In Defense of Ekow Yankah

It’s not surprising that Ekow Yankah’s op-ed titled “Can My Children Be Friends With White People?” has generated some controversy. My initial reaction to the piece was a mixture of contempt and bewilderment. Some of the controversy is probably because of the provocative headline, which Yankah likely did not even write. But the content of the article is quite provocative, too:

As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible. When they ask, I will teach my sons that their beautiful hue is a fault line. Spare me platitudes of how we are all the same on the inside. I first have to keep my boys safe, and so I will teach them before the world shows them this particular brand of rending, violent, often fatal betrayal.

As someone who is skeptical of the postmodern race cult that has gained so much visibility in recent years, I find myself put on the defensive when I read this paragraph. How could anyone teach his children not to trust people on the basis of their skin color? It seems like another one of those critical race theory novices claiming that all white people are racist, that “whiteness” is toxic.

As the title of this post suggests, I don’t think this is actually what Yankah is trying to say. I’m going to try to explain what I think his point is in a way that might be less provocative. Perhaps I won’t get it quite right. But I want to do my best to take what is helpful from what Yankah is saying and make it accessible to people who are put off by the apparent similarity between his op-ed and Tariq Nasheed’s Twitter feed.

I’ll start with what should be an uncontroversial claim: Americans are woefully under-educated about the history of institutionalized racism against African-American communities. We have attempted to rehabilitate the image of the Confederacy, despite the fact that it was founded specifically to protect the institution of slavery. We remember the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but we don’t remember the one that was passed nearly a century earlier and struck down by the Supreme Court, leading to the rise of Jim Crow. We point to the end of de jure segregation in public schools as a sign of racial progress, but forget that de facto segregation of public schools is often a direct result of systemic discrimination in housing. Racism has profoundly shaped the world we live in today, and we often do not see it.

And this, I think, is the crux of Yankah’s argument. The effects of racism are not always obvious. And white Americans have an interest in being oblivious to them. African-Americans should not assume that white Americans will want to understand the ways that racism has afflicted, and continues to afflict, our country. We have an interest in being blind that can only be overcome if we are intentional about loving our African-American neighbors as ourselves. Generally speaking, people are not very good at that.

What Yankah is not teaching his children is that white people are out to get them. That’s a Tariq Nasheed way to approach racism in America, and it’s stupid. Instead, Yankah is teaching his children to recognize that most white Americans, even if they’re not “racist,” will turn a blind eye to racism as long as it’s convenient for them to do so. And this is, tragically, true.

The more universal formulation of this principle, which is less likely to provoke objections from white people, is that people are willing to overlook injustice when it is expedient for them to do so. This is our sinful nature at work. It’s why people who weren’t particularly evil were able to administer the mass-execution of Jews during the Holocaust, it’s why as great a man as George Washington was able to own slaves, and it’s why the revolutionary power of the Reconstruction Amendments lay dormant for almost a century, effectively neutered by the Supreme Court, as conditions worsened for African-Americans in the Jim Crow South.

I think this is the most productive way to read Yankah’s op-ed. The takeaway for white Americans is that we really do need to listen to African-Americans. That doesn’t necessarily mean we need to agree with our African-American neighbors about every detail of every issue. But we can’t assume that we have all the facts right, especially when it comes to issues that we have an incentive to see a certain way, or an incentive not to see at all. Just because a certain instance of racism is not immediately apparent to me doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. For me to effectively love my neighbors as myself requires me to keep that in mind at all times.

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Why Bother with an Op-Ed?

Laurence Tribe has an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that the Supreme Court should strike down the death penalty as unconstitutional. His argument is that the death penalty “violates human dignity and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.” I actually agree with him, in part, and I think that we should abolish the death penalty. However, the mechanism for doing so is through state legislatures or a constitutional amendment, not through the Supreme Court.

It’s odd to me that Tribe chooses to set forth his case in an op-ed at all, given that he obviously isn’t counting on ordinary legislative means to put an end to the death penalty in America. If all you need to do is convince the Court, then why care about convincing the public?

I suppose it makes some sense. If people continue to lose regard for the Supreme Court, viewing it as just another political branch of our government whose rulings are determined by the party that picks the judges, then trying to sway popular opinion is rational, as that will ultimately determine who sits on the Court. And of course, Tribe, like many other progressives, wants the Court to function as a policy-making instrument to advance progressive ends like the abolition of the death penalty, gay rights, and abortion.

