Racial Identity Politics: A Warning From Sarajevo
Historian for the Yugoslav Civil War to US Left: ‘You create a momentum whose effects you cannot foresee ‘
Have y’all seen this ad in Georgia?
The ad is shocking, though the factual claims it makes are, you know, true. It is ludicrous that the Left is scandalized by this. As I have said in this space over the past decade, Left-leaning people pushing racial consciousness for non-whites and racial identities for them, and making the unchosen condition that they are white into something evil, are invariably calling up white racial consciousness. In the sense that it is right to say that we should not discriminate against people of color, I don’t think that there is anything wrong. Racial discrimination is almost always wrong, and it is incredibly foolish to do so in a country like the United States. This country is diverse and has a direct interest reducing racial tension. However, I am troubled by the US’s degeneration to the point that an ad calling it wrong and pointing out invidious racism against white people has appeared. It should not be in the case that in post-1960s America, it should be necessary, or controversial, to point out that racial discrimination is wrong. We are here.
The Left believes that all white people will accept and tolerate this abuse and dhimmitization without protest. White racial consciousness is taboo because it is historically important. However, anyone with any common sense must see that you can’t continue to attack white people because of their skin color and punish them in private life just because they are white. This will only invite pushback. The pushback will only get worse once it starts. This Georgia ad is a warning shot. In the past, I have accused the Left of calling out the “demons of white supremacy” through its racialist advocacy. This involves a complete rejection of Martin Luther King’s standard of judging people by their character, not their skin color.
I don’t see how a country with racial diversity like the US can be kept together and thrive outside of the King standard. This — the great gift King gave this country — is exactly the thing the Left is throwing in the trash! Again, I can’t understand why Left-leaning people don’t see it and don’t talk about it. It’s unclear where they see it going. As we saw in 2020, the Left has even made it impossible for others on the Left to talk frankly about the risks of this strategy, without facing cancellation. If this is your strategy, you shouldn’t be surprised if your opponent makes ads like the one below. Nor should you be surprised if you eventually get get much worse, as white people — especially de-Christianized white people — are no longer intimidated by the post-1960s taboo. It might be difficult to get back that common standard once we have lost it. Just this week, a Hungarian friend told me that life in Hungary is socially poor because Communism has destroyed common decency, politeness, and other values that were once considered “bourgeois”. Generations will be needed to rebuild civil society and develop the habits necessary to maintain a peaceful and just civil society.
The Civil Rights movement, whose claims were in complete agreement with classical liberalism as well as the American founding, offered us an opportunity to free ourselves from the legacy of racism and build a more just, peaceful America. It’s not utopia — that’s impossible — but a country in which it was easier for people of different races to live in peace. But what now? I see in the Left’s cultural politics, which have become the cultural politics for the entire American Regime — the seeds for a potential American Yugoslavia.
I’m not the only person who is curious about this. Recently someone pointed me to Prof. Marko Attila Hoare, who teaches history and political science in Sarajevo. (Follow him on Twitter here.) I was told that Prof. Hoare, a scholar of the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, is concerned about what’s happening in woke America. I reached out to Prof. Hoare for an interview. Below is a transcript of the conversation. You can see Dr. Hoare’s warning to American Left about pursuing racism identity politics: “You create a momentum whose effects you cannot foresee. “
That’s Dr. Hoare. Here’s a transcript from our conversation:
ROD DREHER: What does America look like to you today, from your perspective in Sarajevo? Are we in danger of turning ourselves into another Yugoslavia from the 1990s?
MARKO ATTILA HOARE : To avoid overstating the analogy, the US is not Yugoslavia in that, although it is ethnically mixed, it is a nation state of one, American nation. Yugoslavia was a multi-nation federation with member-states representing different nations (Serb Croat, Macedonian etc.). The US has stronger institutions, rule-of-law and traditions of pluralism. Things are unlikely to get so extreme in the US, as they did in Yugoslavia.
However, there is another parallel and it is something Americans should be concerned about.
The old Yugoslavia was under one-party Communist control. It was a state with an ethnically varied population. However, the regime could keep it united up to a certain point through a set common values and a national narrative. These values were rooted in the common struggle in World War II against the Nazis and other foreign occupiers. They also benefited from a relatively successful and prosperous statehood in today. Most Yugoslavs could identify with the national narrative of Tito’s Yugoslavia to a greater degree.
Yugoslavia collapsed when radical Serb nationalists, led by Slobodan Miloevic’s hardline Communist regime of Serbia, mobilised an ideological attack against it that emphasized ethnic differences and undermined the common Yugoslav narrative. Instead of focusing on the Yugoslavian community and history of fighting foreign foes together, Serb nationalists emphasized the Serbs’ historical experiences of oppression at Croat, Bosnian Muslim, and Albanian fascists in World War II, and before that at the hands Muslim Ottoman occupiers. This Serb-extremist mobilization resulted in a wedge between different ethnonational groups in Yugoslavia. It also destroyed any sense of common patriotism or identity among Serbs and non Serbs (Croats. Bosnian Muslims. Slovenes. This resulted in the destruction and genocide of the Yugoslav and Bosnian common homelands. Milosevic and the Serb nationists also destroyed Catholic churches, mosques, and other buildings in the areas they occupied in Bosnia. They also erased any traces of the Ottoman imperial past to rehabilitate the land in their extremist vision.
