‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

I’ve long argued that this exhortation is a soft form of totalitarianism. It’s rhetorical bullying. The speaker assumes he or she has authoritative knowledge of not just the problem but the solution. And if you disagree, you’re a problem.

There’s no safe harbor, no middle position where someone can say “let’s discuss this more,” never mind “I disagree” or “your solution is bad.” That’s why “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” is so often used in conjunction with “the time for debate is over.”

Now, when I say it’s totalitarian, that doesn’t mean I’m saying everyone who uses it is a totalitarian. It just means I think they’re usually mistaken.

Usually, not always. There are times when this idea is perfectly defensible. We call such moments a crisis. If you’re trapped in a vault and oxygen is running out, not being part of the solution does make you part of the problem.

This was the point of Martin Niemoller’s 1946 poem “First they came ...” in which the narrator recounts how the Nazis “came for” various groups — communists, Jews, etc. — but the narrator didn’t speak out because he wasn’t one of them. “Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

So if you’re in a situation like this, saying, “If you’re not part of the solution ...” with intellectual consistency and moral sincerity is reasonable.

But that doesn’t mean you’re right about the nature of the problem — or of the solution.

I normally make this point in the context of climate change, which I think is indeed a real problem, if not the “existential crisis” so many people claim. Moreover, I’m unconvinced by many of the solutions offered by the people shouting, “There’s no time to argue!”

Instead, I want to make this point about racism — or, more specifically, “antiracism,” the hot new concept in academia, journalism, Hollywood and other progressive bastions.

Antiracism is not what it sounds like. I think most people consider themselves antiracist insofar as most people think racism is bad. I admit, this is a hard question to poll on because even most racists don’t want to tell a pollster they think racism is good, which itself should give you a sense of how unacceptable racism is in our society.

No, “antiracism” is an idea popularized by Ibram X. Kendi, “one of America’s foremost historians and leading antiracist scholars,” according to his website bio.

“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist,’” Kendi writes in “How to Be an Antiracist.” “It is ‘antiracist.’”

“What’s the difference?” he asks rhetorically. “... One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’”

One can make too much of the fact that this is a classically Marxist framing. Marxists argued that either you accepted the “scientific” reality of the exploitation inherent in the capitalist system or you were an abettor of injustice.

But this Marxist technique is irrelevant. After all, 99 percent of the people who say, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” have never read anything Marx wrote. This zero-sum way of thinking about the world is simply a human tendency. Most of the time it’s just wrong, particularly in a free society.

And this is my problem with antiracism, along with the branches of critical race theory that peddle the same idea. I’m perfectly willing to concede that racism is a problem. But I’m sure I disagree with Kendi about the scope, nature or urgency of the problem. I’m even more certain I disagree with at least some of his proposed solutions. Does that make me racist? No. Does that make me unconcerned with racism? No. It just makes me a person with a different set of opinions and priorities.

Kendi disagrees. For instance, he says opposition to slavery reparations is racist. If you can’t see how this if-you-disagree-with-me-you’re-racist claim amounts to moral bullying, my argument will be lost on you. But just to be clear, there are plenty of non-racist arguments against reparations. These arguments may be wrong or unpersuasive. But that doesn’t make them objectively racist — unless you believe that Kendi has pontifical authority to decide such matters.

In a free society, dissent from a prevailing orthodoxy is not necessarily a vice, and stigmatizing disagreement is not necessarily a virtue.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and the host of The Remnant podcast. His Twitter handle is @JonahDispatch.

(19) comments

artandarchitecture

I love it when so called "anti-racist" experts can't even define racism.

"Anti-racist" scholar Ibram X. Kendi attempts to define racism (1 min vid)

https://www.bitchute.com/video/qZr1OgAONDSc/

Mark Twain once said “Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.”

I disagree. This is 'equity' defined.

shiftless88

No; equity is providing appropriate meals for both the man and the baby. They are both full at the end so that is equity.

artandarchitecture

No, 'equity' *always* involves forcibly taking a productive person's earnings, achievements, freedoms, & honors and giving them to others who don't, won't, or (occasionally) can't work for them.

It ensures that everyone, in the end, will be equally miserable & suffering under socialism-totalitarianism (except for a very few ultra-rich oligarchs at the top.)

By making sure to never to use meritocracy (promote excellent work/achievement), but rather, blindly insert a bunch of randos in order to fill quotas for skin colors, sexual confusion, etc., you can guarantee *complete* societal, economic, & governmental, breakdown. There are numerous modern disasters we can learn from.