But beyond that, if the Court oversteps its bounds too much, it will undermine its own legitimacy. It is the Constitution of the United States that created the Supreme Court and provided the Court with its judicial powers. If the Supreme Court flagrantly disregards the meaning of the Constitution, then it effectively saws off the branch on which it sits. As Justice Scalia said in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges:

With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.

The Court cannot enforce its own judgments.  It can only go so far in reinterpreting the Constitution before someone will say “no.” Indeed, this is already happening on the fringes. Roy Moore, a former Alabama judge, was removed from his seat for disobeying a federal court order. He is now the Republican nominee for Alabama’s seat in the Senate.

I don’t like Roy Moore. I consider him and people who support him a threat to the rule of law in this country. But it’s unsurprising that figures like him would pop up, given the Supreme Court’s lawless advocacy of progressive causes. If the Court doesn’t start to hold itself back from resolving all the most controversial political issues on the basis of Anthony Kennedy’s moral philosophy, Moore will start to become mainstream, no matter how many op-eds Larry Tribe writes.

All Immigrants, or Only Some?

The NYT has an op-ed today about DACA and immigration more generally. The argument is that pointing to the economic benefits that immigrant communities provide to America distracts from the more important issue in the immigration debate: kicking or keeping people out is inhumane. It’s not enough to oppose the rescission of DACA because it’s bad policy. You have to oppose it because it’s immoral. Masha Gessen writes:

But what’s wrong with the decision to discontinue DACA is that people — not workers — will be deported. Lives — not careers — will be shattered. The problem is that it’s inhumane. As long as politicians consider it necessary to qualify the victims as ‘hardworking’ or ‘talented,’ they fail to stand up to the administration’s fundamentally hateful immigration agenda.

To a degree, I agree with Gessen’s point, especially as applied to immigrants fleeing terrible conditions at home (such as refugees). At the same time, however, I don’t think it’s necessarily inhumane for us to be selective as to whom we allow to enter the country. People who want to come here have to earn a place here by making a positive contribution to our society. Some people cannot do that. It’s reasonable to say that we don’t want those people here. Indeed, I think most people on both sides of the political spectrum would agree with me that we should prefer immigrants who have something of value to offer to us to those who don’t.

Here’s a way of thinking about this: Suppose you operate a business and you’re looking to hire some employees. You would obviously prefer to hire people who are qualified and skillful over people who wouldn’t be able to do the job you need done. And if you happened to hire someone incompetent, you would probably want to fire them. Is it immoral to ignore the adverse effects that firing or refusing to hire an incompetent person will have on his livelihood? Perhaps that person has a family to support. What about his children? Are you a monster for putting those concerns aside and doing what’s in your economic interest?

If Gessen is right, then you are. It is unacceptable for you to view your employees and potential employees merely as workers. You need to consider their personal life and the circumstances they face. Unfortunately, this means that you cannot choose to hire only competent people, nor can you fire incompetent people, and you will likely go out of business.

Gessen says that we have adopted a reductive and harmful way of viewing people: “When we agree to talk about people as cogs, we lose our humanity.” I agree that it’s reductive to focus exclusively on economics when discussing immigration, but every way of discussing people is reductive, because people are too complex for us to comprehend. Moreover, I take issue with her assertion that discussing certain groups of people in economic terms causes us to lose our humanity. People have an economic aspect. Acknowledging that does not negate all the other facets of their humanity.

For Gessen, economics shouldn’t even be a part of the equation. The way she discusses it, her opponents believe it should be the only part of the equation. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between these two extremes. We can consider the whole person when deciding who to let into our borders, including but not limited to their potential economic contributions. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is what most of us want: holism. This way, we can look after our own interests while also helping those who most need it.

“Only 2-10% of Reported Rapes are False”

I’m not going to explain why the statistic in the title is wrong. This blog post does a much better job than I possibly could at that. Instead, I’m going to explain why the false-rape statistic, regardless of its veracity, is utterly irrelevant to the way we handle sexual assault accusations.

I see people tout this statistic in response to the (true) claim that the Obama Dept. of Education’s Title IX guidance denied due process rights to those accused of sexual assault. Supposedly the low false-reporting rate means that due process protections are less necessary. This is nonsense.

Even if it is true (and it’s almost certainly not) that only 2-10% of rape accusations are false, those accused should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. For all we know, they could be part of that 2-10%. The only way to find out for sure is to thoroughly investigate the claim.