Woke activists, and other elite members of the US today, are making a similar divisive attack on the ties that unites Americans. The US is a multi-ethnic nation state. Regardless of its past treatment of Native Americans and black Americans, members of the elite can rise to the top today: Clarence Thomas, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor Colin Powell, Condoleezza rice, Richard Cavazos, and others. This includes the US’s national narrative, which is based on the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, defeat of Confederacy, victory over World War II, and eventually incorporating Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, and the idea that people should not be judged based on their skin colour but their content. Woke, or identitarian ideology, seeks to destroy this unifying narrative, and common American identity. It emphasizes instead supposedly inexorable racial identities, and the divisions among ‘good’ blacks and Hispanics. ‘Evil’ whites. They want to replace the positive narrative by one that reduces American history down to the history of slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy. They oppose Thanksgiving, which is celebrated by most Americans. They commit acts of systematic vandalism of statues and other historical monuments, even of figures such as Thomas Jefferson or Ulysses Grant, as ritual acts of extinguishing hatred of the national past in favor of their extremist visions of purity.
Woke ideology, also known as identity politics, is a reaction against racial Integration and in favor of maintained racial distinctions. This is similar to how Milosevic’s Serb Nationalists reacted against integration of Serbs (with Croats) and Bosnian Muslims. One difference is important to the comparison. Milosevic’s Serb Nationalists were mainly Serbs and were abusing our national history. While leftists and woke liberals are mostly white Americans who have taken the name of the struggle to protect black and other minorities’ rights, they are often identitarian liberals or leftists.
I don’t believe woke politics will lead to organised genocide in America along Yugoslav lines. All patriotic Americans should be concerned about the consequences of destroying our national narrative and racial unity in the name of “progressive” (actually regressive?) identity politics.
RD: Milosevic knew very well what he was trying to do, but my impression is that the American establishment truly believes that this heightened racial consciousness is going to have a positive effect on the country — that it will lead us to a more just society. As someone who lived through the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia, if you could sit down with US political, cultural, and corporate leaders, what would you say to them to dissuade them from taking this path?
MAH – It is true that there is no equivalent figure to Milosevic among the US elite. However, first of all, Milosevic himself probably wasn’t already planning war and the break-up of Yugoslavia when he took control of Serbia in 1987; in the short term, he paradoxically thought that by mobilising a purely Serb-sectarian nationalist movement directed against other Yugoslavs, he would strengthen both Yugoslavia and his own Communist regime. This movement gave him a momentum he couldn’t control, and led him to places he didn’t intend to go.
Secondly, this sectarian-nationalist movement wasn’t just about Milosevic; it was a genuine mass movement, a ‘Serbian Spring’ that appeared to many of its participants progressive and emancipatory, led largely by Serbian liberals and leftists, while it was directed not only against non-Serbs but against those Serbs considered ‘traitors’ or ‘reactionaries’ for not being part of it. This nationalist’reawakening” created Milosevic; he didn’t just conjure it up out of nothing.
I would like to say this to the US elite, who embrace identity politics and demonize the US as inseparable with white supremacy, colonialism, etc. You are creating a momentum that you can’t foresee. You are destroying the ties that unify Americans: their common national identity and belief in their country. Instead, you are promoting racial identity that divides them, the very same racial differences that the past white supremacists encouraged. You are reducing American history down to the parts that divide Americans and reopening or maintaining open historical wounds. This is not only divisive but also creates a potentially dangerous backlash.
The point is not to say that Americans shouldn’t learn about the past oppression suffered by Native Americans or black Americans. There is a big difference in teaching this history and using it to shame and humiliate political opponents and ordinary Americans. Yugoslavs under Tito were taught all about the Ustasha (Croat fascist), genocide of Serbs during WWII and Ottoman oppression. It was a different story when Serb nationalists started to say that all Croats were Ustashas and all Bosnian Muslims were ‘Turks’.
In end, the deliberate, systematic encouragement of division in the US will harm black and other minorities Americans as it prevents them from integration and revives the white-sectarian identity which oppressed them historically. You can tell white Americans that you are racist, you are white, and you are evil, regardless of what you believe or do. And you might find some of them accepting the white identity you are forcing on them. Your hegemonic woke narrative is intolerant of any opposition. This creates a hostile environment around these issues. You need to think carefully before you attack the delicate multi-ethnic fabric of the US with an intolerant, divisive and extreme ideology.
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RD: I am hearing from certain white conservatives real fear that the stage is being set by American elites for racial violence against white people. I know most white conservatives who are Christians who believe in Martin Luther King’s teachings and want to defend a social system that doesn’t discriminate against people based on race. And yet, I hear in our conversations since 2020 a rising fear that this social order doesn’t really exist anymore, that it has been torn down by the Left in power, and that Christian conservatives who believe in it are fools. What would you say to American conservatives, Christian and not, who are tempted by tribal/racial politics for self-protection?
MAH: I would unequivocally oppose any attempt to adopt white — or any other — racial or tribal politics in response to woke politics. To do so would be to fall for the trap of woke activists; to become the enemy and partner they desire and to facilitate the divisions of Americans along racial lines they support.
Identity politics must be opposed by Americans as Americans. In a resistance that unites patriots, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity, and ideally liberals as well. If Dr Martin Luther King were alive today, I think he would have been part of this resistance. The woke attempt to re-segregate Americans according to race is threatening black and other minority Americans just as much as whites. The United States is a nation made up of many different ethnicities, colors, and creeds. If you give up on this, America will be gone forever.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.