February 22, 2021 - 3:08pm

It’s a curiosity of human psychology that as air travel has become much safer we’ve become more scared of it.

The same is true with racism, at least in the western context. In the US, while openly racist attitudes have hugely decreased, and as any opinion even adjacent to racism has become taboo, so there has been far more focus on the menace of white supremacy.

A genuinely white supremacist society would probably not tolerate and encourage various minorities to become wealthier than the average; they would certainly not have quotas and subsidises for the sake of affirmative action, nor would the most prestigious publications in a white supremacist society have a succession of dreary comment pieces denouncing “white people”; nor would there be a conveyor belt of academics exposed for pretending to be black, Hispanic or Asian.

Of course, there is racial prejudice and racism; there is disease and obesity in Japan, but no one would call Japan an unhealthy society, because we measure most societies against others in time and place, not against an abstract perfect society.

White supremacy is a popular idea partly because it explains away all sorts of problems, many of which can only be logically explained by breaking one of the various taboos that American society has built around race. For instance, after a number of vicious attacks on Asian-Americans, the most horrific being against Vicha Ratanapakdee, activists organised a protest to “end the violence towards Asians”, calling on people to “unite against white nationalism”.

This seems like a strange response when the suspect is African-American, but then psychologically it’s easier to tell a lie than tell a repulsive truth, perhaps because we feel that a dangerous truth can be more dangerous.

In the New York Times report on the spate of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, Donald Trump and “kung flu” are mentioned in paragraph four. And then, somewhere around paragraph 36, we read:

“The people arrested in both the Chinatown incident in Oakland and the fatal assault on Mr. Ratanapakdee are Black, which community organizers said has brought to the fore some anti-Black racism, particularly as outrage about the attacks has spread on social media.”
- Jill Cowan, The New York Times

So rather than just lying, most people will think up wildly convoluted explanations for events that contradict their guiding philosophy. A columnist argues that: “white supremacy is permitted to perpetuate a divide between Asian-Americans and Black and Indigenous people and other people of colour”.

That would, of course, explain the racism Africans experience in China, or indeed the violence meted out against the Chinese in south-east Asia down the years, or conflicts between Africans and Arabs throughout the centuries, and the countless examples of racial conflict throughout human history.

White Americans, overall, hold views on race that are so much more liberal than any other society that, compared to China, South Asia, the Middle East and even most of Europe, they are bizarre anomalies. It’s a facet of a sort of runaway liberalism, and is certainly preferable to the opposite extreme. Yet racial guilt also comes with a form of racial narcissism, and to the White Narcissists every conflict in the world has to be their fault, and to be all about them.

Ed West’s book Tory Boy is published by Constable