A Puritan Theory of Racism

(Updated May 28, 2020)

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek often jokes about the paradoxical nature of American progressive racism by using the example of the Native Americans. If these Americans, Native, are uniquely connected to Nature then, he wonders, does that make their remaining fellow countrymen “cultural Americans”?

The notion is absurd, but it signals the contradictions at the heart of the U.S. concept of racism, commonly identified as a White pathology. This concept, unsurprisingly, is pervasive across a world happy to avoid American finger-pointing.

I recently came across a real-life example of the equivocations denounced by Zizek here:

The article in the L.A. Times describes how Yulli Gurriel, a Cuban-born player, mocked an Asian player by calling him “Chinito” and making explanatory facial gestures of what he meant. The Asian player in question is half-Japanese and half-Iranian but one understands Gurriel’s intent. Hell, he himself explained it, when he apologized, saying he was fully aware that calling somebody a “Chinito” is a time-tested way of demeaning (or trying to demean) a person of Asian descent in Hispanic culture (*).

The golden nugget in the L.A. Times, though, is here:

Some argued that for Gurriel, the gesture and epithet don’t carry the same level of animus as they do in the U.S., with its record of violence against Asian Americans and other people of color.

The argument is clear: for Gurriel, raised in the innocent swamps of Cuba, racism is not such a great deal. One can almost hear Jesus pleading for the poor Natives of Cuba:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But Cultural Americans, no, don’t you dare forget about your record of violence against people of color!

In response to my tweet, I had a brief exchange in Facebook with a progressive friend, explaining my position; we quickly agreed, as seen here:

XXX: Not sure that’s the dumbest


David Román: It’s certainly the worst as it asserts superiority while asserting inferiority: that WASPs are uniquely evil creatures capable of evil undreamed of by the brown masses elsewhere; that everyone else is Pocahontas, living in a state of innocence and thus lacking in moral agency.

XXX: Yes, so racism 101
The point here is that “cultural Americans,” the creators of political correctness, really like to see themselves as the only actors in this movie, with everyone else as re-actors, extras, people to whom things are done, background. They know no evil…
Zizek puts it thus in a footnote in his book In Defense of Lost Causes:
The politically correct vision enacts a weird reversal of racist hatred of Otherness—it stages a kind of mockingly Hegelian negation/sublation of openly racist dismissal and hatred of the Other, of the perception of the Other as the Enemy which poses a threat to our way of life. In the PC vision, the Other’s violence against us, deplorable and cruel as it may be, is always a reaction against the “original sin” of our (white man’s imperialist, colonialist, etc.) rejection and oppression of Otherness. We, white men, are responsible and guilty, the Other just reacts as a victim; we are to be condemned, the Other is to be understood; ours is a domain of morals (moral condemnation), whilst that of others involves sociology (social explanation). It is, of course, easy to discern how, beneath the mask of extreme self-humiliation and selfblame, such a stance of true ethical masochism repeats racism in its very form: although negative, the proverbial “white man’s burden” is still here—we, white men, are the subjects of History, whilst others ultimately react to our (mis)deeds. In other words, it is as if the true message of the PC moralistic self-blame is: if we can no longer be the model of democracy and civilization for the rest of the world, we can at least be the model of Evil.


OK, yes. But why?
Years ago, reading his book The Parallax View, I came across Zizek quoting Kevin MacDonald, an influential alt-right author who, in his book The Culture of Critique, blames this state of affairs–somewhat predictably–on the cultural influence of Jews (**). Zizek of course rejects MacDonald’s argument, but considers it important because it has soared as a catch-all explanation for social ills among the alt-right: Jews, for long a persecuted minority, came up with social justice, identity-tinged progressive politics to ensure there isn’t another Holocaust. The state of affairs where Jews were minorities in White countries isn’t satisfactory anymore, so Jewish elites have strived to develop, fund and push an ideology that considers (Goyim) Whiteness a moral stain that must be diluted as much as possible, thus opening up the door for mass immigration so that Jews have other minorities to ally with. This we may call “the MacDonald Argument.”


Reading rightist responses to this argument –there are many, especially in the U.S. where prominent Jews were associated with Republican administrations for decades–I found a very striking one in a most unexpected place: in the blog of Mencius Moldbug, a forebear of the modern alt-right movement who stopped blogging years ago.
Moldbug argues, very persuasively, that many of the pathologies afflicting modern progressive movements are not triggered by unlikely Jewish conspiracies, but the result of the intellectual influence of one of the very first strata of European settlement in North America: the Puritans.

Consider the facts: unlike Spanish priests obsessed with the lost souls who died pagan during the Conquest of the Americas, Puritans didn’t try to convert Indians; their only concern was always and at every turn their own soul. They were used to live in isolation from other people’s concerns, and they still are.

Puritans gave us this modern world of virtue-signalling and great shows of sacrifice and charity because, for Puritans, no sin is worthy of attention unless it’s a sin that impunges on themselves; as Moldbug put it back in 2007:

In Charles Royster’s excellent and only mildly neo-Unionist picture of the Civil War, The Destructive War, he mentions a foreign traveler in 1864 who asked some random American to explain the war. “It’s the conquest of America by Massachusetts,” was the answer. Massachusetts, of course, later went on to conquer first Europe and then the entire planet, the views of whose elites as of 2007 bear a surprisingly coincidental resemblance to those held at Harvard in 1945… (Ideology rarely is a conscious thought.) But it doesn’t need to be a conscious thought. It just needs to be adaptively successful. In other words, it just needs to work.



*My wife is Chinese, so my two sons, currently living and attending school in Madrid, are half-Chinese Spanish citizens with vaguely Asian features. They have often been called “Chinitos” by kids trying to put them down or unnerving them, and my eldest son, now nine, had two such incidents playing soccer just in recent days. That’s just the way of the world, I tell him, while encouraging to respond in force when needed. In any case, racism against black or half-black people remains worse by an order of magnitude or two.

**Since alt-rightists often point to higher average Jewish IQ as the driver for the multiple Jewish conspiracies they detect, wouldn’t it be more correct to describe “white supremacists” as “white inferiorists”?

About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
This entry was posted in Zizekiana and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A Puritan Theory of Racism

  1. landzek says:

    Fucking great. Thx


  2. Pingback: The Puritan Idea of Racism. | Constructive Undoing

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