The U.S. will soon have a new federal holiday. Juneteenth, named by combining the words June and Nineteenth, commemorates General Order No. 3, issued on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, TX, which enforced the ending of slavery across the confederacy. Despite the fact that slavery had already been abolished two years earlier in Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation, it took much longer to enforce compliance across a quickly growing country. News didn’t travel quite as fast before the advent of electricity, much less the telegraph, telephones, or the internet. And many slaves didn’t even know that they’d been emancipated. Thus, Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day. There is no word or idea more fundamental to the liberty movement than emancipation: a synonym of liberation; the act or process of being set free.
The greatest blight on our history as Americans is the inescapable fact that our rights, core values, and founding principles were not equally applied to all Americans from the outset.
Instead, some Americans had to be emancipated—an effort that continues today. We must continue to fight for the equal and total application of our founding principles to Americans of all creeds, colors and backgrounds. And we must do so the right way—remaining consistent with the same founding principles we champion.
So, how do we do that?
Equality over Equity – MLK was right. We need to stay the course.
In what was probably the greatest speech of the modern era, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” And in the very same speech he said, “let us not satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” These two quotes encapsulate MLK’s vision for the path to equality. By walking this path, we were able to make tremendous progress from the segregationist America of the pre-1960’s, towards the much more equal America of today. Although we haven’t achieved complete equality yet, Dr. King’s dream is still alive. We should continue to walk his path by rolling back misguided policies such as the war on drugs, civil asset forfeiture, no-knock warrants, and qualified immunity.
Equity, on the other hand, and its illusory promises of equal outcomes, is not the path Dr. King envisioned. Instead of a world where skin color doesn’t matter, a rising tide of revisionist histories and ill-founded social theories like Critical Race Theory (CRT) would have us think that skin color is of central importance in all things. They would have us see the world through the lens of tribalism and identity politics, where whiteness is inexorably associated with the oppressor, and blackness is inexorably associated with the victim, and all ethnicities in between are either disregarded, or treated as white or black “adjacent” depending on their relative economic standing. CRT is rooted in Marxism, and like all collectivist ideologies, it leaves very little room for the individual.
We believe we can, and must, do better. People are individuals first and foremost, before they are grouped by race, religion, culture, or any other arbitrary taxonomy. Fortunately, people are catching on to the fact that the victim/oppressor narrative is a false dichotomy, and they’re starting to push back:
Build Bridges, Not Walls.
Tolerance is a bridge. Orthodoxy is a wall.
In the digital age, tolerance of dissent and opposing views has become a lost art. But that just makes it (tolerance) more valuable than ever.
The modern conversation on race is understandably very emotional, and when people take positions based on emotion (anger, fear, guilt, envy and resentment being the most common), we would do well to take them with a proverbial grain of salt until cooler heads prevail. People say things they don’t fully mean or fully understand all the time. People likewise embrace, repeat, and retweet views that feel good in the moment, but upon further review, aren’t very well-founded. This is part of being human. And human beings need chances to learn from their mistakes. This is part of tolerance.
In tough conversations we need to offer people safe bridges from bad ideas towards stronger ideas. For example: “I think there’s an important kernel of truth in your ‘defund the police’ argument, but have you considered how decriminalizing narcotics or ending qualified immunity would improve police conduct?” Or, “I understand your hesitancy in acknowledging systemic racism and white privilege – but help me understand how you define these terms, and I’ll bet we can find common ground.” Of course, this type of bridge building takes work. It is not easy.
The easier approach is to build walls. We do this by failing to push back against orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is, by definition, intolerant. It does not tolerate viewpoints that it can’t integrate into its own worldview—regardless of the objective truth or relative strength of those viewpoints. The current orthodoxy is a strange blend of virtue signaling, political correctness, and social-justice hashtag activism. All too often, this comes in the form of white, liberal “elites” framing issues and speaking for the people actually affected by injustice – as we saw with the BLM protests in 2020.
The crucial point here is that these folks (the orthodoxy) are the last people any of us should want speaking for us. Because, as the good students of neo-Marxism that they are, they don’t see people of color as individuals – they see racial identity groups and treat them accordingly. Thus, unintentionally perpetuating the same stereotypes that we need to be avoiding if we want to realize MLK’s dream of judging others by the content of their character – Not their skin color.
Resist the urge to fight fire with fire.
As we’ve seen lately, the enforcers of our new orthodoxy are quick to censor, de-platform, shout-down, publicly shame, blacklist, and ultimately fire anyone with dissenting views. Also known as “Cancel Culture,” this is a very real threat to the central pillars of Classic Liberalism: Free Speech, Free Inquiry, and Free Enterprise – especially when big-tech becomes involved in the enforcement. This has already had a significant chilling effect on free inquiry. But it is even more noticeable in everyday life – especially in mainstream entertainment. Good luck publishing an irreverent book, or selling a politically-incorrect screenplay, or performing an off-color standup comedy special without the blessing and/or censorship of the orthodoxy.
The good news is that many people, perhaps nearing a critical mass, have had enough. They’re finally starting to push back. The bad news is, they’re not always pushing back in the best ways. A handful of states and municipalities have already passed bills attempting to ban CRT from schools. In this attempt to fight fire with fire, these governors and mayors are setting themselves up to get burned. Because, as loathsome as CRT may be, banning ideas that we disagree with is the very definition of intolerance. And those that claim to be resisting “Cancel Culture” would do well to resist it in all forms. Otherwise, we’re just building more walls.
The better way is to trust and protect free inquiry. We need to vigorously debate the merits of opposing ideas and trust the strongest ideas to win out. They might not always win out as quickly as we’d like. Certain cities and schools might choose to make CRT a part of their curriculum. Parents, teachers and politicians will push back, debates will ensue, lawsuits will be filed, more arguments will be heard in court … these are the marks of a healthy system at work. But we should also be mindful that maintaining free inquiry depends on also maintaining free speech. Which, in turn, requires a healthy distaste for orthodoxy, and a zero-tolerance policy for censorship and reprisals.
In the ongoing struggle for equal application of our founding values to ALL Americans, we can’t afford to compromise these very same values along the way. In the muddy waters of the digital age, that requires us to re-center our pursuit of justice on equality, tolerance, and free inquiry. These values are consistent with Dr. King’s vision, and have brought us a long way toward honoring the “promissory note” of Liberty through the deplorable aftermath of slavery. We’re not there yet. But, as the man himself said, “we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”
A lawyer, writer, and world traveler, Adam brings a versatile and independent perspective to the Liberty movement. He has worked across party lines for multiple campaigns, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign and Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. Adam also worked in the private sector for nearly a decade, negotiating energy transactions and advising companies on legal and ethical compliance. He is a self-described policy nerd, authoring liberty-leaning political commentary in blog posts and the occasional op ed.
He is now engaging more actively in the Liberty Movement because he feels the country is at a cultural and economic crossroads. He hopes to help craft sound policy and contribute independent thought leadership to help restore free minds, free markets, and free inquiry for all Americans, regardless of background.