by Victor Davis Hanson
One of the tenets of the early civil rights movement some 65 years ago was ending racial stereotyping.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. called for emphasizing the “content of our character” over “the color of our skin,” the subtext was “stop judging people as a faceless collective on the basis of their superficial appearance and instead look to them as individuals with unique characters.”
It is tragic that King’s plea for an integrated, assimilated society, in which race became incidental, not essential to our personas, has mostly been abandoned by the Left in favor of racial stereotyping, collective guilting, and scapegoating by race and gender.
Indeed, many of the old Confederate pathologies—fixation on racial essence, obsession with genealogy, nullification of federal laws, states’ rights, and segregated spaces and ceremonies—are now rehabilitated by woke activists.
In that larger landscape, the collective adjective and noun “white” now has also been redefined and mainstreamed as a pejorative to the point of banality.
“White” followed by a string of subsequent oppressive nouns—“rage,” “supremacy,” “privilege”—has become a twitch on campus. Diversity, equity, and inclusion deans and provosts cannot write a memo, issue a communique, or sign a directive without a reference to “white” something or other.
Like the mysterious omnipresence of transgenderism in popular culture, all of a sudden, the obsession with whites as a Satanic collective has become a national fad—a pet-rock or hula-hoop-like collective madness.
Yet such an addiction remains bizarre in a variety of ways. Millions in the present are now to be libeled as oppressors by the contemporary self-described oppressed—supposedly for what some whites who are mostly now dead once did to now mostly dead others.
Yet what does “white” really mean anymore? Is it an adjective or noun indicating color? Culture? Race? Ethnicity? Is white defined as three-quarters, one-half, or one-quarter paleness? Is it an overarching state of mind that encompasses both “Duck Dynasty” and “The West Wing”?
Certainly, in a multiracial, intermarried nation, with 50 million residents not even born in America, the term is a construct that can mean almost anything and thus nothing much at all.
Hispanics are often lumped in with other “marginalized” peoples as part of the vast diversity coalition. Yet most Latinos are indistinguishable from Italian-, Arab-, Greek- or Portuguese-Americans, who, in turn, are all usually considered part of the “white” majority. Does a mere accent mark or trilled “R” transmogrify a blue-eyed Argentinian-American into the preferred nonwhite, diversity collective?
In our crazy racially categorized society, had George Zimmerman just adopted his maternal surname Mesa and Hispanicized George to Jorge, then a “Jorge Mesa” might not have been so easily demonized as what the New York Times slurred as a “white” Hispanic following his deadly confrontation with Trayvon Martin in 2012.
The controversial City University of New York firebrand and graduation speaker Fatima Mousa Mohammed recently railed against capitalism, Zionism, Israel—and, of course, “white supremacy.” Yet she herself is whiter than white. She is now an elite with a law degree. Is she then a beneficiary of “white privilege”? Or do her radical politics trump skin color and earn her exemption?
Is a snarly, divisive Joe Biden, barking at the moon about “ultra-MAGA” and “semi-fascist” white monsters, then, not a purveyor and beneficiary of white supremacy by virtue of his woke politics?
I know a lot of white mechanics, forklift drivers, and assembly workers. I have never heard one employ one of Biden’s racial putdowns like “boy” or “junkie.” Do they enjoy white privilege in some way the Biden family consortium does not—despite Joe’s past fulsome praise of iconic segregationists or his Corn-Pop fables of black youth petting his golden hairs on his sun-tanned white legs, or Hunter’s taboos about dating Asian women?
“The View’s” Sonny Hostin has created a mini-career in imaging all the ways in which she can smear “white” women as demonic (“White women, in particular, want to protect this patriarchy”) as she thinks up new Hitlerian gas metaphors of dehumanization, such as white women resembling “roaches voting for Raid.”
When the media wishes to attack black conservatives like Larry Elder, it now can call them “white supremacists.” When it wishes to warp the news for its woke agendas, it assures us that a Latino mass-murderer was a “white supremacist” and then, in Pavlovian fashion, academics follow with essays assuring us that their “research” proves Hispanics too can be white supremacists.
The creation of false racial identities is an accurate touchstone of perceived collective racialized privilege. “Passing” for white in the racist days of Jim Crow reflected a means of escaping racist segregation and discrimination for blacks.
