518. Peace (IX)
You may have noticed—though perhaps you find it difficult to say—that a popular “woke” advertisement style pairs a black man with a white woman; for “colourblind” egalitarians this poses the question: “Why not with an Indian man? Weren’t the Indians oppressed by whites?” This is a barely permissible critique—and perhaps, as progressives would say, it does contain “unconscious bias”; then again, I think some colourblind progressives are sincere—“One race, the human race.”
The reason why these adverts take this particular form is that the interracial issue at stake in the advert derives from America’s cultural politics—a cultural politics that is imposed, to various degrees, on the entire Western world. For sure, during the Raj it would have been a scandal for an Englishwoman to go with an Indian man—perhaps they would have been blackballed from “society”—but America rules the world, not Britain, so we react in a progressive way to America’s historical concerns about race; and that means the way black Africans were enslaved in America.
I think that the black African issue is the pivotal issue for American politics, quite possibly it is the issue that will finally break America—as it almost broke her once before. The reason why the black African issue is central is more than mere “FBI hate facts” about black social dysfunction; rather, the issue goes to the root of what America is as a project. Put simply: America was founded on the denial of black humanity—a refusal to recognise black men as such. The reason for this is that during the Revolution the British promised freedom for the American slaves. Obviously, this was not some humanitarian gesture, it was pure Machiavellian politics—the hope was that the slaves would rise up and frustrate the Revolution. Whatever the motivation, the upshot was that there were two sides in that historical event: one side, the British, recognised the black Africans as men—the other, the Americans, did not. Ergo, America’s founding is inherently bound up with the assertion that black Africans are not Americans, not part of the political project—not recognised as men. Subsequent events, such as the Civil War, do not change the fact that at base America denied that black Africans were worthy of recognition.
Everything that has happened subsequently revolves around this issue; and put in this context adverts that prominently feature black Africans are an attempt to resolve this fundamental American problem: at the beginning a big slice of people in the colonies were not regarded as fully human—and that fact was implicitly defended in the revolutionary war, since the other side offered emancipation. The adverts are a desperate attempt by Americans to say: “We recognise you—we will recognise you. You’re us!”
However, the lady doth protest too much—and the most astute leftists, those behind the 1619 Project, know that no “reparations”, cultural or financial, are sufficient to solve this problem. America herself must be reconceptualised from scratch, for everything about her founding is bound up with slavery—whatever Lincoln did subsequently, the founding itself defended slavery; and as British reactionaries, such as Samuel Johnson, argued at the time this was the great hypocrisy at America’s core: those who drive the negroes with the whip self-righteously lecture Britain about freedom!
American conservatives have tried various tactics to avoid this issue. Francis Fukuyama, for example, conceptualised America and France as “liberal democracies” in the 1790s whereas Britain—where slavery was outlawed—was not; in many ways, Fukuyama’s philosophy could be said to be “America good”; however she is concretely constituted America represents some world-historical good, just as Hegel—who originated Fukuyama’s intellectual schema—blithely endorsed the Prussian state. Ultimately, America will break not between black and white, but between whites who disagree on how to accommodate the black minority. This is the contradiction embedded in America, the contradiction that has never been resolved and around which subsequent disagreements about issues such as immigration have been arranged.