Beto O’Rourke publicly apologized last Friday. The Democratic presidential candidate had committed the terrible gaffe of joking that his wife was raising their three children “sometimes with my help.” The comment triggered the political correctness police, who criticized him for downplaying her role, or not being more apologetic about his disengagement, or something. “Not only will I not say that again,” he responded contritely, “I’ll be much more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege. Absolutely. Undeniable.”
Ah yes, “white privilege.” Whiteness in America gives a person unfair advantages, we are now told. Not only that, maleness gives a person further unfair advantages. And heterosexuality. And being content with your biological sex—being “cisgendered.” And wealth. Having these advantages means you are starting the 100-yard dash with a 50-yard head start.
People with such privileges must recognize this and apologize, we are informed. Society must then award preferential treatment to minorities, women, minority women, homosexuals and transgenders. It must punish the wealthy and support the poor. Then we will have a truly fair world.
Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential candidate, believes true fairness requires giving reparations to black Americans. This past Monday night, at a cnn town hall, she answered a black woman who asked for “a public apology for 400 years of free labor” by saying, “I believe it’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country. And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a Congressional panel of experts, people that are studying this and talk about different ways we may be able to do it and make a report back to Congress, so that we can as a nation do what’s right and begin to heal” (emphasis added throughout).
According to this view, the problems afflicting the black community today are the residual effects of a practice that was outlawed more than 153 years ago. The solution is to place our faith in a panel of experts to decide on reparations. Then we can all just accept what the experts say, unanimously comply, at last put our slave-owning past behind us, and enjoy racial harmony. Who could possibly envision such a marvelous plan not working out?
O’Rourke and Warren are two prominent white people who have tried to downplay their whiteness. Warren infamously labeled herself an American Indian; in 1996, she was billed as Harvard Law School’s “first woman of color.” Beto O’Rourke is using a Spanish nickname, but his real name is Robert Francis O’Rourke. Why do these things if whiteness affords such vaunted privileges?
The truth is that America is full of white people who work hard, who struggle, who face setbacks, who miss opportunities, who get overlooked, who get pushed aside, who are mired in debt, who must toil away at mundane jobs, who are effectively stuck in their circumstances. Yet they are getting lectured by politicians, media personalities, wealthy academics and professional athletes about their “white privilege.” They are being told that society lacks equality, and we must artificially normalize for circumstances that give one person an advantage over another.
This thinking is insidiously wrong. The more we indulge it, the more individual lives will be destroyed, and the more we will tear our country apart.
It is wrong—because it is the opposite of the way God thinks.
A Fancy New Word
Among those falling prey to this error, a new theory of social justice has arisen. An impressive new term has entered public lexicon: “intersectionality.” This is essentially a means of measuring the scale of your deprivation.
What is intersectionality? The term “was coined by black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989,” Wikipedia explains. “‘Intersectionality’ represents an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. Intersectionality considers that various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together.” This theory enabled black feminists to show how feminism was ignoring racial inequality. White women were marginalized, they said, but black women were even more marginalized. Intersectionality addresses “the experiences of people who are subjected to multiple forms of subordination within society.”
So what does this mean, practically speaking? It is playing out in Democratic politics in a specific way: causing that party to turn against itself. Politicians who have been bona fide progressives, even cutting-edge revolutionaries, are being outflanked on the left because they lack appropriate credentials of intersectionality.
Sen. Bernie Sanders led the socialist groundswell in the 2016 presidential election. He excited flocks of youths to get engaged in politics and to embrace socialist thinking. He is running again in 2020, but many on the left are less excited this time. Why? “[A]mong the flaws on Sanders’ résumé for many progressives is one that he can do nothing about—he is a white male, and an old one,” Rich Lowry explained in Politico. “In the language of the modern left, the straight, cisgendered Sanders is burdened by his utter lack of intersectionality” (February 20).
Senator Sanders was asked on Vermont public radio how he, being old, rich, white and male, can lead a diverse Democratic Party. He said: “We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age. I mean, I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society, which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.”
Senator Sanders wants to move America “toward a nondiscriminatory society” based on merit and values. Most Americans would say we already are a nondiscriminatory society—or, even though not perfectly so, the most nondiscriminatory society on Earth and in history. The trouble for Sanders is, his political party is getting crowded with crusaders moving America toward a far more discriminatory society. And, lamentably but predictably, these people attacked Sanders for his statement. Neera Tanden, from the Center for American Progress posted this: “At a time where folks feel under attack because of who they are, saying race or gender or sexual orientation or identity doesn’t matter is not off, it’s simply wrong.” Former Clinton aide Jess Mcintosh wrote: “This is usually an argument made by people who don’t enjoy outsized respect and credibility because of their race, gender, age and sexual orientation.”
People who are to the left of even Bernie Sanders are broadcasting that they do not want a society where you are judged by your abilities and what you stand for. They want a society where you are judged by race, gender and sexual orientation. They want to level the playing field, which means discriminating in these areas, bestowing advantages on those not white, not male, not straight, not “cisgendered.”
They want to solve discrimination—by discriminating. The less white you are—the less of all those privileged things you are—the more deserving you are of reparatory privileges.
‘A Sad Descent Into Tribalism’
The truly liberal American ideal is that race should not matter. Martin Luther King Jr., an icon among liberals, dreamed of a nation where people would be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet those who claim to be his successors are attacking one of their own for saying people should be evaluated “based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.”
Their message is: Wrong! Race matters—a lot! So does sex. So does class! But these are actually the most primitive aspects of a person’s identity. Human societies have been discriminating and judging each other based on these things for thousands of years!