Now the increasing trend of whites seeking to pass for nonwhites—Elizabeth Warren, Ward Churchill, Rachel Dolezal—reflects a self-interested and careerist assessment that nonwhite status is advantageous.
In college admissions, are applicants more likely to massage a non-white or white identity for perceived advantage? Is the racist ossified “one-drop rule” or “one-sixteenth” genealogy now rebooted as helpful proof of proving white or nonwhite heritage?
Then we come to the absurdity of lumping together 330 million diverse Americans, with ancestries that are often quite antithetical—Serbians and Albanians, Turks and Armenians, Israelis and Syrians, Germans and French. Are all these ancient antagonists reduced now to white automatons of a sinister collective borg?
Arrive as an immigrant from Hungary or Estonia, and—presto!—you are culpable for creating supposed monsters of the past like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, whose statues must be toppled or defaced? Arrive the same day from Oaxaca and you are somehow exempt from such reparatory burdens?
Immigration, at least, is immune from the academic perversion of research, and simply reflects realities on the ground. Millions of immigrants instinctively vote with their feet. We are told the U.S. current population is 67 percent to 70 percent “white” while yearly immigrants, legal and illegal, may total upwards of 90 percent nonwhite.
But how is this paradox possible? Given the loud global warnings about “white rage” and “white supremacy,” why would millions of nonwhites risk their lives to reach a country where they would be assured of being subservient to “white privilege”?
Can it instead be true that they simply do not believe what media and political elites tell them, given they have learned from prior immigrants that far from being at risk, they will have opportunities impossible in their native countries?
Do not new arrivals risk their lives to enter the United States because they rightly assume that a so-called white majority country strangely, unlike their own tribal homelands in China or Mexico, does not fixate on race but instead encourages those who do not look like the majority to join their commonwealth—in a way the Mexican Constitution, for example, traditionally did not?
Class apparently now means nothing. Does the white mechanic in Provo supposedly think like the Pelosi family—as a fellow “white” person?
Are Barack Obama’s “clingers,” Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” and “irredeemables,” and Joe Biden’s “semi-fascists,” “Ultra-MAGAs,” “dregs,” and “chumps” all of the same mentality? Do they share the same values as those embraced by Hunter Biden, Jane Fonda, and Adam Schiff, by virtue of some mystical bonds of whiteness?
Where are the data to support the charge of imperious whiteness? Do so-called raging whites commit hate crimes in numbers greater than their demographics?
In fact, they are underrepresented.
Do purported whites hunt down people of color as if we are all living in 1920s rural Mississippi?
In fact, in relatively rare interracial violent crime, whites are up to 10 times more likely to be victims of black- or Hispanic-perpetrated violence than agents themselves of interracial assault.
Do white supremacists send poor people of color abroad, as often argued, to die in rich white men’s wars?
In fact, white males died in Iraq and Afghanistan at twice their numbers in the general population. Is that asymmetry proof of what Mark Milley and Lloyd Austin pontificated about in fixating on white privilege?
How do we adjudicate or define “proportionate representation”? What is disproportionate?
Would it be the more than 70 percent of African Americans in many professional sports at six times their percentages of the population? Or perhaps the current admission statistics of the incoming class at Stanford University, where the university boasts that just 22 percent of its 2026 class is so-called white?
Is it white privilege, rage, or supremacy that explains why seven of the current 25 cabinet and cabinet-level secretaries of the U.S. government are heterosexual white males? Does white privilege reveal why Asian Americans, on average, enjoy an annual median household income some $25,000 higher than their white counterparts?
Are whites, by virtue of their supposed privileged caste, immune from suicide? In fact, the so-called white suicide rate is more than double the rate of blacks and Hispanics.
Do supremacy and privilege explain why two-thirds of the annual opioid overdose deaths are among whites?
Perhaps to substantiate the boilerplate of “white supremacy” and “white rage,” we might look to efforts at retro-segregation?
Are privileged whites insisting on white-only college graduations? Perhaps they are demanding set-aside spaces on campuses, where they feel “safer” and can enjoy racial affinities and solidarity by excluding others? In fact, there are racially segregated spaces on campuses, but they tend to exclude whites.