Here’s a way to think about the problems with the argument. You can rephrase the false-reporting statistic roughly as such: “90-98% of accused rapists are actual rapists.” Does it follow from this that we should treat 100% of people accused of rape as if they are actual rapists, even in the absence of proof? Surely not! Rape claims should obviously be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean we should do away with the presumption of innocence.

Remember that to presume that a rape claim is true in the absence of evidence is to presume that somebody is a rapist in the absence of evidence. Such a presumption is unjust, because not all people accused of doing terrible things actually did terrible things.

Opposing DACA: More than Just Prejudice?

Everyone is buzzing about Trump’s decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The policy was put into place by Barack Obama, shielding undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children from deportation, if they meet certain conditions. Congress had repeatedly failed to enact legislation (the DREAM Act) that would accomplish basically the same thing, so Obama took matters into his own hands.

I think DACA’s policy goals are good. But I’m skeptical of its constitutionality. Because of that, I don’t necessarily disagree with Trump’s decision to end it, but I do think that it is necessary for Congress to step in and pass the DREAM Act like they should have long ago.

Of course, there will always be those who oppose anything resembling amnesty, preferring to deport thousands of people who have spent most of their lives in the United States to countries they don’t even remember. For some people, getting rid of illegal aliens is an end in itself, worth doing regardless of the costs, both human and monetary.

I think these people are either dreadfully misinformed or blinded by prejudice. Their desire to get rid of illegal aliens prevents them from asking the following important question: Is it really in our interest to get rid of all the DREAMers? Given that the policy requires that applicants be of “good moral character,” it’s not like they are running around committing crimes. If they did so, they would lose their protected status. Most of them are educated and employed, making a significant contribution to the economy. Moreover, many of them have been here so long that they’re basically American in every way except in the eyes of the law.

I have yet to see a good nonlegal argument against DACA. Generally, such arguments seem to depend on outright lies regarding the beneficiaries of DACA. References to crime and refusal to adopt our values just don’t make sense when discussing this particular policy, because the policy itself places requirements on those it shields from deportation. It’s not a blanket amnesty. It’s conditional forbearance.

Which is why it’s hard not to think that certain of DACA’s opponents are motivated more by prejudice than by anything else. For example, Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration (yes, you read that right) released a letter explaining why they are in favor of rescinding DACA.

It is easier to speak publically of mercy, as we, and many, do. And, while loving mercy, who will also stand for justice to those citizens who cannot find a job due to cheaper foreign labor? Who will speak of the real cost of illegal immigration to our states? And while many non-citizens are good neighbors, who will stand for justice for Americans victimized by people here illegally who do not uphold our values and laws? And who will prevent more needless crime and death?

This is basically saying, “We should get rid of DACA because the DREAMers are stealing our jobs, committing crimes, and burdening our government.” But there is no reason to think that any of this is true. Indeed, the data suggest that deporting DREAMers would seriously hurt the economy, and that they have a low crime rate.

So what’s really going on here? Are the signatories to the EBI letter just ignorant, or is there something more sinister beneath the surface? I don’t like attributing unsavory motives to anyone without good reason. But I just can’t see any compelling reason to adopt the position that EBI has adopted. It’s one thing to oppose the abuse of executive power. But opposing reasonable protections for people who themselves have done nothing wrong is something else entirely.

Racism: an Individual or Structural Problem?

Obviously, it’s both, to some degree. But I’ve been thinking lately about which way of looking at the problem is more helpful. Is racism fundamentally individual or institutional? I lean towards saying that individual racism is the cause of institutional racism, and that structural remedies can only do so much before they start doing more harm than good. After all, institutions are created by people, and not the other way around.

The post-WWII housing market was heavily segregated, in large part as a direct result of government action. Without government support, the rapid suburbanization of America could not have taken place.  Developers created suburbs with the help of the government and then intentionally excluded African-American home-buyers. This is an obvious example of institutionalized racism. However, this racism had its roots in individual attitudes and prejudices. Developers believed that allowing black people to live in a suburb would lower property values because of aggregate individual racist beliefs.

In large part, this turned out to be true, which is why we ended up with the phenomenon of “white flight.” Even when the government started to prohibit people from engaging in housing discrimination, neighborhoods didn’t integrate. When black families started to move into suburbs in any significant numbers, white families moved away in droves. The racist preferences of a critical mass of individuals prevented the structural remedy from being effective.

The lesson to learn from this is that even a neutral system can result in racist results if enough of the people participating in that system harbor racist attitudes.

