- - Monday, July 27, 2020

A terrible malignancy grips America — universities, public intellectuals and the media are imposing a heresy on our citizens, and cynical CEOs kowtow to protect corporate brands.

Racism and sexism lace the American subconscious and drive subliminal decisions that disadvantage minorities, women — and sometimes men. But as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Black raised in Africa and the Middle East and who came here via the Netherlands, wrote “America is the best place on the planet to be black, female, gay, trans or what have you.”

George Floyd was no isolated incident. However, the left, which demands tribute from our politicians and business leaders, would have us believe Robin DiAngelo’s mantra that all Whites are racists from birth, and demands a false retelling of history.

America is imperfect and to meet 21st century standards of decency and justice, police departments must be reformed, but false prophets must be exposed, too.

Defunding police is a mockery of reason, but the left uses the idea to distract from the fact that many of the worst atrocities are occurring in jurisdictions governed by liberal Democrats. Those politicians have already imposed their brand of reform on police departments.

The pandemic lays bare the failings of contemporary capitalism. Folks who run business — from Fulton and Ford to Edison and Cook — have been disciplined by competition, but until recently with guardrails imposed by culture — socially acceptable behavior — and government regulation.

Modern moral relativism and globalization tear those restraints and impel wage and regulatory arbitrage. The pandemic casts into stark relief the resulting vulnerability of folks near the bottom — minorities in coastal cities and poorly educated whites in the heartland — and some with university degrees.

Many young people, already burdened with heavy student debt and putting off family formation, have permanently lost positions. The aftermath of the Great Recession provides a guide: It will take a decade or more for them to recover.

It is simply not true, as The New York Times’ 1619 Project would have our school children taught, that America was founded on a racist ideology, and exploitive capitalism was perfected by Southern planters to become the guiding model for Northern factories and offices.

During the Seven Years War and British oppression of colonist’s rights, American elites — Southern planters, Northern farmers and businessmen — developed a way of thinking about government and humanity. The rights of Englishmen were not a grant won from the sovereign that could be repealed but rather are endowed at birth — only a government chosen at the consent of the governed is legitimate. 

The Declaration of Independence laid bare those principles before mankind.

To obtain agreement from all 13 Colonies to declare independence from a mighty empire, which many feared could crush George Washington’s barefoot army, the document ignores slavery. It boots the issue to the next generation, but the text implicitly makes apparent the contradiction between our founders’ principles and practices. It hastened emancipation in the North — New Jersey enacted gradual abolition in 1804.

Southerners like John Calhoun held Northern capitalism in contempt, managed plantations with ruinous inefficiency and became technologically backward to the North. Invention and industrialization made the Union’s conquest of the Confederacy inevitable.

Modern capitalism has given humanity a bounty of technology and material progress. Through the 1930s, many working-class families sweltered in summer and froze in winter in crowded tenements and rural cottages. They had little contact with places far from their birth, unless conscripted by war. All that is less true today.

We need an honest conversation about race — not ruthless tests of White wokeness and banishments, but rather a process that recognizes each group’s frailties and genuine facts and rejects false revisionist history.

Among White professionals who make the rules and hire, racist ideas are hardly socially acceptable nowadays as they were when in the 1950s, but all of us — Black, brown and White — self-justify in our private prejudices.

The conversation must run in both directions.

Breaking down the barriers to opportunity requires people who will walk through opened doors and not lean on a false narrative that all failures and injustices result from racism.

Schools, social services and health care are well-funded in our liberal cities and affirmative action is entrenched in the culture as much as in statutes. However, all fail if they are badly run, insincere or cultivate a presumption of victimization and offer a crutch to blame all disappointments.

A conversation surely requires something critics in universities and the media do not enjoy — freedom from the “cancel culture” to dissent.

• Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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