by Victor Davis Hanson
Recently an unarmed 29-year-old African American, Tyre Nichols, was brutally beaten to death by five black Memphis police officers. They were charged with murder. All belonged to a special crime unit known as the Scorpions.
Both the victimizers and victim were black. The Memphis police chief is black. The assistant police chief is black.
Nearly 60 percent of the police force is black. The white population of Memphis is about 25 percent.
The now-disbanded Scorpion unit of mostly black officers was created as a response to grassroots appeals to stop spiraling crime in mostly black neighborhoods.
The death of Tyre Nichols could be attributed to many things: a basic lack of humanity on the part of the officers, poor police training, lax administrative supervision, and lowered hiring standards.
Instead, no sooner was the beating death announced than accusations of “systemic racism” surfaced.
Van Jones, the former Obama Administration green czar and recent recipient of Jeff Bezos’ $100 million “courage and civility award,” pronounced on CNN that the black police oppressors were acting out white racism.
Some claimed that charging the five black officers with murder was itself racist. Others alleged that creating the unit in the first place to reduce black-on-black crime was racist.
Yet, when everything becomes racist, then nothing in particular can be racist.
About the same time, the city of San Francisco, along with the state of California, was exploring paying out huge cash reparations to its African-American residents for the ancestral sin of slavery.
That evil institution was abolished some 158 years ago through a Civil War that killed some 700,000 Americans.
Yet California was always a free state with no history of slavery.
No resident of America in six generations has been either a slave or slave owner.
Such multibillion-dollar payouts apparently are to be funded by a nearly bankrupt state facing a $25 billion budget shortfall.
How do we quantify either current eligibility or culpability in multiracial California where 27 percent of the residents were not born in the United States? Whites make up only 35 percent of the state’s population.
College campuses increasingly greenlight racially segregated resident housing.
These reactionaries seem eager to return to “separate but equal” apartheid, supposedly outlawed nearly 60 years ago by the 1964 Civil Right Act.
A recent National Association of Scholars study found that of some 173 schools surveyed, 42 percent provided racially segregated residences. Some 46 percent offered racially segregated orientation programs. An overwhelming 72 percent hosted racially segregated graduation ceremonies.
So-called “safe spaces” on campus exclude students on the basis of race, especially whites who are reduced to stereotyped members of a toxic collective.
Race-based admissions have transmogrified from proportional representation—the entering class should reflect roughly the racial make-up of the nation—to reparatory or compensatory admittance.
So, for example, Stanford University’s incoming class of 2026 lists white students at 22 percent of the enrolled, roughly one-third of their percentage of the nation’s general population.
Ironically, current racial engineering resurrects the old quota systems used in the past to discriminate against Jews.
“Whites”—to the extent we can determine any race in an intermarried, multiracial society—do not fit the now ossified definition of an exploitive majority.
They no longer even compose a majority in most major American cities and in some states.
They rank well behind many nonwhite ethnic groups in terms of per capita income and millions of working-class Americans certainly don’t fit the tired stereotype of “privileged.”
In racist fashion, white males are often smeared as exhibiting collective “white rage.”
Yet they commit suicide at double their demographics—and more than twice as frequently as blacks and Latinos.
They were also killed in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq at twice their numbers in the general population.
In terms of hate-crime offenders, whites are demographically underrepresented. The most overrepresented victims of hate crimes are whites of Jewish background.
Whites commit violent crimes against those of different races at rates below their percentages in the general population.
In sum, class, not race, remains the best litmus test of being underprivileged in America. It is no longer synonymous with race.
No wonder the identity politics industry now strains to attach prefixes such as “systemic” or “implicit” to “racism,” or “micro” to “aggression,” purportedly to ferret out bias that otherwise is not apparent.
Pause to reflect that America is the only successful multiracial constitutional republic in history.
To survive in an increasingly dysfunctional and hostile world abroad, the unique idea of the United States requires concord.
But national cohesion is only possible through citizens subordinating their tribal interests to a common culture. Only then do they cease being automatons of warring tribes and collectives.
As the world becomes ever scarier, Americans must—as Benjamin Franklin once warned—hang together, or most certainly they will soon all hang separately.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the newly released The Dying Citizen.
Photo “Tyre Nichols Protest” by Becker1999. CC BY 2.0.