Justice And Identity Politics

Justice And Identity Politics

It can be useful to go back to first principles, so here is what one might come up with when going back to first principles regarding justice. After this come some thoughts on what is made of these principles by identity politics.

When we think of justice, two things might come to mind, the first being someone getting their just deserts. They have been found guilty, and now they are being sentenced. The second thing is fairness. A child who says “It’s not fair!” is complaining that an injustice has been done, usually because of a lack of equal treatment. This idea of justice as equal treatment is enshrined in the principle of equality before the law and by extension as a principle that should govern the operation of any institution. We may not be entitled to equal treatment from people in our private lives, but we should be able to expect it from institutions. These two aspects of it, as concerning a question of guilt and as equal treatment by an institution, capture the essence of justice for practical purposes.

In either sense justice is a process or procedure. It is a human activity, something that is done. What goes on in a court of law is a process, procedure or activity that should lead to a just result. Justice as equal treatment is a way an institution has or should have of proceeding as a matter of course.

What exactly do we mean by equal treatment as afforded by an institution? Not strictly that it treats everyone the same. A teacher can give one child a higher mark than another or a policeman can arrest one person but not the next without doing an injustice. Such unequal treatment is acceptable, indeed required, because in meting it out an institution is responding to differences between people that are relevant to what it is supposed to be doing. What is wrong is for an institution to treat people differently for a reason not relevant to its task, such as because of their race. Schools should not treat children differently by race because a child’s race is irrelevant to the task of educating it, nor should the police treat people differently by race, because a person’s race is irrelevant to the task of law enforcement. So by an institution treating people equally we mean that it treats them equally with respect to characteristics irrelevant to its task.

Perhaps then it is not quite true to say that justice as equal treatment requires an institution to do something. Arguably it requires it to refrain from doing something, namely bestowing favours or inflicting bad things on people for reasons irrelevant to its task.

Justice sorts a population in various ways. A just education system separates the brighter and more hardworking from the less bright and less hardworking, causing the former to obtain more qualifications. A criminal justice system separates criminals from law-abiding citizens. What goes for individuals goes for groups. A just society gives brighter and more hardworking groups more qualifications than less bright and less hardworking groups, and puts more criminally inclined groups through its criminal justice system at a higher rate than it does less criminally inclined groups. Justice therefore shows a society how its component groups differ.

Turning to identity politics, this is the process whereby so-called identity groups struggle to defeat justice in their perceived self-interest. The question that preoccupies such a group is this: how can we as black people, women or whatever evade our just deserts and get the unjust deserts we want, so as to gain an advantage over our opposite group? If an identity group knows one thing, therefore, it is that it doesn’t want equal treatment; it wants unequal treatment in its favour. If the group is anti-racist — we ignore the supposedly noble-sounding name anti-racism gives itself — it wants institutions to treat people differently by race, favouring non-whites. Feminism wants institutions to treat people differently by sex, favouring women. Nor do identity groups arrive at such aims after cogitation; such aims are their reasons for existing. The only thing an identity group needs to cogitate about is how it intends to achieve its anti-justice aims.

It can achieve them only by misrepresentation and denial — or in short deception — which begins with its presentation of itself. Anti-racists, unless they are deluded, know as well as anyone that black people are not the same as white people. Feminists know that women are not the same as men. They know moreover that this is why black people come out of institutions in a different position from white people and why women come out in a different position from men. They know that it is differences between the races that cause black people to pick up guilty verdicts at a higher rate than the other races, and that it is sex differences that explain the fact that women qualify as hairdressers and beauticians at a higher rate than men. But such facts are of no use to an identity group, which must find its opposite group responsible for its situation, and so the first thing it must do is deny that it differs in any essential way from its opposite group. Accordingly, the basic axiom of anti-racism is that the races are essentially the same, and the basic axiom of feminism is that the sexes are essentially the same.

These axioms of essential equality prompt the following questions, or questions of the following form. Why have non-whites, especially blacks, achieved less than whites, and why do they keep on achieving less? Why have women accomplished less than men and why do they continue in this manner? For example, why was it white people and not black people who built great cathedrals, wrote Hamlet and painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, having built the Sistine Chapel, and why do black people still fail to stand out as architects and builders, dramatists and painters? Why was it men not women who discovered the laws of motion, came up with the idea of differential calculus and invented the washing machine, and why do women still rarely distinguish themselves as physicists or mathematicians, inventors or engineers?

