Opinion

Conservatives Must Reject White Identity Politics

The political left pushed whites to take stock of their whiteness

A while back, a friend from Pakistan asked me why whites allow other races to make fun of them in the media. I don’t remember what provoked this discussion, but I explained the importance of being able to laugh at oneself, the fact that successful and confident people — speaking aspirationally of myself, not whites in general — should not be so thin-skinned or defensive or eager to play the victim, and that, besides, skin color is not the primary way I define myself.  

“You should not let them do that,” he said. “It makes you look weak.”  

Actually, I think it makes me look strong.  

Interestingly, my friend, an immigrant to this country, had identified an emerging sense that whites are under attack — a trend that helps explain the fervor for Donald Trump’s candidacy.  

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And, ironically, he was making an almost identical argument as the so-called “Alt-Right ” supporters of Trump — a collection of mostly angry, white young men who flourish on the net and who believe modern white men have been tamed, dominated and emasculated.

A disturbing trend

This emerging racial consciousness among whites is one of the most interesting and disturbing trends to behold. As in Europe, this phenomenon has many fathers — a shifting and anemic economy , demographic changes, and a myriad of other factors. But it’s also, at least partly, a backlash against political correctness and liberal overreach.  

Count me among those conservatives who sincerely hope for a colorblind society — who believe that people should, as Dr. King said, “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  

The problem is, at some point, mainstream conservatives started believing this — and liberals stopped.  

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When a poor white kid gets denied a spot at a university to make way for a less academically deserving minority — who is the son of a doctor or a lawyer — we are not living in a colorblind society. Imagine being that poor kid and being told that you are “privileged” because of your skin color. Now, imagine living in a world where this happens to you, yet you’re not even allowed to vent about it.  

The university’s motives might have been noble (to correct for past discrimination), but it’s also far from what many of us signed up for — a civilization that strives for equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Falling short

This is just one example. I don’t think it’s debatable that things have gone too far. When a politician has to apologize for daring to say that “all lives matter ,” we are most certainly falling short of that dream.  

Now, in no way do I want to absolve Trump’s minions of personal responsibility, but, as the online magazine, The Federalist, recently noted, it is fair to say that the Left has helped create an environment where “white people are being asked — or pushed — to take stock of their whiteness and identify with it more.”  

This is unhealthy for America. One of the most shocking and disappointing developments in my political life has been the lack of progress in race relations (the latest example being the Freddie Gray verdict in Baltimore ). Without weighing in on the verdict, per se, the story is another reminder of how today’s African-Americans have legitimate grievances that should not be dismissed.  

It's 2016. I always knew we’d still have problems to overcome. I just didn’t think we’d still be fighting over these problems. It’s one thing for America to have to go through this process, it’s another for the problem to be so significant that this racial divide essentially defines the way we organize ourselves politically.  

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Back to the notion that refusing to embrace tribalistic politics makes me look weak. I reject the notion that conservatives should become "Alt-Right" white nationalists just because we disagree with liberal views on things like affirmative action.  

Being reactive and letting your adversaries push our buttons and pull our strings — that is what makes you weak. Sticking to your principles and resisting zero-sum racism is what makes you strong.  

Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor to the Daily Caller and author of the book “Too Dumb to Fail.” Follow him on Twitter at @MattKLewis. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.