An Appeal for Unity
Speech given at the CFER Rally in San Diego
I was invited by the good and embattled folks of San Diego County to address those matters of Critical Race Theory that disempower citizens by its rational shortcuts and and historical distortions. I delivered a speech August 28th which was the 58th anniversary of MLK’s most famous speech. When I first approached the subject, I considered a simplified description of CRT and the reasons why reasonable Americans have and will continue to fight it. But I realized they surely had their own reasons, much owing to the fact that they were parents themselves who had no desire to have their children boxed in by new interpretations of racial essentialism.
I think I was right to take this alternate tack which was to drill down into the matters of character that MLK alluded to. As I’ve written more extensively about in Forty Virtues, there was a time when schools did grade students on the content of their character. Today that has become something of a non-binding resolution of hot air that nobody gets called on. I begged to differ.
If Americans actually value character, it is something that has the possibility of saving us from foolish partisanship. So I would boldly propose that such evaluations take place in public school.
Free Black Thought (FBT) combats racial essentialism and the politics of racial authenticity by promoting public awareness of the great diversity of thought among black writers and artists. In so doing, we seek to highlight the unique contributions to public debates made by heterodox black voices from across the political spectrum. FBT is non-partisan: we pursue no political agenda other than a commitment to free speech, civil rights, and a conviction that a pluralistic society committed to liberal democracy is nourished by the entire spectrum of black thinking on matters of politics, society, and culture.
The Foundation for Free Black Thought is necessary because it's difficult to get a wide open set of human possibilities presented to you with respect in today's environment. Millions of Americans think they've got it right, that there is a fixed orthodoxy about race that goes all the way back to 1619 and that Americans cannot think their way out. That we are spoken for. We are not.
Racial essentialism is the box that we all need to think our way out of. We need to ignore, mock and repudiate all racial theories. It's not so hard. I can prove with scientific accuracy that I'm not a minority. My blood type is O. We Os are 42% of humanity. If you ask the average American what to expect from a Type O, they won't have a prediction because they haven't been told anything. We haven't socialized blood type consciousness. Yet we have socialized racial consciousness, and all of us today are suffering from a resurgence of these bad ideas. We are not spoken for. [Applause]
Our mission is not new. In fact it's something that is as old as Western civilization. It is engagement in the process of identifying errors and offering corrections. It involves the creative process of making conjectures that can be tested, and coming up with better ideas by evaluating the results.
In a way you could say that the mission of FBT, indeed all of our mission should be to destroy the idea of the black race, of the white race, of all races. In the same way Western thinkers destroyed all of the giant turtles that were holding up planet earth in the center of the universe. It's something we already know how to do because we are constantly finding bad assumptions about people because of their race. We all notice people jumping to racial conclusions. It's a big deal, but we are not involved in a revolution. This is a deliberate process that needs to answer 1000 skeptical questions and 10,000 stupid ones. Like, “Am I racist against X because I don’t like spicy food?” Seriously? It takes patience.
We all know what MLK said about the content of our character. Today I suggest to you that you speak less defensively about your race and more about the content of your character. Speak out about virtues. Let me drill down and identify a few. And as parents let me remind you that these are things that used to be on our report cards.
Generosity: the attitude and habits we demonstrate when we give towards the needs of others in a willing and cheerful manner.
Fortitude: the courage to stand up for what is right, even in the face of pressure.
Prudence: the virtue that allows us to determine what’s right and what’s wrong and then act accordingly.
Justice: giving to others what they are rightly due.
Temperance: controlling our desires and wants in order to achieve a greater good and meet our life goals. Temperance could also be called self-control. [Applause]
Assertiveness: achieving goals by setting appropriate boundaries, asking for help when we need it, and being confident and positive about our abilities.
Purposefulness: having a vision, clear focus, and concentration on goals.
Modesty: demonstration of purity of heart in action, especially in regards to conduct, dress and speech.
Peacefulness: having a sense of inner calm, no matter what is happening around you.
Clemency: poor choices, and disputes in a reasonable and consistent manner by not being too strict, but not being too lax either.
Honesty: sincerity, openness, and truthfulness in one’s works and actions.
Respect: recognizing the worth and dignity of every single human person. [Applause]
Patience: remaining calm and not becoming annoyed when dealing with problems or difficult people. This could also mean paying attention to something for a long time without becoming bored or losing interest. Like at speeches. [Laughter] So I ask you finally for...
Perseverance: taking the steps necessary to carry out objectives in spite of difficulties. [Applause]
I say again, these virtues are not on children's report cards. What kind of society considers these optional? A failing society. What kind of society considers talk about race and ethnicity to be mandatory? A failing society. So we have work to do. We know how to do it, and we know that we should, because If we don't, it's turtles all the way down. [Applause]
It’s not a dream. It’s a necessity. It’s not an option. It’s a requirement for all of us and most especially for children.