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Words of Division

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eye on the news

Words of Division

Cloaked in an appeal to unity, President Biden’s inaugural speech hit all the expected themes of racial resentment and blame. January 20, 2021
Politics and law
The Social Order

It’s an odd way to seek national unity: call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists. Welcome to the Biden presidency.

Joe Biden’s inaugural speech as 46th president is predictably being hailed for its “unifying” message. And just as predictably, his invocations of the divisive bromides of the identitarian Left are being swept under the rug.

According to Biden, we are a “great nation” and a “good people.” But we also oppress minorities with an ever-rising fervor. “Growing inequity” is among the greatest challenges facing the country, according to Biden, along with the “sting of systemic racism” and encroaching “white supremacy.” Only now are we confronting “a cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making.”

One might have thought that more than 50 years of civil rights legislation; the banishing of Jim Crow segregation; the ubiquity of racial preferences throughout corporate America, higher education, and government; trillions of dollars of tax dollars attempting to close the academic achievement gap; and the election of black politicians by white voting districts would have reduced inequity, not increased it. But to Biden’s speechwriters, steeped in academic victimology, racial inequity is always with us, requiring constant remediation from government.

Biden rattled off a litany of white America’s sins: the “harsh, ugly reality” of “racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization”; “anger, resentment, hatred, [and] extremism.” He did not name white Americans as such, but he did not need to. That qualifier is inherent in the language he chose to adopt.

This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists. They are au courant, shallow terms of the moment, lacking depth or weight.

In fact, such terms are so overused today that it is easy to tune them out. But that would be a mistake. The “systemic racism” conceit means that every American institution is illegitimate and needs to be reconstructed. Biden’s cabinet nominees, whether in health, finance, environmental policy, or education, have declared that eradicating systemic racism is their top priority. How this agenda will play out has already been adumbrated in the CDC’s initial priority list for Covid vaccinations: hold off on vaccinating the elderly, despite their higher risk levels, because the elderly are disproportionately white. Racial quotas will become even more the order of the day than now. The diversity obsessives in the federal science bureaucracies waited out Donald Trump’s presidency. They will now redouble their efforts to treat a researcher’s race and sex as scientific qualifications in the awarding of federal research grants. Expect to see any mention of merit or excellence denounced as a form of bigotry, a response that the University of California and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as an army of corporate diversity trainers, have already perfected.

The next four years will likely be one long anti-white-privilege struggle session. Any real effort to close racial achievement gaps, such as fighting the “acting white” ethic that prevents many inner-city children from trying hard in school, will be deferred and discredited. Biden is betting that white liberals, at least, will continue hanging their heads in penance for their hereditary crimes and trot off to their latest show trial. Given past behavior, he’s probably right.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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