The ideologies reply by saying in the case of black people that white people stopped them. True, white people had yet to encounter black people in the medieval or for the most part in the Elizabethan period, but it is still their fault that black people did not equal their achievements. Feminists say that men stopped women. Quite how they might have stopped a determined maiden lady from discovering the laws of motion is not entirely clear, but they stopped her. According to these ideologies, therefore, the races compare as they do, and the sexes compare as they do, not because of nature but because of the injustice of white people and men, who refused to give black people or women a fair chance. Now it is payback time, when the white man owes his victims special treatment in reparation for his oppression, which is in proportion to the many great things they could have done if only he had let them. Such is the way in which identity groups demand the injustice they were after.

All that remains for them to do is point to examples of the oppression, which it might be thought they would have difficulty doing, yet they find them everywhere. They find them in the past, which they constantly refer to as if they were speaking of the present. Or, admitting that they are not to be found in the present, they say that the effects of past oppression persist. If a slave could not rise in the world, how can the descendant of a slave rise in the world? If women were not allowed to do something 150 years ago, how can they do it today? Or they might say that the oppression originates in the mass media. If history did not entirely stamp the life out of black people and women, how can any remaining ember ignite anything if these groups don’t see “positive images” of themselves on the television? How can a black man think of becoming an industrial chemist unless he sees pictures of black industrial chemists in advertisements? What woman can aspire to be a chief executive unless she sees chief executives portrayed as women in her magazines?

If such measures still fail to realise anti-racist and feminist hopes, perhaps the opportunities that seem to exist for black people and women are illusory. Perhaps teachers’ efforts to make sure that they do not discriminate by race are to no avail because the schools themselves, regardless of what anybody does in them, are “institutionally racist”. Perhaps a “glass ceiling” comes between the women who want to run huge corporations and any chance of their doing so. To anti-racists and feminists, the fact that these barriers are invisible only proves the diabolical cunning of those who conspire to keep non-whites and women down.

And so, as we have seen in recent decades, no theory is too silly to be proposed by an anti-racist or a feminist intent on denying that God made black people different from white people or women different from men. Nor have idiotic theories merely been proposed; in anti-racist and feminist ideology they are orthodox. More than this: the ideologies themselves are orthodox. They are imparted to the whole population, including children, who are taught them from an early age. Non-whites and women are not considered culturally literate unless they automatically blame white men for anything not to their satisfaction. Nor do white men, who are hardly free from anti-racism and feminism, deny that it is all their fault.

These ideologies can only be maintained by the systematic abuse of language. The meaning of every expression in the semantic field of justice must be inverted, starting with justice itself. No one can argue against justice, because it is a “cheer word”, meaning that the idea that whatever it might refer to is good is built into it. Therefore the enemies of justice must appropriate the word and describe themselves as seeking something with a name that contains it, such as “racial justice” or “social justice”.

But as soon as we compare these forms of justice with real justice, we see that they are fake. Real justice, as we have seen, is a process, procedure or activity or perhaps a non-activity, as in refraining from treating people differently on account of irrelevant characteristics. Justice cares not how its results affect one group or another, nor is it interested in statistics. But the proponents of these varieties of so-called justice mention no process, procedure or activity, nor do they talk about refraining from unjust discrimination. They are concerned only with results, and in particular with the distribution of results between their favoured groups and their opposites, which means that they are obsessed with statistics. For anti-racists, “racial justice” is nothing but the equal distribution of results between white people and non-whites, especially blacks, as calculated by statisticians. For feminists, “social justice” is nothing but the equal distribution of results between the sexes. The reason anti-racists and feminists don’t say how these equal distributions are to be arrived at is that they can only be arrived at by discriminating in favour of their pet groups, and discriminating so energetically as to offset the intrinsic differences between these groups and their opposites.

Nor are the results that concern these people necessarily the results of anything that went on in an institution; they are simply circumstances. What anti-racists and feminists demand is that everyone be placed in equally attractive circumstances and indeed in the same circumstances. This is why the world they envisage will be so fascinating. Everybody’s life will be an exact copy of everybody else’s. It is also why the ideologies inevitably tend to Maoism or Marxism, for only an all-powerful state can hope to create the total human sameness they desire.

Justice requires a level playing field, on which the better team will win. Therefore when an identity group’s team loses, the group complains that the playing field was tilted. But when it demands a level playing field, it doesn’t mean a level playing field; it means a tilted one. “Level” in the usage of an identity group is something a playing field can only be if the game ends in a draw, even if one needs to be virtually a mountaineer to get from one end of it to the other. Nor for them does fairness refer to the manner in which a competition was conducted; it refers again to the result. Again the only fair competition is one that ends in a dead heat, no matter what crookery might be needed to contrive this.

