to unify people on the basis of their shared common heritage and what unites them. Only then can all progress on the path of development and prosperity as equal citizens under the law. 

[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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