Feature 05.14.2024 6 minutes

An Eye for an Eye

Closing arguments in trial of Kyle Rittenhouse

The Left’s racial revenge fantasies are well underway in America.

Ethnic discrimination is as old as human civilization itself. As soon as God populated the Earth with nations of men, those nations began searching for, and quickly finding, reasons to conquer and oppress one another.

Today’s fashionable accounts of history tend toward neat and easy moral distinctions. But in truth, no people, nation, or tribe is innocent of this impulse. The indigenous peoples of North America were raping, slaughtering, and enslaving one another for centuries before Europeans arrived, as were the African tribes. At the New York Times, Henry Louis Gates Jr. noted that some historians “estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders.”

The reason for this is quite obvious, though it may be uncomfortable for our modern liberal sensibilities. Men are tribal creatures. We are driven to see the world, and our place within it, in terms of distinctions—white and black, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, master and slave. Like sex, religion, class, nation, language, or any other category by which humans are divided and grouped, race is not merely an abstract social construction. It exists as a concrete, material reality in the world; it is written, quite literally, on our skin. Just as humans distinguish and discriminate along the lines of sex, class, and religion, they distinguish and discriminate along the lines of race.

The practical motivations for racial discrimination can come from a number of different sources. It can arise from a doctrine of intrinsic cultural, spiritual, or biological superiority, wherein one race thinks itself obligated to rule over another, as was the case with the enslavement of Africans in the Antebellum South. It can arise from a sense of historical grievance harbored against a racial “other.” This is the conviction that a particular people has harmed or is currently harming one’s own and must be brought to heel, as was the case with Nazi Germany’s persecution of the Jews. It can arise from basic material self-interest and the right of conquest, in which one race plunders and enslaves another, as the ancient Romans did to the peoples they conquered.

It can also arise from a simple, base desire for racial revenge, a reoccurring theme in the history and practice of ethnic oppression. The story of human politics is a long, unbroken line of tribal score-settling, in which the formerly oppressed become the oppressors and the former oppressors become the oppressed. In the wake of their liberation, slaves often set about enslaving their former masters; their former masters nurture dreams of vengeance and wait impatiently for the opportunity to do the same to their new tormentors. (This dynamic is not confined to the category of race alone, as attested by the centuries of persecution between Catholics and Protestants in Europe.) “The muscles of the colonized are always tensed,” wrote the famous anti-colonial thinker Frantz Fanon. “It is not that he is anxious or terrorized, but he is always ready to change his role as game for that of hunter. The colonized subject is a persecuted man who is always dreaming of becoming the persecutor.”

All the motivations described above play a role in the systematic assault on the white American majority today. Racial revenge is the germ of the sustained campaign to defame, attack, and disenfranchise white Americans on behalf of their country’s most powerful institutions. That campaign is ably and exhaustively cataloged, dissected, and exposed by Jeremy Carl in his seminal new book, The Unprotected Class: How Anti-White Racism Is Tearing America Apart.

In his adapted essay for The American Mind, Carl locates a “common ideological purpose” in “the fundamental trends in anti-white politics and rhetoric”: the construction of “an intellectual and cultural environment to justify the expropriation of land, property, and other wealth from whites while instituting a permanent regime of anti-white employment and legal discrimination.” That expropriation includes reparations for slavery and other racial crimes, which Carl notes are already being doled out to the tune of “trillions of dollars…in the name of welfare programs, set-asides, quotas, affirmative action, and other programs, much of which has gone to people (African immigrants, Latinos, etc.) who are not even distantly descended from those harmed.”

It also encompasses the looming possibility of land expropriations, visible in the facially absurd—though deathly serious—practice of “land acknowledgments,” a ritualistic performance of subversion and de-legitimization. Carl writes:

The ideological predispositions for this can be seen in the birth and growth of so-called “land acknowledgments”—a practice that began among left-wing Canadians and has exploded in popularity within American universities and governments. It is customary in many spaces now to use “a carefully crafted public statement to express a commitment to the past history, current reality and future relationship between the institution, Indigenous Peoples/Nations and the land”…. Land acknowledgment is an intellectual precursor to expropriation and needs to be treated as such. Those angrily demanding land acknowledgments are sitting in their natural gas-heated homes, watching television and driving internal combustion cars over paved roads, all largely developed by white Americans or their European “cousins.” Such demands for redress merely need to serve the grubby ideological or financial interests of those making them.