Discrimination in the normal meaning of the word is an injustice and is necessarily something that is done. There must be someone who discriminated. As anti-racists and feminists use the word, however, for discrimination to be found there doesn’t need to have been any injustice, nor does anyone need to have done anything. Discrimination is found, again, in a result. Either it is assumed to have occurred on the basis that the result was not a tie, or it is a name given to the result itself. Unequal outcomes themselves constitute “discrimination” for these people.

For them equal treatment can itself be a variety of discrimination. In British law, “indirect discrimination” is that type of discrimination that occurs when everyone is treated the same but one group is less able than others to meet a certain standard or requirement. Thus if one group cannot equal others in a mathematics test, it has been indirectly discriminated against by the test or whoever set it. Everyone sat the same test under the same conditions, yet this was discrimination. Anti-racists have argued that the law against street robbery indirectly discriminates against black people, who break it at a higher rate than others. They sail close to the wind here, resting their argument not only on the admission that black people are more prone to mugging than are the other races but also on the implicit contention that they can’t help it. Similarly, years ago four black boys were expelled from an English school for drug dealing. They were reinstated after it was found that the rule forbidding drug dealing indirectly discriminated against them.[1] Again the argument was that they were black, therefore how could they fail to deal in drugs?[2]

“Institutional racism” sounds like the worst possible form of anti-black discrimination. The institution is run through with it from top to bottom, presumably because all it wants to do is blight the lives of black people. But the term as famously defined in a British official report does not mean anti-black discrimination; it means any lack or insufficiency of pro-black discrimination. It was defined in terms of “processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination” (emphasis added), namely processes or behaviour that produce race-correlated outcomes, namely equal treatment.[3] To rid itself of institutional racism, an institution had to indulge in pro-black discrimination or in more of it than it was already indulging in. “Institutional racism”, like “indirect discrimination”, is only a dysphemism for equal treatment: a bad-sounding name for that hated thing otherwise known as justice.

Thanks to identity politics and its acceptance by every institution in English-speaking, majority-white countries, justice is a thing of the past in these places, or at least an unwanted relic of what is seen as a benighted age. Our leaders didn’t like its way of contradicting the doctrine of universal human equality. In the courts, it caused black people to be convicted at a higher rate than others, thereby bringing out a difference between the races, nor did equal treatment on the street help, where the police kept having to arrest members of this race. Now that the police treat people differently by race, as they have been doing increasingly for forty years,[4] they can reduce the supply of black offenders to the courts and try to get more white people convicted, of things like “hate speech” offences.[5] Nobody cares that this brings us ever more real crime; the important thing is that it improves the statistics, helping to create the impression that the races are the same.

As for the sexes, the courts have always treated women more leniently than men,[6] but where we have made progress recently is in limiting the freedom of girls to choose what to study when they leave school. Given freedom, too many studied the humanities and not enough the hard sciences, showing up a difference between the sexes. Now that we push girls almost bodily into STEM fields, not caring how much we have to discriminate in their favour to get them in or how poorly they perform after graduating, we are correcting these statistics too. Eventually the sexes too will appear officially to be the same.

So today justice is for the birds, in fact for the pterodactyls, the unregenerate survivors from prehistory who remain attached to first principles.

[1] Telegraph, Sept. 21st 2000, “School drugs exclusions ‘were racist’”.

[2] Although indirect discrimination is unlawful only if a condition cannot be justified irrespective of race (House of Lords, Dec. 3rd 1999, “Race Relations [Amendment] Bill [explanatory notes]”), this only motivates lawyers to argue that conditions they want lifted cannot be so justified. In 1999, anti-racists intended to use an amended Race Relations Act to have stop-and-search ruled illegal (Telegraph, Nov. 7th 1999, “Race Bill to end stop and search”). The Commission for Racial Equality said that the police should ask whether they could justify policies based on criteria that, although not apparently race-specific, could produce disproportionately adverse outcomes for particular racial groups, such as the criterion of being involved in certain types of crime (Commission for Racial Equality, Feb. 2000, Race Relations [Amendment] Bill [briefing note], http://www.cre.gov.uk/publs/dl_rrab3.html).

[3] Sir William Macpherson, 1999, Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, CM 4262-I, The Stationery Office, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf, Paragraph 6.34.

[4] See “Anti-racism’s victory over the British police” by the present author, Aug. 7th 2023, Occidental Observerhttps://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2023/08/07/anti-racisms-victory-over-the-british-police/.

[5] See “The British police’s anti-racism today” by the present author, Aug. 25th 2023, Occidental Observerhttps://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2023/08/25/the-british-polices-anti-racism-today/.

[6] Ernest Belfort Bax, 2015 (1913), The Fraud of Feminism, Norderstedt: Herstellung und Verlag: BoD (Books on Demand.

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