The Hard Bigotry of Low Expectations

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George W. Bush once gave a speech that contained a phrase that was laden with worldview wisdom. That phrase was the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” When someone is growing up in a world in which he is confronted with all sorts of unfair challenges, there is an natural and sentimental reaction that wants to soften the challenges—instead of hardening the challenger.

The end result is that we wind up placing yet another challenge in front of the poor kid. We lower the standard in order to make it easier for him, and what we actually wind up doing is putting an asterisk next to all his future accomplishments, if there are any. “This accomplishment may or may not be the result of this individual’s talent or industry.”

Two Stories

Allow me to begin with the juxtaposition of two incidents.

Quite a few years ago, in the early days of Logos School, I was teaching a class. I remember that it was upper elementary, or junior high, somewhere in that neighborhood. I also remember that there was a young black student in the class, and he was not really a great student, and he was something of a pill. And I recall a parent/teacher conference I had one time with his mom, in which she appeared insufficiently aware of how much of a pill he was being. He was not popular with the other kids and she, naturally enough, attributed this to their problems with his race. We also discussed his school work. But rather than argue with his mother about whether or not he was being a pill regarding the other kids and a slacker regarding his work, I took a different tack.

I granted her point that he was growing up in a bigoted world, one in which he would have to work twice as hard as the privileged kids in order to achieve the same results. I granted her that, but then said that, as his teacher, I needed to inform her that he was currently working half as hard. Given the nature of the world he was growing up in, what do you think is going to happen to him? That’s one story.

Comes now Kate Brown, governor of the People’s Republic of Oregonistan, and she just recently signed a measure that removed reading, writing, and math requirements for graduation from Oregon schools, and she did this foul deed in order to help “students of color.”

You see, in the world of unbearable whiteness that Kate Brown inhabits, teaching black kids to do math is a bridge too far. For normal people, hearing this, what word comes to mind? Insufferable. Patronizing. Exasperating. Dreadful. Arrogant. Troublesome. Rebarbative. Grotesque. Insolent. Actually, lots of words come to mind. Here’s another one. Racist.

Yes, I know. Racist has been done to death. Everything is racist, which means that nothing is. Math is racist, and so we’d better not inflict any of that Jim Crow Geometry on the hapless black kids. Parallel lines never meet, which reminded somebody of separate drinking fountains, and they were offended by it. Two lines, separate but equal, ha!

So we do live in times of racism inflation, and that really must be acknowledged. We are on our guard when it comes to calling each and every little thing racist. The race hustlers, and the soft evangelicals who love to enable them, have inflated the paper currency of racism, such that accusations of racism now have almost no purchasing power—lying there like so many Weimar papiermarks in the gutter. If somebody yells racist! now the best thing to do is to yawn and walk on by. But every once in a while, once in a blue moon, we can still come across the real thing, not inflated paper but an actual gold nugget, and not some worthless paper racism. Every once in a while a gold nugget gets elected to the governor’s office in Oregon.

“You are black, or Hispanic, or a Pacific Islander, and so we are going to help you out by not requiring you to learn any basic life skills. Glad we could be of assistance.”

And it is all done with a beaming smile, the kind of patronizing smile that you can see in the meme above, the kind of smile that absolutely sums up the subtitle of Thomas Sowell’s great book The Vision of the Anointed. That subtitle is “Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy.”

More on all of that shortly.

George Orwell, Call Your Office. No, Really, Call Your Office

It may seem to you that I am changing the subject, but I am doing nothing of the kind. Absolutely all of this foolishness is connected.

George Orwell’s estate just recently approved the publication of a feminist retelling of Orwell’s great novel 1984. Because that is what the world needs right now is to have Orwell’s estate approve in principle the idea of “every book rewritten,” and as we have embarked on this brave new publishing world, why not provide an edifying example to start with by rewriting 1984?

But let us learn wisdom from Orwell, Alice, and Isaiah.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

George Orwell, 1984

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

The key to understanding our debates in the public square in these demented times is the simple fact that we are inhabiting an “endless present in which the self-congratulation is always right.” They are right by definition, for they are the Anointed, and they can oscillate between whatever positions they want, and those who are opposed to them are the racists, whatever the policy in question may be. That is how the memory hole works.

Did you turn down a black kid at the adoption agency? You are a racist. Did you adopt a black kid at the adoption agency? You are a colonizing racist. To reapply Chesterton, it is starting to look as though white people are not heinous enough to commit any crime, but rather that any stick is good enough to beat white people with.

