Asymmetrical Multiculturalism

Asymmetrical Multiculturalism, by Rod Dreher.

The Left observes what Kaufmann calls “asymmetrical multiculturalism” — the belief that every racial/ethnic identity should be asserted and celebrated, except white identity. This, says Kaufmann, is a strategy that works for “psychological liberals,” but not for everybody else. Asymmetrical multiculturalism is at work in the story reader Jonah told about the middle-class white people who are desperate to get away from bad schools that got that way for reasons that those white people cannot even bring themselves to speak about among each other. This is distorting, and destructive.

But the Right plays its own version of denial, in Kaufmann’s view, with its belief that all identity politics are immoral. They do this in part because they are trying to maintain moral symmetry: if it’s wrong for white people to identify with their race, and to pursue political policies based on what’s good for their race, then it must also be wrong for every ethnic group to behave that way. The problem with this, says Kaufmann, is that it’s unnatural and just plain wrong. People of various “tribes” do this all the time, and though it obviously can be abused, it’s better (in Kaufmann’s view) to allow everybody to engage in a limited version of this, rather than to deny that it has any validity at all. If whites were allowed by the popular culture to think of themselves collectively in the way blacks, Latinos, Asians, and others are allowed to think of themselves, then perhaps non-liberal whites would recognize that some identity politics claims made by racial minorities are valid and important to recognize. …

Imagine what would happen if a Republican Congressman said about whites in politics what Mod Squad member Rep. Ayanna Presley said about gays, Muslims, and racial minorities in politics last week:

We would have a national media freakout on our hands. Anderson Cooper would interview a loaf of Wonder Bread and a jar of mayonnaise on live TV. Frankly, I find what Pressley is doing here — policing the boundaries of minority politics — to be repulsive, and I would find it repulsive if a white Republican Congressman did it for whites. The fact, though, that this is considered normal behavior by progressives who are racial minorities, but absolutely unthinkable for white conservatives, testifies to the power of asymmetrical multiculturalism. …

I hate asymmetrical multiculturalism because in the world I live in — among media, academic, and cultural elites, broadly speaking — it is a strategy for disempowering and marginalizing people on the basis of race, sexuality, and religious belief, and psychologically disarming any instinct for self-preservation among them. I’m one of those right wingers that Eric Kaufmann says is mistaken in his opposition to all identity politics.