February 27, 2023 - 1:29pm

During a YouTube livestream last week, Dilbert comic strip creator Scott Adams cited data from a Rasmussen Reports poll which found that 47% of black Americans disagreed with the statement “It’s okay to be white.” In conjunction with what he admitted was “anecdotal” evidence of black-on-white hostility on social media, Adams stated that while he didn’t support active discrimination, he was tired of helping black people and urged white listeners to “get the hell away” from them. “There is no fixing this…you just have to escape,” he said.

In response to these remarks, Dilbert was dropped from Andrews McMeel Syndication along with a number of other publications, nearly three years after Adams said that the Dilbert TV show was cancelled by UPN because of his race. In fact, given Adams’s history of controversial remarks dating back to the 2016 elections, it’s remarkable that Dilbert — a strip about white-collar office workers which reached its peak popularity during the booming economy of the 1990s — has remained commercially viable for decades, consistently generating revenue for the cartoonist.

In any event, Adams doesn’t seem particularly surprised by or concerned about the reaction. He has directed people attempting to cover the story to the YouTube video in question, and his defenders, including Elon Musk, have mostly agreed that there’s an “element of truth” to them. Musk also observed that the media, which for years was racist against non-whites, is now “racist against whites & Asians”.

Musk’s preferred remedy — “maybe [the media] can try not being racist” — harkens back to the idealistic and (never fully realised) “colourblind” or “equal rights under the law” rhetoric popular on both Left and Right during Musk’s childhood. Adams is correct that “anecdotal” echo-chamber usage of social media — including his own — has increased polarisation along racial lines. Yet his comments also foreshadow a troubling turn in America life — one in which discussions around race separation are becoming more commonplace.

There are politicians like Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who promote the idea of a “national divorce” that would reduce the power of the federal government and return more power to Republican or Democrat-dominated states. But it is also easy to envision a fringe candidate entering the 2024 primaries — like ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in 1992 — to urge de facto separation of the races along the lines Adams suggested. It is even possible to envision a fringe far-Left candidate advocating ethnonationalist separation along similar lines for the benefit of particular racial minorities, as Stokely Carmichael and Harold Cruse did during the 1960s. 

Scott Adams may have faced swift reprisals for his remarks in the short term. But it seems safe to predict that the public political discourse of the not-so-distant future will feature explicitly racialised rhetoric that would’ve been beyond the pale only a decade earlier — everything from mainstream politicians and intellectuals urging people to “take phenotypic differences seriously” in terms of IQ to arguing that the different races are actually different species. These are concerning developments — and ones that do not appear to be going away any time soon. 

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work