So we’re confronted with a problem. How can we eliminate racism if removing structural biases doesn’t suffice? The problem is made virtually intractable if by “we” we mean the State. There just isn’t a way for the government to modify individual attitudes and preferences that doesn’t effectively amount to government indoctrination. That’s a very dangerous road to go down. The State can introduce structural biases with the aim of counteracting individual biases (like affirmative action), but this can sometimes breed racial resentment or reinforce racial stereotypes, exacerbating the root problem.

I think this is why some conservatives tend to be more skeptical of government attempts to eliminate racism. The problem is too complex for the government to solve, because racism isn’t just about warped institutions, it’s about warped souls. The government can reform institutions, but it cannot reform souls. The solution to the root causes of racial injustice has to lie outside the state.

On the other hand, progressives tend to emphasize the structural nature of racial injustice. I think they do so because this implies that racism is really not that hard of a problem to solve. All you have to do is dismantle the oppressive systems. You are made racist not by your individual prejudices, but by your opposition to dismantling the oppressive system. This way of thinking is a product of misguided Rousseauian optimism, the belief that, in the absence of society’s corrupting influence, we are naturally good. Such optimism regarding human nature, along with the scapegoating of “society” that tends to accompany it, is far more popular than it ought to be.

It’s become common in recent years for people to promote a new definition of racism that assumes the primacy of structural bias over individual bias. Supposedly, racism is about power, and not about prejudice. Thus, black people cannot be racist against white people, and all white people are necessarily racist against black people. This redefinition of “racism” is a clever move by the progressives, as it pushes us toward state-centered solutions to racism even though they won’t work. As such, we should resist this definitional change. The solution to racism isn’t the destruction of all of our liberal institutions any more than the cure for cancer is suicide. But we can’t continue to affirm this simple truth unless we recognize that racism infects souls before it infects institutions.

A Missed Opportunity

When neo-Nazis decide to hold a rally, it’s reasonable to assume that the vast majority of Americans, regardless of their position on the political spectrum, do not support it. For one thing, the Nazis were our enemies in World War II. They killed Americans in battle. For another, overt racism is generally regarded by Americans as the evil that it is. Nazism isn’t popular. Just because you can dredge up a couple hundred angry white guys doesn’t mean you have a “movement” in any meaningful sense. It just means that you have a couple hundred angry white guys.

What happened in Charlottesville was despicable. It’s not surprising to me that Americans from across the political spectrum condemned the rally, as well as the violence that it occasioned. Indeed, I think the widespread condemnation is really good evidence that I’m right to think that America’s population is 99.99 percent against Nazism. What’s frustrating for me is that our response to this could have been one of national unity. We basically all agree that the people who went to this rally are the scum of America. Why not call attention to that? Why not emphasize that the left and right in America can be unified against race-based hatred?

Instead, what I’ve seen on Twitter is a bunch of people on the left criticizing people on the right for failing to condemn the white supremacists (even though they were condemning the white supremacists). And then when it became impossible to ignore the fact that basically every mainstream conservative figure had, in fact, condemned the rally in the strongest possible terms, people questioned their sincerity without grounds:

The political divide in our country is so deep that we can’t even unite in our opposition to Nazism. Even when our political foes do and say exactly what we do and say, we can’t give them any credit. Disgraceful.

Even the criticism of Trump’s weak statement on the rally has been mostly bipartisan, with many highly visible conservative figures calling attention to his failure to explicitly condemn white supremacy:

You’d think that, since people on the left and right are saying the same thing, they would stop being at each other’s throats for just a second, but we’re incapable of doing that. God help us.

Equality: a Poor Substitute for Justice

Equality does not matter. Without further context, the mere fact of equality or inequality has zero moral implications. What actually matters is justice. When people talk about the importance of equality, they’re trying to talk about justice, but they’re doing so imprecisely.

It is obvious that different people should be treated differently. A high-achieving student should be given admission to a prestigious college, while a mediocre student should not. To treat the two students equally would, in fact, be unjust. Give to each what he is owed. Through her achievements, the high-achieving student has demonstrated that she is owed something which the mediocre student is not.

There are many ways in which you can be owed something. Personal merit is one of these ways. Another way is by being wronged. If someone steals from you, then they owe you what they stole from you. You can also be owed something by entering into and fulfilling your side of a voluntary exchange with another person. I work for my employer, and as a result, they owe me my salary.

