Racism and Alcoholism: Total Abstinence Is Necessary

By | August 6, 2018 | 3 Comments

Alcoholism has been recognized throughout history, but a cure is still elusive. Alcoholics Anonymous is the prototype for the many self-help groups it inspired. Among the principles AA teaches are an admission that the alcoholic is powerless over alcohol, and a resolve to abstain from it completely.

Some time ago, it was reported that alcoholics had been turned into social drinkers, so abstinence was unnecessary. But in fact, many of the “social drinkers” were re-hospitalized within a year for acute alcoholism. The hope that most alcoholics can learn to drink in moderation was wishful thinking.

Alcoholics must be realize that even “one little drink” is one too many and will lead to more drinking and relapse. For those with an addictive tendency, attempts to use the substance in moderation usually fail. In order to control alcoholism, it is necessary to stop drinking. The same principle applies to other destructive, addictive behaviors, including racism. But not everyone agrees.

First, we are told to avoid the cup of racism entirely:

We are told to see prominent blacks like former President Barack Obama, a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School; and prominent Hispanics like Democratic hopeful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a graduate of Boston University; and view them as successful individuals, rather than possible beneficiaries of special programs.

We are told to see African American or Hispanic physicians and lawyers, and view them as successful individuals, rather than possible beneficiaries of special programs.

We are told to see groups of young black or Hispanic men, with tattoos and baggy shorts, standing in front of a bar, and feel no more unease than if they were a group of middle-aged men of any ethnic background, well dressed and standing in front of an office building or a church.

But then we are told to take “just one little drink” of racism:

We are told that to right the wrongs of past generations, we must provide affirmative-action programs ‒ racial quotas ‒ as well as adjust SAT scores and hiring criteria to erase disparities.

Some people can take “just one little drink.” But some people can’t. In effect, we are acting out the hope that everyone can.

Such a hope seems unreasonable. Many Americans as individuals are among the least racist people on earth, but like many nations, we have a long history of racism. Collectively we are in a position similar to that of alcoholics ‒ some of us may be able to take just one drink, but many of us cannot. Just as we must prescribe total abstinence from alcohol to alcoholics as a group, so we must recommend total abstinence from racism to Americans as a group.

Racial quotas for employment, minority set-asides for contracts, and race-adjusted test scores for college admission are all well-intended. Nevertheless, the inevitable side effect is to teach us to see people not as individuals but as members of races or other groups. But seeing human beings as members of groups is habit-forming. Once we learn to do that ‒ and history proves we learn it all too easily ‒ what is to prevent us from using the same approach for racist and destructive ends?

It is foolish to assume that only the well-intentioned will learn to see people as members of groups. This assumption is refuted by massive historical evidence ‒ from recent complaints of racial profiling by police, to racial segregation, to hatred of one minority by another, to cultural genocide in Tibet, to actual genocide in Rwanda and Armenia, to the Holocaust. If we have learned anything from the 20th century, it is that seeing people as members of racial or other groups can be life-threatening.

But have we learned anything?

National holidays are no longer marked by patriotic music. One school celebrated Flag Day by having the students march with the flags of the nations from which their ancestors came. We no longer teach young people to be proud Americans or observe Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays. Why are we shocked when they cannot name these days, or even understand why we are asking?

We extol the value of “ethnic pride” and have school children describe for the class the ethnic and national origins of their families. Why are we surprised when kids feel more affinity with the homeland of their ancestors than with America? We nod approvingly when demonstrators shout, “Viva la raza.” We weaken what holds us together while strengthening what pulls us apart. We balkanize ourselves, forgetting the bloody ethnic strife that cursed the Balkans.

Many of those who insist that we should see people as members of groups also insist that the Constitution is a “living document” that has no fixed meaning and is to be interpreted to meet “current societal needs.” But what if leftist judges are replaced by reactionary ones who have equally little respect for the original meaning of the Constitution and civil-rights laws? What if these judges perceive “current societal needs” differently?

If judges can order quotas that favor certain groups, what is to prevent them from ordering quotas that harm the same groups? If laws can be twisted to require what they plainly forbid, what is to prevent twisting them the other way and returning to discrimination, or worse?

Racism, like alcoholism, requires total abstinence. Nevertheless, alcoholics need not quit “cold turkey.” Detoxification programs include tranquilizers to tide patients over the acute withdrawal phase. But these drugs are not continued for the alcoholics’ lifetime, and certainly not administered to their children and grandchildren. Similarly, quotas were useful to tide society over its acute withdrawal from discrimination, but if continued indefinitely they become addictive and destructive.

A person addicted to tranquilizers is no better off than one addicted to alcohol. Calling something a “remedy” and having it prescribed by an authority figure does not alleviate its addictive, destructive effects, whether it is a drug or a quota system.

The cure for racism is as elusive as the cure for alcoholism. The best we can do at present is to control it with a partially effective treatment. An indispensable component of that treatment is total avoidance of the addictive substance. We must consciously push ourselves to see every person with whom we come in contact as an individual, with individual strengths and weaknesses, and not as a mere member of a group.

In order to control racism, it is necessary to stop racist thinking, one day at a time.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.



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