Ethnostates such as China don't have to contend with all this progressive racial equity drama. They're so ready to steamroll us, & Biden happily ushers them right in, little by little. No military invasion is even necessary!

Greg F

"*always* involves forcibly taking a productive person's earnings" which here is the typical RRR dichotomy...you're with us or against us mentality...Artie...have you no original thoughts? You really lack any critical thinking skills entirely. When someone states "always" happens to something, you know immediately that in almost all cases (note...I did not say all cases) that the statement isn't true...even an 8th grader knows when the teacher puts something ALWAYS or NEVER happens on a multiple choice test, it's most often not the answer. That's you. You seem to espouse the typical calling of any equity as being a socialist or communist plot to take something away that should have been fairly distributed in the first place. What's next...you spouting "they are breathing MY AIR and it's a commie plot to take it away from me?" Come on...you spout dribble ever time you come here. Cite a source that is widely accepted...not Fox, not Hannity, not Newsmax...not even CNN or MSNBC. Stop the crap.

Hayduke2

art- who decides the excellent work and or achievement? Is it subjective ? Your argument won't hold water bro.

gary4books

Piffle.

gary4books

As a side bar, China tried and failed to "steamroll" Japan and failed. I expect they are quite content to trade with us and keep their Military for defense. Even Vietnam beat up on them in their last Military adventure; unless you count Tibet or India as military action.

shiftless88

artie, you really need to do some simple homework before posting. You are embarrassing yourself being incorrect so often and not responding when asked for backup info for your claims. Don't you want to be taken seriously? "Though often used interchangeably, equality and equity are quite different. ... Equality simply means everyone is treated the same exact way, regardless of need or any other individual difference. Equity, on the other hand, means everyone is provided with what they need to succeed."

phydeaux994

Racism is when you believe your Race is superior to another, or others. Period. End of story. That’s it. Pretty simple huh a & a? Look n any Dictionary.

artandarchitecture

Phy, I wish it were that simple. Merriam-Webster just changed the definition of racism last year to suit the needs of one black college student, Kennedy Mitchum, of Drake University (Iowa) who would otherwise have lost a debate about systemic oppression.She needed the official textbook definition of racism re-written/re-invented so that she could win & Webster was more than happy to acquiesce.

But don't get too used to the current definition, it will be updated again, as frequently as needed, until socialism-communism is finally installed. Many kids in within Maryland public schools are not issued textbooks. (They give the kids lessons which are no more than few pages at a time. Everything can be altered at a moment's notice. 2+2 = 5 now, because it's in your lesson! & anything else in patriarchal & rayyycissst!

shiftless88

Wow! Where do you GET this stuff, woman?? From this post I am guessing you know nothing about either debates or dictionaries.

Hayduke2

WOW, talk about twisting and manipulating a story for your political purposes. Google her name and read the real story folks

artandarchitecture

For Hayduke-- here she is:

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/she-tired-her-peers-lecturing-150616206.html

threecents

Yah, some people unironically claim that everything, even the weather, is about race, and that is counterproductive. It just causes backlash where everyone has to choose sides rather than evolve. With 1.2 guns per household in the US and over 1% of our adult working age population currently in jail, we still need some evolution.

shiftless88

and some people like Jonah glom onto one person's view, that I don't even think it is the majority point of view in the black communities of the US, and act like it is far more significant than it is. Sort of a straw man approach.

phydeaux994

No three, it’s about Race because you choose sides. There are no sides, we are all Homo Sapiens. We are the same, only the outer appearance is different, which is meaningless in judging quality.

shiftless88

I guess we should all look to see if Jonah made similar comments about GWB's "you are either with us or against us" attitude with terrorism (or perceived terrorism).

Greg F

People love to have an argument that is like that...not everything is a clear dichotomy with it's either this or that. This is the argument of someone with a limited capacity to assess things and wants to promote one agenda over another..when in reality there may be far more than one answer or compromise to be made. Republicans with trump want to see it that way...if you aren't with them, you're a commie or socialist, and if you're black and say BLM, you must be Antifa (also something they have no idea of Antifa's origins and purpose). There are far more variables than just those two sides. The one that is clear that isn't...if you're a die-hard racist and trumper....you have some serious issues with yourself and views of the world.

gary4books

Straw Figures are so much fun.

A pity that they exist only in the minds of some. Or have to be invented to truly satisfy their needs.

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