Yesterday, at his confirmation hearing to the office of Attorney General, Merrick Garland was asked a basic question by Senator John Kennedy — a very astute questioner : “systemic racism — what is it ? What do you say it is ?”
Garland searched his mind for an answer, at which point Kennedy, clearly (and rightly) frustrated, asked a further : “racism./.. you say that I am a racist even though I don’t know that I am ?”
Said Garland : “bias and prejudices are in all of us. They’re part of the human condition.”
That is the conventional answer today, and Garland, once you read through his numerous Appeals Court opinions, is the very epitome of convention — of the safe answer. This may please you. It does not please me. Conventional thinking isn ‘t good enough for one who is to be a leader. One wants something more original — a man or woman who thinks for his or herself, who enlightens rather than induces a yawn.
I have no doubt that Garland will be a fine Attorney General His commitment to the rule of law is the finest, and his personal history is heroic. He is a man of some conviction, too — conventional convictions, which in the case of prosecuting the January 6thy US capitol mob, will do just fine, for in that case all of us are horrified and want full justice against the mob. Garland enjoys the profound respect of all; for almost all have known him well, and he is what everyone who knows him calls “a fine man.” Well and good.
Nonetheless, his disappointing answer to Senator Kennedy’s questions cannot pass unresponded to.
No, Judge Garland, biases and prejudices ARE NOT part of our human condition.
No baby is born with prejudices. No baby is born with biases. The very terms falsify themselves, for they are judgments made by people who assume a side in a debate of some sort, a debate about morals in which the person using these terms believes he or she is morally better than the rest of us, or that there is someone morally better than us who is monitoring our flaws. Myself, I know of no such god.
People are born learning by imitation and curiosity. As almost all are born into a family of some shape and are weaned by an adult human, we often pick up the assumptions and opinion s that that adult shows as he or she goes about waning us. Those assumptions and opinions, or even what appear to be instincts, can be almost anything. The diversity of human shticks is endless. Many of us pick up opinions which we observant consider prejudices — opinions or beliefs which we do not like. (No one calls a popular belief a prejudice. Only socially disapproved beliefs are so nouned.) Many others of us do not pick up such beliefs.
The peddlers of universal racism — a prejudice which they attribute only to ‘white’ people — “white” being a term which is OK to use as long as we are aware of its pejorative generality — want politicians to adopt their agenda, and in America right now, a sense that there is such racism in the air and that it ought be pushed back against has given rise to a reluctance by politicians as afraid of the race theorists as Republicans are of Trump to challenge the theory. B y this, Senator Kennedy is rightly annoyed. His annoyance was evident in his question. I am glad that he asked it, and I am unhappy that Judge Garland felt that an anodyne answer — one as feckless as Congressman Scalise’s answers when questioned about President Biden being legitimately elected — was necessary in order for him to be readily confirmed on other grounds.
Judge Garland says that all that matters to him is the rule of law, but he made clear in his answer to Kennedy’s question, and in other answers too, that he will be guided by President Biden’s agenda and that thinking for himself will not be his M/O. I am sorry to see it. Discussions about systemic racism, which does exist and is mostly driven by money allocations and the short-changing of communities that do not have much of it, cry out to be argued. Right now, only the race card threorists and their bigoted opponents are doing any arguing. This is not a good sign.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere