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New Pluralist Vision for California
The nation is caught up in a reckoning over racial justice that coincides with civil unrest and greater political polarization. In line with these national trends, California has put forth measures on racial justice grounds that include racial favoritist cash payouts, educational curriculum based upon divisive Critical Race Theory and austerity measures on the part of corporations using wokeness to justify laying off workers. The example of capitalizing all races while uncapping White is the very essence of Critical Race Theory. Despite almost unanimous institutional support, California citizens, including about half of non-Whites rejected a divisive measure to reinstate Affirmative Action in government employment and higher education.
There is growing opposition to divisive policies based upon Critical Race Theory with many Red State jurisdictions and Republican politicians proposing measures against it. However conservatives lack any alternative coherent framework to effectively challenge it. For instance Conservatives will flip flop between calling for color blindness and radical individualism with Donald Trump proposing specialized Platinum Plans for African Americans while still relying upon jingoistic flag waving and dog whistles that appeal to White Racial Resentment. GOP politicians, however, including Trump, avoid any overt mentions of Whiteness in contrast to former Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard denouncing the blatant anti-White racism of Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Andrew Yang , during his presidential campaign before he went woke, talking about the White working class as a group with legitimate political interests. Both Yang and Tulsi are younger, from diverse backgrounds, and have a better understanding of where the country is headed.
The divisive and manufactured nature of woke culture is undermining trust in institutions and ironically leading to neo-tribalism. This social and political breakdown could have a silver lining but only if there is an alternative to the failed one-size-fits-all approach of both color-blind civic nationalism and the left’s vision for racial equity.
Due to its immense diversity and status as a national trend-setter, California is the perfect place to propose this new pluralist vision. California’s current narrative on race relations such as the perception that GOP voting Californians are racist is just an extension of America’s Red vs. Blue divide rather than about California issues. California has less of America’s baggage on race and there was less civil unrest during last year’s racial justice protests. Overall race relations in California are at least affable and the degree to which there is racial tension is much more complex than America’s White vs. Black or White Supremacy vs. Diversity narrative, as no ethnic group in California forms a majority.
While there are issues that impact all Californians, such as jobs and housing, this new pluralist vision must take into account the needs of all groups without passing moral value judgments upon one group over another. For starters encouraging ethnic and cultural based student unions on high school and college campuses for all without regressive double standards.
There needs to be platinum plans for all, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, European Americans, and Latinos, with specialized plans tailored to each group’s specific needs. The liberal establishment neglects the needs of minorities beyond woke symbolism and securing votes, by lumping in together everyone who is non-White into a broader People of Color category they ignore the unique needs of particular groups.
The media’s coverage and political response to anti-Asian hate crimes in urban areas being framed as part of a broader woke agenda, for instance, rather than looking at specific cases and the needs of urban Asian American Communities. YouTube even censored a video posted by an Asian Uber drive who was a victim of a vicious attack because it did not fit in with the narrative as the assailants were not White. The same case can also be made for the Black Lives Matter cause in that the focus needs to be on specific communities and their relations with the police rather than one mass narrative for all of society. Community policing or just granting urban African American communities a greater say in policing in their communities makes much more sense than using the Black Lives Matter cause as part of a top down woke culture war imposed upon all of society.
Another example is how Latinos were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in California. This disproportionate impact has been addressed but as part of a broader issue of racial justice rather than focusing on the specific cause which was primarily overcrowding in multi-generational households due to the housing shortage in California. It is a crisis that the State’s democratic leadership has neglected in part due to wanting to appear inclusive to diversity while appeasing special interests in urban areas that want to restrict new construction. This crisis could have been better addressed with specialized and local based solutions on issues such as housing.
There are concerns about anti-Asian discrimination at elite universities due to Asian Americans being penalized for their academic success. This has put the woke left in an awkward balancing act in regards to addressing both the concerns of Asian Americans and the under representation of African Americans and Latinos in higher education. Whites, whose concerns are rarely addressed, often feel squeezed out from both ends. Under the current dichotomy of equity vs. color blind meritocracy there is going to be a zero sum competition that if one group gets a step up, others get shafted with one size fits all, top-down solutions failing to address the needs of the immensely diverse demographic of California. Education models must focus more on specialization and decentralization but woke education has become a war on specialization.
With a nationwide crisis of deaths of despair, California’s suicide rates are much lower than the rest of the nation but are highest among White Californians with White suicide rates hovering “between 9 and 12 per 100,000” in contrast with “rates for blacks and Asian/Pacific Islanders” at about half that rate between 1999 and 2009. Geographically suicide rates are highest in the mostly White and rural northern portion of the state which has been economically and politically disenfranchised.
While those areas are less well off, even in the majority White parts of the Bay Area and Southern California that appear to be thriving based on their medium household incomes, there is a problem of a dearth of social capital and declining population as young people who grew up in these areas leave due to the costs. For instance there was population decline in the very wealthy and White Marin County and a dramatic drop in White enrollment in just as privileged San Mateo County’s public schools. Besides younger residents struggling to afford to raise a family in the areas they grew up in, many of these supposedly privileged communities have public services that suck and an overall lack of public amenities that foster capital.
There are major taboos against White identity politics but these prejudices are based upon the current majoritarian based framework of America’s politics, a paradigm that makes little sense somewhere as diverse as California where one can celebrate European Heritage along with Asian and Latino culture as part of the mosaic. Under this new pluralist paradigm European descended Californians would be one of several main groups with equally legitimate interests. This paradigm is encapsulated by Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University, Ashley Jardina’s book on the future of White Identity Politics which makes the case that there is a White Identity that is neither color blind nor racist but compatible with pluralism in an increasingly diverse future.
As for where Whiteness stands in California today, White Californians, despite being a minority, tend to view themselves in a majoritarian sense. This is largely due to older Whites in California who grew up as a majority in California and the influence of America’s majoritarian narrative. These older Whites identify more strongly with America than the youth of California and think in terms of individualism and being invested in mass society and America’s civic institutions. The narrative that Whites are either atomized individuals or associated with a broader history of racism is primarily because of America’s influence over California and the fact that the exodus out of California serves as a safety valve for discontent.
In the future European Californians and Americans will likely embrace the mindset of a minority by adapting to the multi-cultural narrative which includes building up close knit communities and engaging in identity politics but in a sense of pluralism rather than the reactionary identity politics of “taking back America”.
This is a reality that both woke liberals and MAGA refuse to face and both sides will have to put aside their prejudices: the right will have to get over the idea of restoring America to an early point and the left will have to embrace Whiteness as part of diversity rather than something inherently at odds with it. It is an inevitable future of many groups lobbying for their interests and forming alliances under a multi-polar system.
California’s one party Democratic Leadership and major institutions have failed to address the unique needs of Californians and respect true diversity. The Democrats have neglected the needs of Californians due to their being caught up in America’s Red vs. Blue divide, and by embracing Wokeness which has become the de facto state religion for the American power structure.
This alternative pluralist vision could be adopted by a revitalized progressive GOP geared towards California issues or as part of the cause for California Independence. This vision is what is needed for California to thrive, striking out a new alternative that rejects both MAGA and Woke liberalism, both failed strategies that are at odds with pluralism and not compatible with California values of diversity and inclusion. Regardless, California should be the first to adopt this new pluralistic vision for a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic future that addresses the needs of all groups. This is the only way for America to survive and avoid civil strife and greater balkanization. California, as a champion of diversity, is the best place to propose this vision.