Black and White
In the 1960’s, there was a cultural push away from viewing the world in terms of black-and-white, both literally and figuratively. Martin Luther King Jr dreamed of a color-blind society, and a country where people would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He called for breaking down the divisions between black people and white people, and unifying all people through their common humanity.
At the same time, the cultural elite of the 60’s attempted to free society from the hard judgment of the black-and-white morality of right and wrong, and good and bad, and embrace tolerance of all people and all things. They viewed the world and morality in shades of gray, full of nuance and subtlety because, as they would argue, within these nuances is where our humanity resides. There is a context and a complexity to all human beings and human interaction that transcends the strict and defining moral distinctions that comes with the strict black-and-white judgement.
Over the ensuing 50 years, our country evolved away from the narrow black-and-white view of the world into the vision of the cultural elites of the 60’s. We embraced Dr. King’s vision of a color-blind society, the melding of all races into one race, the human race, and at the same time promoted a higher level of tolerance by seeing the shades of gray within all of us, that connect all of us. We moved away from a divided country to a more unified country.
Surprisingly, in recent years, there has been a cultural shift back to the black-and-white vision of the world from days gone by. The vision of a color-blind society is being rejected by the current cultural and academic elite, and being replaced by unsubstantiated philosophies like Critical Race Theory that promote racist ideas like “white privilege” and “white fragility”. In present-day America, people are being judged based on the color of their skin, or other external characteristics, and not by the content of their character. People are given social credits or demerits based on their group identity such as, skin color, gender or lifestyle. Judging people based on those characteristics is evil, and I thought was tossed on the ash-heap of history generations ago, but it has been resurrected by the powerful elites in today’s society who believe the only evil of this type thinking from our past was the misplacement of judgement toward which group identity.
America today is not a less racist society then it was 50 years ago; we have simply changed the object of our racism. White has become the new black. 50 years ago, racism vs black people was tolerated, even codified into law. Today, racism vs white people has become more and more tolerated, and even some of our laws reflect that. We have not eliminated racism; we have simply morphed our racism. The teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools, and government agencies is the promotion of anti-white racism through our government system. Laws like, Oakland’s Resilient Families partnership that excludes poor white people from receiving benefits because of their skin color, and the exclusion of white farmers from agricultural relief through the recently passed Covid Relief Bill are direct violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Law, and the 14th Amendment. It appears that the elites did not want to end racism entirely, they simply wanted to flip the script on racism. To them, racism is okay as long as it is not directed at minorities or people of color.
Likewise, our societal evolution away from the traditional concepts of right and wrong toward viewing moral issues as shades of gray was not the embracing of universal tolerance because the mechanism of strict black-and-white judgement remains intact, and as strong as ever. We are not a more tolerant society than we were 50 years ago. In many respects, we are much less tolerant. We have simply changed the object of our intolerance. The cultural elite never wanted complete tolerance in the first place, they simply wanted to change what would be tolerated and what would not be tolerated to aligned with their belief system. Cancel culture, and the rise of censorship in our society harkens back to our intolerant past where books were burned, TV shows censored, and strict moral judgement destroyed lives. The scarlet letter ‘A’ has been replaced with the letter ‘R’.
People who do not show blind-adherence to the specious group identity philosophies promulgated from academia are censored and canceled from society with no context or nuance to mitigate their judgement. At the same time, full context and no judgement are given to all types of immoral, and even criminal behavior. Drug kingpins, like Michael Henry, whose fingerprints are on hundreds of coffins, receive Presidential pardons, are forgiven, and are embraced back into our culture while a person who commits a micro-aggression, or uses the wrong pronoun gets canceled from decent society.
The structures of society are not much different today than they were back in the 1960’s. People are still viewed by a hard black-and-white vision of the world. We are not a color-blind society where people are judged by the content of their character, nor are we a society where our morality is viewed as shades of gray. And it all makes sense how we ended up here. When you remove moral judgement from society, it becomes that much more difficult to judge people based on the content of a person’s character because character is defined by a person’s moral decisions. So, those judgements have become merely insignificant distinctions between the many shades of gray. And the clearer, more distinct judgements that are left to be made are those of group identity, such as skin color, where all that is black has become good and right, and all that is white has become bad and wrong. And that is how we get the point where when a white police officer who saved a girl’s life by shooting a black girl who was attempting to murder her, becomes the villain because he was white, and the attempted murderer becomes the victim because she was black. When moral character is removed from society, all that is left is no judgements, or worse of all judgements based on arbitrary criteria such as race. And we have come all the way back around to strict black-and-white judgement of others based literally on black and white.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He is a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.