Carl notes that interracial violence against whites, too, “has an overt or scarcely hidden undertone of racial revenge.” That much is self-evident, but I wouldn’t stop there.

Peek beneath the hood of any anti-white expropriation scheme and you’ll find the same vengeful undertones—sometimes scarcely hidden, often quite overt and explicit. The “mass interracial score-settling” Carl describes is the fundamental logic of the entire anti-white regime—a meting out of punitive justice against white America for its historic sins, both real and imagined, against blacks, Hispanics, and just about every other ethnic demographic with a perceived grievance claim.

Perhaps the most glaring example of this dynamic, other than the ones Carl describes, is mass immigration. While the average progressive occasionally feels obligated to offer up half-hearted practical arguments for importing the entire Third World—ameliorating labor shortages, expanding the tax base, or unconvincing appeals to our identity as a “nation of immigrants”—you’ll quickly find that their unquenchable thirst for immigration is motivated by a fanatical sense of cosmic justice. They believe Americans deserve it—that uncontrolled, perpetual immigration from the Global South is our comeuppance. We have forfeited the moral right to enforce our borders due to our historical mistreatment of black and brown bodies.

This is evident in the fashionable progressive bumper-sticker slogans: “No one is illegal on stolen land”; “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us”; “European settlers were the first illegal immigrants.”

It is ubiquitous, too, in the way the progressive intelligentsia writes and talks about immigration. In the Stanford Law Review, one UCLA professor argues, “Third World persons are entitled to a form of First World citizenship as a matter of corrective, distributive justice.” Left-wing magazines like Dissent publish essays which gloat that “the ‘illegals’ much reviled in First World national immigration discourse are the harbingers of an imperial reckoning that cannot be delayed for much longer.” Pop magazines like Teen Vogue reason that “contemporary migration is often a response to precarious conditions created by those very colonizers” who settled countries like ours. It can also be found, of course, in the New York Times (“Why Should Immigrants ‘Respect Our Borders’? The West Never Respected Theirs”) and the Washington Post (“I am an uppity immigrant. Don’t expect me to be ‘grateful’: I will not bow and scrape before my supposed benefactors. I am entitled to be here”).

Whatever else you might say about the Left, they can’t be accused of hiding the ball. In a long 2017 essay about immigration in Foreign Affairs, New York University journalism professor Suketu Mehta wrote:

All hail Western civilization, which gave the world the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and global warming. How hypocritical this whole debate about migration really is.

The rich countries complain loudly about migration from the poor ones. This is how the game was rigged: First they colonized us and stole our treasure and prevented us from building our industries. After plundering us for centuries, they left, having drawn up maps in ways that ensured permanent strife between our communities. Then they brought us to their countries as “guest workers”—as if they knew what the word “guest” meant in our cultures—but discouraged us from bringing our families.

The vengeful purpose of immigration was laid out quite candidly by the left-wing activist-intellectual Harsha Walia, who founded the “migrant justice” group No One Is Illegal. In a 2021 interview with the Guardian about why the border crisis is a myth, Walia responded:

What we need to understand is that migration is a form of reparations. Migration is an accounting for global violence. It’s not a coincidence that the vast number of people who are migrants and refugees in the world today are black and brown people from poor countries that have been made poor because of centuries of imperialism, of empire, of exploitation and deliberate underdevelopment. It’s those same fault lines of plunder around the world that are the fault lines of migration.

For once, conservatives might want to take the Left at their word.

At its heart, mass immigration, like reparations and land expropriations, is a settling of the racial score—a re-colonization of majority-white countries on behalf of the original nonwhite colonized subjects. Our open border is an act of revenge, and the millions flooding across it represent a new mass constituency for the anti-white system firmly ensconced here at home. Americans would do well to consider what it would mean for their country to become the site of a civilizational revenge fantasy—a process that, as Carl points out, is already very much underway.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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