Why we must unite across class lines.
“If there is hope,” wrote Winston, “it lies in the proles.”
Those are the first eleven words of the seventh chapter of George Orwell’s 1984, in which the protagonist, Winston Smith, wonders who could mount a revolution against Big Brother. The elites, Smith concludes, lack the will, because they are too invested in the ruling system, but the proles have a common sense that might enable them—or so Smith hoped—to fight back.
Those eleven words have stuck with me ever since I first read them almost 20 years ago. I have been thinking of them even more since the election of Donald Trump. But it was not until last month, on a family excursion to buy a Christmas tree, that I fully appreciated the role of the “proles” in our predicament. On that trip, I saw up close Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, the book that explains how class divisions in America have created a tangle of problems for working- and middle- class whites. Not only could I see Dr. Murray’s thesis more clearly, but I could see more clearly what the book was missing: race.
In early December, my family and I went to buy our Christmas tree, but instead of buying it in our typical SWPL neighborhood, we ventured outside of the city to make a day of it on a family farm in a working-class suburb. We had an idyllic vision of escaping the problems of city life. We imagined drinking hot chocolate and laughing with similar-looking families, our children playing with their similar-looking children.
There was some of that, but the scene was far from wholesome. A surprisingly significant number of children at the farm had frizzy blonde-tinged afros, the tell-tale sign of black-white miscegenation (I say “sign” because many of these frizzy-haired kids had only one parent with them—almost always a heavily tattooed and obese white mother with creative piercings and hair coloring). Almost all of the adults were white, but many of them mumbled in a barely comprehensible black-imbued vernacular and dressed in sloppy hip-hop attire. This was not the scene we had expected.
That night, we came back to the city and ate dinner at an upscale restaurant. Every single patron was white—mostly young hipsters. The decor was agrarian and the background music, to my surprise, was country (mostly Chris Stapleton). This was the idyllic traditional America that we had hoped to find earlier in the day.
Over dinner, my wife and I discussed what we had seen. Based on the voting patterns in both areas, we could safely bet that the vast majority of the people at the farm voted for Donald Trump. And we were almost certainly the only Trump voters at the upscale city restaurant.
The irony is that much of the diversity at the farm is a direct result of the last 50 years of housing and education policies—the very programs white liberals favor in their politics but flee in their personal lives. This feature of white liberalism has been noted before, perhaps most cleverly by Joe Sobran: “In their mating and migratory habits, liberals are indistinguishable from members of the Ku Klux Klan.”
But white elites do not just flee the consequences of their diversity politics; once freed from the burden of diversity, they create replicas of the aesthetic and culture that their liberalism is destroying. Indeed, at the upscale urban restaurant there were no signs of diversity degeneracy—no hip-hop attire; no frizzy-haired children; no black-imbued vernacular. In fact, it was just the opposite—lumberjack shirts, two-parent families, cohesive and pleasant interaction—a simulacrum of the traditional America these very elites are destroying through their politics.
Our liberal rulers pollute public white culture but then produce an artificial version of it in their private lives to satisfy their longing for community and identity. This would not be such a problem if their poorer white brethren could also maintain this public-private dichotomy. But because the working and middle classes lack the money and mobility to escape the diversity degeneracy that seeps deeper and deeper into white America, they are stuck with the cultural pollution that the elites create.
This recalls another Sobran gem: “The purpose of a college education is to give you the correct attitude towards minorities, and the means to live as far away from them as possible.” But the prescient Sobran did not go far enough. Our elites seek not only the means to live far away from diversity, but the power to impose diversity on others—all in the name of cultural enrichment.
This underscores two features of our predicament that I have been thinking about ever since our day at the farm: (1) how diversity has polluted white suburbia, and (2) how diversity is a new form of cultural warfare.
Liberalism, diversity, and suburbia
Over the past 50 years, the contrast between enforcing diversity for Middle Americans while maintaining homogeneity for upper-class whites has come to define American law and politics. One of the most famous examples is from the 1970s, when Judge Wendell Arthur Garrity Jr.—the very federal judge who compelled desegregation busing in Boston—sent his own children to private schools so as to be immune from his own social engineering. He reportedly justified this by saying that “when I’m on the bench, I’m a judge, and when I’m at home, I’m a father.” A valid distinction, to be sure, but his ruling prevented many middle- and lower-income Bostonians from being fathers—that is, from being able to protect their children.
Strangely, despite all of the research and commentary on the effects of desegregation, almost all of the critical focus has been on how it created “white flight” and how that has hurt blacks. Almost entirely ignored is how desegregation has destroyed white suburban culture. Consider how the Boston desegregation ruling most directly affected Irish and Italian working-class areas, leading them to flee the city for Boston suburbs. Although this part of the “white flight” story has been widely covered, few scholars have considered how desegregation chased after these middle-income whites, while leaving their wealthier white counterparts in different suburbs unaffected.