Perhaps the Left means white supremacy is a euphemism for a return to segregated housing and redlined neighborhoods. In fact, there are racially segregated dorms on campuses, the so-called “theme houses,” but again these were demanded by nonwhites.
We are told that it is not safe for the diverse to be around white people, given their supposed violent proclivities. But that certainly seems not to be the case for our elites. The Obamas often lecture the country on housing discrimination and the historic efforts of whites to self-congregate and exclude. But the ex-president owns four expensive homes, in Kalorama D.C., Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii, and Chicago. Yet he is least likely to reside in his richly diverse Chicago neighborhood and apparently feels more at home with the mostly white neighbors of his other three estates.
Indeed, some of the most severe critics of “white privilege” and “white rage” are themselves ensconced in white neighborhoods, such as the Duchess of Sussex or LeBron James. When Oprah Winfrey damns white supremacy in graduation speeches, is her subtext a snarl at her fellow billionaire neighbors in Montecito?
So what is going on with the contemporary fixation on white, white, white?
Why are there so many Duke Lacrosse, Covington kids, Tawana Brawley, and Jussie Smollett cases, as if the dearth of white oppressors and the multitude of would-be oppressed requires the fabrication of so-called white hate crimes?
Why does Joe Biden lecture the country on its supposedly greatest terrorist threat of “white supremacy”—this from the most racialist president of the modern era, who sets himself up as the judge of who is and who “ain’t black”?
This rebooted white collective stereotype seems to be the obsession of two general groups. One cadre is the elite professional, left-wing whites. By any definition of income and status, its members are quite blessed and privileged. For them, voicing the new white pejorative is a sort of psychological mechanism that excuses their own guilt-ridden privilege, by fobbing purported toxic “whiteness” onto an amorphous “semi-fascist” other, while virtue signaling they are not like “them.”
“Them,” of course, are those who live and work in places like East Palestine, Ohio, and who have zero privilege but, by the Obama-Clinton-Biden standards, are culturally and socially deplorable.
Such “white rage” and “white supremacist” mantras are also careerist cues that signal, as with party membership of the old Soviet nomenklatura, that they are correct and now audited for raises, promotions, and rewards.
The second group is composed of the wealthy, left-wing minority elites in politics, media, entertainment, sports, and government service. For the Al Sharptons and “squad” members of the world, damning “white, white, white” bogeymen alleviates them of any painful analysis of inequality, such as the role of endemic illegitimacy and absent fathers in nearly ensuring a lack of parity. It is hard work to buck the teachers’ unions and set up K-12 charter schools in the inner city that focus on math, science, and languages to ensure parity. But it is easy and cheap—and far more lucrative—to blast the SAT test as “racist” and demand reparative admissions to Yale or Harvard.
For the racialist careerist, the less racism there is to find, all the more essential it is to root it out somehow, somewhere. So, here arrives a new genre of manufactured hate crimes, whose logic is “even if it did not happen, it reminds us that it could have happened.”
The dearth of actual racism also demands a new set of adjectives that serve as something like sophisticated detectors to discover otherwise invisible natural gas fumes. The adjective “systemic” means only the select can now spot racism. Like air, it is everywhere but invisible and thus requires battalions of diversity, equity, and inclusion inspectors to use their training to expose it in the common atmosphere.
“Microaggressions” exist as a tacit admission there are no aggressions as we commonly define them. No matter—there are still hints that there might be some racial aggression, once experts redefine words and gestures to ferret out micro-racists in our midst.
Where does this all lead?
We are wasting trillions of dollars in capital, labor, and time in tribal cannibalism as our friends abroad watch in horror, and our enemies savor our decline into collective suicide—while we sink into debt, our cities turn medieval, our border disappears, our criminal justice system collapses, and our military chases its tail.
We know from history the ultimate destination of tribal chauvinism, and it is not pretty. Once a society retribalizes, it descends into a Hobbesian war of all against all. Everyone eventually seeks out or manufactures a tribal identity for self-protection. Tribalism operates on the principles of proliferation: if a neighboring nation goes nuclear, then everyone in the neighborhood must too.
Unless some passengers on our runaway train force our engineers to hit the brakes, we are headed over the cliff into Yugoslavia.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004.
Photo “Man Looking Out a Window” by Ethan Sykes.