Sunday, June 29, 2014

De Paul University Professor Jason Hill on Racism and Anti-Discrimination Laws

Jason D. Hill, professor of philosophy at De Paul University in Chicago, has a rare op-ed at Salon that not only praises Ayn Rand but seriously and accurately presents her ideas. In Jamaican, gay and Ayn Rand made it OK: My amazing “Atlas Shrugged” love story, Hill does a wonderful job of explaining how Ayn Rand's philosophy gave this gay atheist the moral fortitude and "intellectual armor" to escape Jamaica's  "homophobic," "mystical" culture to forge a successful and happy life in America.

I want to focus on the what hill has to say about racism and the role of government regarding racism:

    A longtime friend, an African-American man, asked me if after having lived for almost 30 years in America if I had not grown weary of fighting racism. I was both surprised by the question and also compassionately understanding. He had grown up in the Deep South and had, indisputably, experienced both state-sanctioned and private racism. I placed my hand over his and said gently:
    “I have never ever in my life sought to actively fight racism. I have simply adduced myself as evidence of its absolute stupidity and irrationality.”
    He asked me what I meant and I immediately gave him the answer I thought Ayn Rand would have given him. Racism, I explained, is a form of psychosis — a break with reality. To judge and appraise someone solely on the basis of arbitrary and nonmoral attributes such as skin pigmentation and so-called racial identity is not only irrational and nonsensical it is evil. You never grant metaphysical importance to evil or the irrational because they are impotent. Period. Rand, I explained to him, had discounted the metaphysical value of that which could only destroy but never create.
    He was not impressed. “Don’t you want the state to make it so that you would never have to even deal with racists?”
    “No! Most certainly not,” I retorted, and felt deep anguish at the look of pain on his face.
    “Short of a bloated totalitarian state in which I would rather die than live — this is impossible. The state cannot police tastes and attitudes. I want the state to protect my bodily integrity which is an absolute individual right I hold as does every other human being. I do not want any racist to inflict physical harm on me and the state’s job is to ensure that. But what the racist thinks privately of me is none of my business, and since his thoughts are so vile and irrational, to give them any deep significance would be to admit that he and what he thinks really matter to me in a way that, deep down inside, I can’t admit to. I cannot, and no person of self-esteem could. The state can and should simply keep out of my way because so much damage has been done to racial minorities by the state in the history of the United States on such a massive scale that it makes private racism seem like kindergarten play.”

I have written about the wrongness of laws against private discrimination, because such laws violate individual rights. 

But Hill makes a deeper point: Laws banning private racial discrimination grant racism an undeserved seriousness and "metaphysical importance." Advocating such laws is tantamount to admitting that racism is powerful and reason is impotent in its face; that one has no rational argument against racism.

But racism deserves no such exalted status. No form of ignorance does. It is racism that is impotent in the face of reason. The only social condition needed to marginalize racism into irrelevance is liberty.

Related Reading:

Private Sector Anti-Discrimination Laws are Rights-Violating and Destructive

How to Overcome Bigotry in a Free Society

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