It can be hard to see developments like the civil rights movement for African-Americans, or the fight for women's or gay equality, as engines of economic growth. But they are; and they remain one of the West's core advantages, unless we too succumb to atavism and xenophobia.Sully's moralistic posturing was prompted by Reihan Salam's article fretting over "the new racism that is taking shape in Asia."
Actually, I don't think it's new racism. It's just that Korea and China (the nations Salam cites) have until recently been sufficiently homogenous that ethnic discrimination wasn't a pronounced societal pattern.
You can't discriminate against minorities you don't have. I'm reminded of the story about the Japanese diplomat who visited Germany in the 1930s and expressed his admiration for the Nazi system, then lamented how unfortunate it was that Japan didn't have any Jews to scapegoat.
People tend to discriminate against whatever groups are available. I'm sure Alaskans have epithets for Eskimos that no one in the lower 48 ever heard of. Black inner-city residents do not hesitate to employ racial language against Asian merchants in their communities. And people who live in relatively homogenous communities often think of themselves as free from etnocentrism -- until the homogeneity is threatened by some sudden influx of outsiders (e.g., the Hmong in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Arabs in Michigan, Somalis in Maine).
Ace of Spades once did a brilliant parody about hating Scandinavians as "filthy Scandis" -- icebacks, snow-wops, toboggan monkeys, lutefish-gobblers, etc. Nobody (at least in America, that we know of) actually hates Scandinavians as a group, simply because historical circumstances haven't situated them as a distinct ethnic minority. Therefore, it's funny to laugh at the idea of anti-Scandi bigotry, whereas anti-Muslim bigotry . . . eh, not so much.
Fact: Prior to World War I, New York City had a thriving German-American community -- German restaurants, German social clubs, German-language newspapers, etc. But such was the intensity of sentiment aroused during the war that, over the course of just a couple of decades, this distinctive ethnic culture disappeared. The force of public odium prompted these German-Americans to assimilate very rapidly so that, by the time WWII broke out, there was no "German community" to speak of in New York.
Which brings us back to Sully's snooty remarks about "atavism and xenophobia." The biggest reason that America nowadays has as much ethnic friction as it does is that there are so many incentives against assimilation.
Forty or 50 years ago, the newly-landed immigrant encountered a mainstream American culture that was almost triumphantly self-assured, so that to become an American was certainly a step upward. Now, we're so busy celebrating "diversity" that it's more rewarding to stay outside the mainstream, to form your own particular identity-group, to play the victimhood card and demand recognition in terms of "civil rights."
And Sully is himself a classic example of this, as his pet cause is gay rights -- a self-imposed minority identity. Note how the gay-rights movement has popularized the pejorative "closet" to apply to gay people who don't advertise their sexual orientation to the world. This is very much akin to the claims of some black activists that middle-class black people are guilty of "acting white" or "abandoning the community."
Except for straight, white, Protestant males, the only path to authentic identity under the multicultural regime is to separate yourself from the mainstream and strike a pose of alienated grievance. You're only an authentic woman if you're a militant feminist, and you're only an authentic Latino if you're marching with MALDEF.
Because such a posture only makes sense in the context of oppression and victimhood, everybody walks around with their insensitivity-detectors set to "stun," prepared to blast anyone suspected of less-than-perfect tolerance. If it weren't for racism, sexism and homophobia, the identity-politics lobbies wouldn't have a fundraising raison d'etre, so they have a vested interest in magnifying every grievance.
This mau-mau attitude actually causes more problems than it solves. The activist types who acquire money and influence by exaggerating evidence of "oppression" don't really give a damn about the people they claim to represent. CAIR isn't about the average Muslim any more than the National Council of Churches is about the average Methodist or the AFL-CIO is about the average blue-collar worker. The identity-politics professionals are merely exploiting the collective groups they claim to represent.
So I say, give atavistic xenophobia a chance!