More than any other nation ever, America has been a place where people of any race, any background, any class can make a success of themselves, educationally, vocationally, financially, culturally, morally.
Leftists are dismantling this ideal. They are convincing people that this nation is actually the most unfair and discriminatory. And somehow, they are persuading people that the solution is to exalt race, sex and class as the defining aspects of their identity.
They want more diversity. Not intellectual diversity, not ideological diversity, not diversity of ability. No—they just want diversity of skin color. Well, and diversity of sex and “gender identity.” That, they insist, is real diversity—authentic diversity.
This revolutionary effort to characterize our land of unprecedented opportunity as a country that victimizes a literal majority of its people (non-whites, women and many others) has been shockingly successful. But it is also creating some problems of its own. As Victor Davis Hanson wrote, “Now the revolution cannot figure out its own hierarchy of authentic grievance groups. So it has agreed on a loose ‘intersectionality,’ in which over a dozen and often overlapping victim cadres agree that each degree of non-white-maleness adds authenticity and becomes a force multiplier of left-wing radicalism.
“Among leftists, Kamala Harris, as black and female, trumps Cory Booker who is just black, who trumps Elizabeth Warren who is exposed as just female, who trumps Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders who are reverse threefers as white, male and heterosexual” (American Greatness, March 3).
Hanson correctly describes this development as a “sad descent into tribalism.”
That is exactly what it is. It is not enlightened. It is not sophisticated. It is not just and fair. It is tribal. It is primitive. It is absurd.
And it is terribly destructive, individually and nationally.
A Satanic Lie
There are countless factors that determine success or failure in life. That is why there are people who manage to overcome tremendous setbacks—family dysfunction, extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, bodily limitations—and become spectacular successes. That is also why there are those who have tremendous advantages yet become spectacular failures.
Success comes from hard work. It comes from diligence and discipline, from driving oneself in pursuit of worthy goals, making good choices, living the right way, having the right mindset. It comes from surmounting obstacles, again and again. These things determine what happens when someone catches the occasional good break, or God opens a door.
The people decrying “white privilege” are believing a satanic lie: that you reach success not by climbing up to it, but by bringing everyone else down.
Their message is: Focus on what the world isn’t doing for you. Don’t count your blessings—complain about your burdens! Don’t dream about possibilities. Don’t work your way forward. Don’t seize opportunities. Don’t look for open doors. Open your eyes to all the obstacles people are putting in your path, and the doors they’re closing on you! Your failures are someone else’s fault. Find people to blame! Resent those with success. They’re just unfairly privileged.
This is the view of victimhood, and leftists are making an orthodoxy of it.
This thinking draws people’s energy away from responsibility, self-motivation, resiliency, improvement, achievement, contentment and happiness—and redirects it toward dissatisfaction, envy, hypersensitivity, offense, blaming others, protest and destruction. It traps them in their failures.
Radical leftists don’t want people to become diligent, disciplined, driven, resourceful, persevering people who take accountability for their own lives—because then what would they need the Democratic Party for?
They have the temerity to contend that they know—based on a short list of superficial identity markers—exactly who in society is privileged and who is marginalized. Somehow they can measure how much of each individual’s success or failure was earned, and how much was unfairly obtained because of bigotry against others. And with their unerring wisdom, they and their panels of experts will settle scores, resolve injustices of generations long buried, negate the effects of all prejudice and bias. Then finally, America can be a land of opportunity for everyone.
This is hubris on an epic scale. Beyond that, do you have any idea how much authoritarian power it would take to carry out such utopian fantasies? And it is beyond delusional to believe it would actually make the world a better place.
Here is a fact: Virtually everyone could focus on how unfair life is if they wanted to. Human nature is adept at finding ways that life should be giving us a better shake. That is because human nature is under the sway of the prince of the power of the air, Satan the devil. That thinking comes straight from the devil.
Satan likes to provide people excuses for their failures. He wants them to shuck the responsibility that would enable them to learn from mistakes and summon determination to surmount difficulties and challenges. He wants people to think the world is unfair, always denying them the benefits that would otherwise fall into their laps.
Well, the world is unfair. This is Satan’s world! Truly equal opportunity has never existed in any society in human history!
Ironically, America has gotten closer to offering equal opportunity than any society ever has—yet people are being deceived into viewing it as the most unequal, unfair society in history! This is a remarkable propaganda triumph by Satan—aimed at fracturing our society and turning us against each other so we will rip ourselves apart!
Sadly, this is exactly what we are doing. And the more we believe this terrible error—the more we try to “heal” ourselves through demanding apologies for privilege and reparations for past wrongs—the more destructive this trend will become. Just watch. Look at the fruits.
Consider how this illustrates the colossal contrast between Satan’s thinking and God’s. Satan fixates on all the ways we are irredeemably disadvantaged. God—who made all people, of all races, male and female, in His image—wants us all to overcome whatever disadvantages we may have and succeed! And He has a long-term plan for helping us do so. Even today, He gives each person a measure of resources and wants to see what we will do with them. He wants us to take responsibility for ourselves, to make the very most of whatever opportunities we have, to take full advantage of whatever blessings and privileges He provides, to conquer whatever obstacles stand in our way. He wants us to grow and grow and grow! Because in the future, He intends to give all people a great deal more responsibility and blessings and privileges—and He is preparing, for that exciting future, all those who accept the challenge today!
If you want more motivation to ditch excuses and make the most of your opportunities, read Chapter 2.3 of our book Biblical Manhood, “Take Responsibility.” To learn more about God’s exciting plan for man, read Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The Incredible Human Potential.