The emperor’s new clothes

The emperor’s new clothes July 3, 2020

Almost two hundred years ago Hans Christian Anderson told the story of an emperor obsessed with clothes who hires two clothiers to make him a new suit.  The clothiers are con men.  They tell the emperor that their material is so fine that only intelligent people can see it.  The emperor’s so-called suit arrives, and the clothiers go through the motions of outfitting their ruler.  His advisors, afraid of being thought stupid, praise the new suit.  So do all the emperor’s subjects, for they too are afraid of not being thought to be smart.  Some even think they see it, because saying so makes them feel intelligent.

Finally, a child blurts out as the naked emperor parades by, “He’s not wearing anything at all!”  Others join in, saying the same.  The ruse is over.  But the emperor, perhaps hoping the trick will somehow keep working, continues on in his naked procession.

Today our country has millions of people, especially among elites in society and churches, praising the emperor’s new clothes. 

Take the new mantra, “Black Lives Matter.”  Of course they do.  All lives matter.  This is obvious to anyone not afraid of being called a racist for nonsensical reasons.  But these are nonsensical times.  Terry Crews, a black TV host, was vilified for tweeting that “we must ensure that #blacklivesmatter doesn’t morph into #blacklivesbetter.”  Grant Napear, for 32 years the voice of the Sacramento Kings, was fired for tweeting “All lives matter” when asked what he thought of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  These are two of far too many who have lost their jobs because they have said what is rational in this hysterical moment.

It is racist to say that all lives matter.  Get it?  If not, you must not see how beautiful the emperor’s new clothes are.

Those who see the new clothes say that one who says all lives matter must not care about the plight of the black underclass in America, and the American history of racism in slavery and Jim Crow.

But this connection is not at all obvious.  All except a tiny group of extremists grieve this history.  And those who grieve, whites and blacks included, would agree that both white and black lives matter.

What about the organization Black Lives Matter?  The Pew Research Center says that two thirds of Americans support it.  But do they even know what it is?   If they knew that two of its three founders are Marxists–and that the organization has gone public (though it has recently scrubbed most of this from its website) denouncing the nuclear family, “heteronormativity” (the universal and transcultural idea that heterosexuality ought to be the norm), the existence of prisons and police, and capitalism—most might withdraw their support. BLM also supports abortion on demand.

Because of these positions (and others such as its leaders threatening to “burn down the system” if their demands are not met), a rational person would have to conclude that BLM is anti-black.  For blacks in the inner city (where homicides are far more frequent) need police and prisons to protect them from criminals more than whites in the suburbs, and black children need both moms and dads as much as white kids do (but 70% of black children now are born out of wedlock and roughly that percentage grow up without Dads being around).  Because blacks on average do not have as much wealth as whites, blacks need even more than whites the economic system that has done more to destroy poverty than any other in the history of the planet: capitalism.  And because black babies are aborted at a higher rate than that of any other ethnicity, BLM’s promotion of Planned Parenthood will help destroy black lives.  These little black lives apparently don’t matter to Black Lives Matter.

By the way, don’t take my word for these things.  Black scholars like Glenn Loury and Carol Swain and others denounce BLM for these reasons precisely.

And what about “systemic racism”?  The mainstream narrative today (which punishes those who diverge from it) is that things are just as bad for blacks as they were in the days of Jim Crow before the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the establishment of affirmative action in the 1970s in nearly every public sector of America.  Whites are just as racist as ever, and the only racism that matters is white racism toward blacks.

This is another part of the emperor’s new wardrobe that people feel compelled to affirm.

Agreed?  Many black thinkers disagree.  Professor Swain suggests that if white racism is systemic, the system is broken.  Predominantly white America elected a black president twice.  For fifty years the system in education, government, media, and corporations has advertised new positions by saying that “women and minorities are encouraged to apply.” Today “inclusion and diversity” initiatives are systematically applied in nearly every American institution.  This is systemic preference for people of color.  Partly as a result, millions of white men are unemployed or under-employed.

Then there is that other stunning fabric in the emperor’s new suit—the widely accepted dictum that police racism and brutality are systemic to police departments around the country.  Again, scholars of color disagree.  Jason Riley, for example, argues that police racism is not epidemic, and a few viral videos don’t prove otherwise. Legal policy expert Rafael Mangual explains that lethal force is used in .003% of all arrests of black or brown suspects, and non-lethal force in less than 1% of those arrests.  The accusation of systemic bias against people of color is vastly “overblown” and unfair to major improvements made by police departments in the last several decades.

Jason Riley and Glenn Loury and Thomas Sowell agree that while racism persists, it is a distortion to maintain that possibilities for blacks have not improved in the last fifty years.  Professor Swain insists that the myth of “just as bad as ever” destroys the one thing needful for a young black generation: hope.  And that the key to success is America is dependent on neither race nor wealth but attitude.  Charles Love asks breast-beating whites to stop thinking that blacks in America are generally poor and uneducated and living in oppressive conditions, for this is simply untrue. And by the way, he says, stop suggesting that blacks aren’t smart by dropping SAT and ACT exams.  It is demeaning.

If we insist on talking about systemic racism, other thinkers of color like Robert Woodson advise us to think about the political systems that have controlled the inner cities of America for 50 years where welfare systems have crippled the black family, teacher unions protect terrible schools and forbid school choice, and crime is permitted to a degree that that would topple political control anywhere else.

But the worst thing going on today, according to black Christian thinkers, is the way white churches are responding: virtue signaling by apologizing for white privilege and pledging to diversify their churches.  Where is the gospel in this? asks Derryck Green.  It is the world’s way of addressing racism by identity politics.  It helped destroy mainline Protestantism, and won’t help evangelicals.  For it replaces the gospel of grace with the gospel of race.  It defines people by the old creation and not the new.  It identifies people by skin color, which is a new kind of racism.  It refuses Martin Luther King’s exhortation to judge others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Far better, says Carol Swain, to go to the gospel that alone can cleanse the heart of prejudice.  This runs through every heart, no matter what color.  Only the atonement of Jesus and the Spirit he promised can rid our country of the hatred and bitterness that are running amok.

These black thinkers are telling America that the emperor has no clothes.  Will Americans listen to them?


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