Certain people would have us believe that unequal outcomes between groups are prima facie evidence of injustice. These people are relying on our failure to properly distinguish equality and justice to further their political agenda. A good example of this is the so-called wage gap. We are told that the average woman makes 77 cents per hour for every dollar per hour the average man makes, the implication being that we’re a misogynistic society that values female labor less than male labor. In reality, this gap is more reasonably explained by how women, on average, are less motivated in their career choices by salary than are men, on average, as well as by how women, on average, are more agreeable and therefore less likely to ask for increased pay than are men, on average.

The same people who hold up the “wage gap” as an example of systemic misogyny point to underrepresentation of certain groups in certain sectors of society as further evidence that we are evil. Google engineers are mostly men. This must be because Google hates women. African-Americans are underrepresented at elite undergraduate universities.* White supremacy. We don’t even question the inference, because we don’t understand the difference between inequality and injustice.

And yet, when other inequalities crop up that don’t fit the narrative of the oppressive patriarchy, we ignore them. Far more men than women are incarcerated. Women now earn a majority of academic degrees. The NBA is disproportionately African-American. Does the justice system discriminate against men? Do universities favor women? Is the NBA racist against white people? No, no, and no.

If your goal is really equality, then you should be just as concerned about the inequalities in the last paragraph as you are about the “wage gap” and Google’s sex ratio. But the absurdity of casting the examples I just gave as examples of injustice should lead you to instead reject the goal of equality and put justice in its place. Sometimes, outcomes will be unequal, but if these outcomes are the result of just processes, then there’s no reason to worry about them.

*I recognize that, to a significant degree, this is a result of past injustices. Jim Crow, racist housing policies, and the refusal of local governments to protect blacks from racial violence have had an enduring effect on African-Americans, and I believe that justice demands a remedy. My point, though, is that it is these injustices that are relevant to deciding who is owed what, and not the fact that African-Americans are underrepresented in colleges. Even if they were overrepresented, they would be owed something because of the gross injustices perpetrated against them.

On Affirmative Action

First of all, shame on the New York Times. Again.

The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

[. . .]

The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, “intentional race-based discrimination,” cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses. [emphasis mine]

The NYT makes this about anti-white discrimination. The DoJ document only says that affirmative action causes certain groups to fare worse in college admissions than they should. This is true, even more so of East and South Asians than of whites.

Anyway, I’m not here to bash the NYT. I’m here to talk about affirmative action. I think the policy is a bad idea, but that there are more convincing ways to argue for it than others. It depends what justification for the policy is given.

Justification 1: Diversity

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (2013), the Court concluded that discrimination in college admissions on the basis of race is acceptable when it secures the educational benefits of having a diverse student body. This is a stupid argument (courtesy of Justice Kennedy, of course). I don’t think there are substantial educational benefits to learning in proximity to people of a different skin color any more than there are substantial educational benefits to being only around people of one’s own race. And even if such benefits did exist, it still wouldn’t justify discrimination. Suppose one could demonstrate that segregated schools uniformly perform better. Does this justify de jure segregation? Of course not! Either discrimination is okay or it isn’t. Guess what? It isn’t.

Justification 2: Accounting for “Privilege”

Don’t be alarmed by the use of scare quotes around “privilege.” I’m not here to tell you that the concept of privilege is bogus. What I will say is that it is usually overstated. Progressives would have you believe that all of society is systematically biased against minorities in subtle, unconscious ways (e.g. the SAT is racist, which is why black test-takers don’t score as well as white test-takers do, on average). As a result, every person who is part of a marginalized group needs a little boost in order for there to truly be equal opportunity.

This, too, is ridiculous. While racism is by no means a thing of the past, the idea that we live in a systematically racist society is nonsense (unless you’re talking about anti-Asian bias in college admissions). Important concepts to progressives like unconscious racial bias have little to no scientific support. I believe that the concept of privilege, if it is to be useful, should pertain to the persisting effects of past overt racial discrimination, rather than to the effects of current unconscious bias (I consider this to be a better explanation of the racial disparity in SAT scores: past discrimination -> poorer economic and educational opportunities -> entrenched poverty -> poor SAT scores). And the appropriate remedies for these two kinds of harm are different.

Justification 3: Rectifying Past Wrongs

I hint at this a little bit at the end of the last section. Obviously, there have been egregious injustices in our history. There still are today,  but they are far rarer than they once were. When discrimination of this sort takes place, justice demands that there be restitution. People should be given what is rightfully theirs. Hence affirmative action?

