I briefly alluded to this yesterday, but it's worth emphasizing that a large measure of my power and privilege critique of conservatives, comes from my identity. It's worth rereading King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail which was addressed to those who called his actions "unwise and untimely":
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
I think that passage says a lot about black people's relationship to conservatism. I'd be out of my area, but I'd guess that if we looked at other arenas, where activists attempted to open up the Constitution--suffrage for instance--I wouldn't be shocked to see conservatism lagging there too. This is history, of course, and a record on suffrage doesn't constitute a record on all things. But it explains a lot about the chasm. If you come up paying the price for going slow, you tend to be sensitive to others having to go through the same.
I want to be clear about something: I'm not raising this to score points or beat up on conservatives. When I wrote, yesterday, that we should not dismiss the cautions of conservatism, I wasn't being polite. I believe it. I think it was Connecticut that, instead of emancipating all its slaves, simply said everyone born after a certain date was free. Was that a smarter approach? Would a steadier, gradualist approach to Reconstruction made Redemption untenable? Would a more gradualist approach to Civil Rights ultimately left us somewhere better, today? I don't think so. But I don't dismiss it out of hand. Lincoln's conservative hand ultimately served him well, no?
Maybe I'm going here because some of this is ultimately in me. I find Pat Buchanan's bluster to be disgusting--but not because I'm undisturbed by the Ricci Case. This, for instance, I basically agree with:
My worry about identity politics is that we should indeed take into account our different experiences, but we should always also try to transcend them. Wallowing in them seems less of an overcoming than an undergoing. It's why I'm leery of hate crime laws and affirmative action, and all legal structures that put us all into separate ethnic or emotional or racial camps for ever. The argument that this comes too easily for a white guy like me is certainly valid. But I refuse to see the rule of law and judicial modesty as somehow white or male. The principles of classical liberalism have no color and gender, and are, to my mind, indispensable to getting past both.
Our points of emphasis may be different, but this comes perilously close to my own world-view.
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