Compare Dedham and Newton, two Boston suburbs. Their high schools, despite being only six miles away from one another, are vastly different. Dedham, which has a large, Irish working-class population, has a high school that is 24 percent black and Hispanic (and only four percent Asian). Newton, which has a large Jewish upper-class population, has a high school that is only 10 percent black and Hispanic (and 20 percent Asian). It is easy to imagine which is the better school.
Suburban Detroit is another example. As I mentioned in a previous essay, Eminem’s hometown of Warren, Michigan, was fiercely resistant to integration, and as a result, Warren remained 99.5 percent white in 1970, 98.2 percent white in 1980, and 97.3 white in 1990. Eminem attended high school in the 1980s and his class reportedly had only one black student, while the Detroit high school a few miles away had no white students.
Over the last 25 years, however, that once-resistant working-class suburb has been forced to capitulate, so that the same Warren high school is now hardly recognizable, having become 59 percent black and only 28 percent white. But just 15 miles away, in heavily upper-class Troy, Michigan, the high school is about one tenth as black, with only a six percent black student population.
You can find this pattern throughout the United States. Pick a city and compare its wealthy to its middle-income suburbs. You will find that in many cases the wealthy suburbs are quite liberal but have very few blacks, and the nearby middle-income suburbs are much more conservative and have far more diversity.
This is a pattern that extends beyond geography. Compare the magazines at the check-out at an upper-class grocery store, such as Whole Foods, to those at a more middle-income establishment. You will find that the magazines at the upper-class store are tasteful, restrained, and culturally white—whereas the magazines at the middle-class store bombard the shopper with diversity propaganda, like this and this. The check-out counter has become a diversity warzone.
Even Whole Foods’ magazine is unmistakably white.
Of course, part of this discrepancy is due to the market. Poorer whites do not have the money and mobility to opt out of diversity, and perhaps these less-educated whites have tastes that make them more susceptible to the vulgarity of black culture. But the market is only part of the explanation. A more significant force is that our legal, political, and entertainment institutions are imposing this culture on them.
Why are our elites doing this to Middle Americans?
The elite assault on middle-class America is illustrated in the way Westchester County, New York—a generally wealthy and liberal suburb of New York City—focused all of its federally mandated diversity housing on largely Italian and Irish middle-class areas, while litigating strenuously to keep it out of wealthier, often more Jewish areas.
The result is that Westchester suburban schools several miles from one another can vary in diversity by an order of magnitude. For example, the Ossining High School is only eight miles away from the one in Hillary Clinton’s Chappaqua, but whereas the Ossining High School is 64 percent black and Hispanic, the figure for Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua is only 6 percent. This is not an urban issue—both towns are about 30 miles from New York City, and are populated largely by families that long ago fled the city’s defective public schools. But integration battles follow white people wherever they go, and wealthier, more politically powerful whites jimmy the system to dump diversity on poorer areas.
And again, the free market is only part of this story. This transformation of middle-income communities did not happen until American law hit them with the one-two punch of mandating integration and eliminating the freedom of association.
Thus, it is not simply that diversity means conflict, but that all the rhetoric and sloganeering about our national diversity obsession has become a form of cultural and demographic warfare. Our elites destroy the middle-classes through political slogans promoting our “greatest strength,” and coercive programs that cite the nation’s “great moral victory” over “racism.” When you hear elites extol the virtues of diversity, you are being attacked.
So does our hope lie with the proles? The big difference between Orwell’s 1984 and 2018 is that Orwell’s elites did not bother to indoctrinate the masses, on the ground that the proles’ fidelity to Big Brother was considered irrelevant. By contrast, in our diversity dystopia the masses are at the core of the Left’s indoctrination project. Our “proles” are the ones forced to suffer a bad education in integrated schools. They are the ones subjected to violence, harassment, and intimidation. And they are the ones told, again and again, that any resistance to this makes them betrayers of who we are as Americans, deplorable traitors in need of ever-more reformation.
Leadership may not come from the proles, but good sense and votes will. Those who bear the burdens of diversity see its damage most clearly. It is no accident that Donald Trump swept the white working-class vote.
Whatever our own particular economic station, we all have a role to play in restoring working- and middle-class white America. We should be hiring our own people, tutoring our own people, supporting scholarships for our own people, and doing our best to build schools and cultural institutions that can be healthy environments for our own people.
Dr. Murray may have been right that white America’s “coming apart” defined the last part of the 20th century due to white flight from the cities. But “coming together” may define the first half of the 21st century—because now there is nowhere to run.