The difficulty of this approach (which I think is nevertheless the only reasonable one) is that many of the injustices happened long in the past, and the initial victims are long dead. It is often impossible to determine what might constitute an appropriate remedy. There are just a few exceptions to this rule. For instance, if we can conclusively prove that a black family was run off of their land, and if we can trace that family to a currently living family, then that land should be returned to them. But if your father was deprived of an educational opportunity because of his race, to what compensation are you entitled? Should you be let into Harvard just because he should have been? What if you’re not as smart as he is? What if you don’t want to go to Harvard?

I think that, rather than modifying our admissions standards to give certain ethnic groups a leg up, we should give those descended from victims of egregious injustices* compensation in another form: tuition. Why boost people into schools that they might not be qualified for, saddle them with debt, and then send them away with diplomas that may not get them jobs? A much better way to help victimized black Americans accumulate wealth and human capital would be to heavily subsidize their tuition payments, provided that they get in based on the same standards as everyone else. This is just one idea, but I think it’s better than modifying admissions standards for different racial groups.

*Important note: not all black Americans are victims of egregious racial injustices like slavery and Jim Crow, because some black Americans are more recent immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean. Nigerian-American households actually out-earn white American households.

Yes, Real Socialism. No, not Real Conservatism.

Twitter is filled to the brim with asinine opinions (known colloquially as “hot takes”), such as the following:

Is the Trump administration really a representative of “modern conservatism”? Surely not. Trump isn’t a conservative. He’s a right-wing populist authoritarian. Ask any conservative and they’ll tell you this.

(There’s also the important point that the memo didn’t say anything about white people being discriminated against. It was about affirmative action, yes, but Asians suffer far more as a result of affirmative action than white people do. It would be just as reasonable to assume the memo was about discrimination against Asian applicants. This isn’t about white victimhood. It’s about justice.)

One person did tweet an interesting thought on whether the Trump administration should be considered “conservative”, however:

And another person added:

This has made me think: is there a difference between saying “not real socialism” and “not real conservatism”? I think there is, and that I am justified in saying that Trump and the GOP as a whole don’t represent modern conservatism, while also saying that the numerous failed attempts to inaugurate a socialist utopia are representative of real socialism. The reason for this is because the core tenet of socialism inevitably leads to a the authoritarian horrors of the past century, whereas no core tenet of conservatism leads to rent-seeking on behalf of certain ethnic groups.

The core doctrine of socialism is the abolition of private property. Some way or another, “the people” own everything, whether it is via the state as their supposed representative or as a democratic collective. But the only way to abolish private property in a regime where people own property is to confiscate it from them, unless you can convince them to give it up voluntarily—and you can’t. Socialism thus necessarily begins with theft. The assumption socialists make to justify this initial act of theft also justifies all sorts of other human rights violations, which is why socialist regimes have been such terrible human rights violators. The assumption: the infinite good of inaugurating and advancing a socialist utopia far outweighs the finite bad of robbing or even killing a few of these fools who stand in our way.

Once you accept the assumption that all of your actions can be justified so long as they advance the Cause, you have created the ideal conditions for the rise of a totalitarian state. And even if you don’t become a despot, someone will kill you, seize power, and become a despot. It’s what happens when we tell people that it’s okay to steal and kill in order to advance political ends.

Nothing in conservatism, on the other hand, can be reasonably linked to the white victimhood politics of Trumpism. The key attributes of conservatism are skepticism of sweeping change, a strong emphasis on following established procedures, and advocacy of a smaller government. Each of these can potentially be useful for white victimhood politics, but if followed faithfully, they will often conflict with the white victimhood agenda. In contrast, the core tenet of socialism, when taken to its logical conclusion, permits and perhaps even encourages the sorts of atrocities (throw off the chains of bourgeois morality!) committed in every communist country that has ever existed, as long as someone thinks that the atrocities advance the proletarian revolution.

If we’re skeptical of sweeping change, then we should readily say that Trump’s hastily written travel ban was ill-advised. If we care about established procedures, then we should condemn Jeff Sessions’s promotion of civil asset forfeiture. If we want a smaller federal government, then we should fully repeal the ACA. Most of what this administration does flies in the face of conservative principles. And if you read conservative publications, then you know that conservatives are far from happy with it.

This is no surprise; it’s not like we elected him thinking he would govern as a conservative. Those conservatives who voted for him did so while holding their noses, hoping just that he would be better than Hillary. Trump’s rise to power and illiberal policies are not the fault of anything endemic to the conservative philosophy. Rather, our current political climate, combined with the extreme unpopularity of Hillary Clinton, gave him the perfect opportunity to win the presidency. And now he’s doing what we knew he would do.