Self-Congratulation as Superpower

Let us return to our earlier juxtaposed stories.

According to our modern dictionary despots, the guy (me) who wanted a young black student to learn to stand on his own feet, earn his own way, and to become a valuable, contributing citizen who had no asterisk by his name is a racist. I would be tarred as a racist because, my enemies would say, I clearly implied in that story that blacks were lazy. No, my retort would be, I did not say that blacks were lazy. I said that it was possible for blacks to be lazy, just as this one was being, and I wanted to work hard at correcting the problem.

And the governor of Oregon who took all the nets and balls away, so that black athletes might start earning their fair share of tennis trophies, is mysteriously a champion of black athletic achievement. The nets and balls were getting in the way of the current goal.

No matter how absurd the claim might be, those who are in the grip of this self-congratulatory fever can overcome, they think, any obstacle. They can defeat any foe, by the simple expedient of definition. That person over there opposes our efforts at self-congratulation, and is therefore by definition a racist, misogynistic colonizing homophobe. By definition.

This claim is made by them because they are actually aspiring to Deity, and one of the prerogatives of Deity is creating things out of nothing. “And god said, let there be racism, and there was racism. And the evening and the morning were the first hate crime.” When our God created the world, He immediately said that it was very good. But when these tin-plated idols create their world filled with various arbitrary sins ex nihilo they shake their heads and say that it is all very, very bad. Or they would shake their heads if their necks could only move.

Of course the downside to all of this is that it is irrational madness. It is what Van Til called integration downward into the Void. It is frenzy and confusion. It is the root of all damnation.

“Those who call for Nonsense will find that it comes.”

C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Mere Gospel, More Gospel

We are in the trouble we are in because we have walked away from the gospel. And when you walk away from the gospel, you walk away from what only the gospel can provide. Let Thomas Brooks speak to you from across a few centuries.

“What goes from a people when the gospel goes? Answer: peace, prosperity, safety, civil liberty, true glory, and soul-happiness, the presence of God (2 Chron. 13: 9; 15: 3, 5, 6; 1 Sam. 4: 22; Jer. 2: 11-13)”

Thomas Brooks, Smooth Stones Taken From Ancient Brooks, p. 9

What on that list have you not seen evaporating in the last several years? And the reason this is happening is straightforward and plain. We have rejected God, and God is bringing His judgments down upon us.

Our situation is bewildering, but only from inside the rebellion. Sin is confusion. Sin frustrates and lies. Sin is darkness. Sin is lawlessness and sin steps out into the void. Sin seeks out the abyss, and feels the pull and the draw of that vacuum. Sin is destructive and malicious, and on the way to Hell itself just wants to see the rest of the world burn. Sin wants to scratch and maul. Sin is a devouring beast, but in the end devours only itself.

If you step outside the rebellion and look at it from that vantage, the whole thing becomes plain. The difficulty is that you cannot step outside the sin of autonomy in any autonomous way. You can’t, on your own, go check on what I am saying. The only way to get a true perspective on the madness that is afflicting us is by abandoning the sin of irrational autonomy, which is repentance, and by calling on Christ, which is faith. And there it is, as plain as day, the way out. Repent and believe.

There is no salvation for our nation without a Savior, and there is no Savior other than Christ. Christ is the only way out. There are those, afflicted by this peculiar frenzy of ours, who want to call this simple presentation of the simple gospel a disparaging name, like “Christian nationalism.” What? If I am preaching at an inner city soup kitchen, is that Christian winoism? If I am presenting the gospel to a wicked nation, calling them to repent, that is somehow setting up that sinful nation as an idol? Okay, suit yourself. Jonah’s problem was that he was making an idol out of Nineveh?

Do you want reparations? Then look to the cross. That is the only place you will find reparations. Do you want justice? Then look to the cross. That particular injustice was the place where God’s holy justice was fully satisfied. Do you want God to deal with white sins, black sins, male sins, female sins, rich sins, poor sins? If you only want Him to deal with half of that list, then you are still in your sins. You cannot receive what you are unwilling for God to give to someone else also. Even though you are descended from slaves, if you are unwilling for the sons of slave owners to be forgiven, then you cannot be forgiven. Those are the terms, set by the one who died on a cross. But if you want Him to deal with them all, then look to that cross. Christ is the Savior of the world. Christ receives all who come to Him, red and yellow, black and white.

Does that sound too much like a trite children’s song, the kind they used to sing in Sunday School back in the fifties? Better that than the howls of the inmates of the final Asylum.