How Equality Became the Enemy of Justice

US Constitution-edited

}In the U.S., coastal progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans from “fly-over country,” are at each other’s throats. At least half of Americans despise their politically incorrect President. The results of elections are no longer accepted; “resistance” is proclaimed, and the aim is to overthrow those who have been elected, along with the Constitution and the Courts that allowed the “unacceptable” outcome. The defeated candidate for president has helpfully said that there can be no civility in America until her party is in power.

In divided Canada the “progressive” NDP and Green provinces block the commerce of the other provinces, leading to a standstill, with the national economy slowly grinding to a halt. The politically correct Liberal Prime Minister is held in contempt by almost half of Canadians.

The antagonistic cultural and political divide in North America reflects a sharp disagreement about the nature of justice. Each side views the preferences and policies of the other as unjust, unacceptable, and immoral. This is because the two sides understand and construe justice entirely differently.

{Loyalty Oaths, Diversity Mandates, Faculty ‘Training’ at San Diego State}

Conservatives and many moderates hold to the classical liberal concept of justice that focuses on individuals and requires that individuals receive his or her just deserts.

This approach assumes that individuals have diverse qualities and capacities, have different preferences, and make different choices. Equality is incorporated in the classical liberal view by requiring that there is equality of opportunity for each individual to exercise his or her capacities and choices. Freedom for individuals is also an important value; individuals must be free to choose among the options available.

But because people are different in qualities and capacities, the results in education, employment, and income will vary for different individuals. In the classical liberal view, individuals would receive rewards according to their merit, according to their achievements. Students would receive grades according to their academic achievement. Workers would earn wages or salaries according to the job that they have done. Professors would be hired and promoted according to their academic prowess and accomplishments. Grants should be awarded on the basis of merit. Civil servants would be hired according to their qualifications. The belief is upheld that if capable people work hard, they will succeed. But results will always differ from individual to individual.

Progressives (often misleadingly called “liberals”) and other soft, medium, and hard leftists reject the classical liberal emphasis on individuals and argue that the important thing is classes of people, based on economics, on race, on gender, on sexuality, and on ethnicity and religion. Following Marx, they argue that there is a power differential between the classes of each category and that the more powerful class exerts its power to maintain its supremacy and to discriminate and oppress the weaker class. This power differential is allegedly harbored in all societal institutions, and this is the famous “institutional” sexism, racism, heteronormality, Islamophobia from which individuals cannot escape. The measure of this institutional oppression is differential results of genders, races, sexualities, and ethnicities in participation in institutions, in education, hiring, income, and so on.

{Why This Is a Very Scary Time for Young Men}

In the progressive view, what is important is the collective rights of gender, race, sexual, and ethnic categories, and the oppressor-oppressed relationship between classes. Progressive virtue is to champion the oppressed victims. Individuals are of no importance in themselves. Although anthropologists condemn “reductionism” of complex phenomena to single factors or dimensions, progressives reduce complex individuals with many personal characteristics, qualities, and abilities to one-dimensional gender or race or sex categories.

Justice in the “progressive” view is equality of results. That is, everyone must end up the same. Ideally, incomes should be the same, or at least “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Everyone should have the same educational credentials. Everyone should have the same lifestyle. Progressive professors, who made up about 90% of professors in the social sciences, humanities, education, and social work, ignore the fact that, while favoring equal outcomes, they spend much of their professional lives making judgments about the relative inequality in strengths and weaknesses of students’ essays, exams, and presentations, of applicants for admissions, jobs, and grants, and of manuscripts submitted for peer review, and of providing differential assessment. In other words, assessing inequalities in quality is a central part of their job. The real world requires it.

Short of absolute equality of results for everyone, progressives insist that representation in jobs should reflect the percentage of the general population of each category. For example, women must always make up no less than 50% of any occupation, but especially the prestigious ones, such as business executives, members of the legislature and cabinet, doctors, lawyers, and professors. African Americans, who make up 14% of the general population, should be 14% of business executives, members of the legislature, etc. etc. Gays, lesbians,  transsexuals, etc. etc. must always be represented. This statistical equality of racial, gender and sexual categories is called “social justice” by progressives.

Representation in prison is also cited as an example of discrimination and oppression. Prison populations of African-Americans in the U.S.A. and members of First Nations indigenes in Canada are much higher than their percentage of the population. Whites are represented in prisons at a lower percentage than their percentage of the general population, and Asians have a much lower percentage in prisons than in the general population. This differential representation in prisons is seen by progressives as a demonstration of discrimination and oppression against African Americans. Also frequently cited is the alleged unjustified murder of African Americans by police.

{What Happened to Our Universities?}

What is never mentioned by progressives, although thoroughly documented and well known, is that many African-American neighborhoods are high crime zones. The murder of blacks (2,491 in 2013, 46% of all murders in 14% of the population) is three times higher than blacks’ percentage of the population, and over 90% of those murders are committed by other blacks (2,245 in 2013).

If members in any category are underrepresented in any position, it is vehemently asserted that this can only be due to discrimination, that this is due to the power imbalance depriving members of that category of their due. It is in each case claimed to be the fault of institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia. Therefore, measures must be taken to ensure that “underrepresented” minorities are given freer access to positions, and members of the majority are blocked from access. Anyone who objects to these measures to overcome “institutional” racism, sexism, etc., are therefore deemed to be racists, sexists, homophobes, and Islamophobes.

From the classical liberal point of view, justice is each individual attaining success based on merit and achievement.

From the progressive point of view, an individual’s merit and achievement is a result of institutional racism and sexism. So, to emphasize merit and achievement, progressives allege, is advocating white male supremacy.

{Harvard’s Strip Tease About Wealth and Race}

For classical liberalism, university students should be admitted according to their achievements, and professors hired according to their demonstrated talents. So, too, in all positions in business, the government, and civil and public service. For a strong applicant to be turned down because he or she is a “person of color,” while a weaker candidate is admitted because he or she is a white, is, to the liberal point of view, a dishonest travesty, a serious injustice. In the same way, for a strong applicant to be turned down because he or she is white, while a weaker candidate is admitted because he or she is a “person of color,” is, to the liberal point of view, also a dishonest travesty, a serious injustice. This latter case is, in fact, reverse racism.

Similarly, to accept a male candidate for a science position over a stronger female candidate is an injustice. In the same way, to accept a female candidate for a science position over a stronger male candidate on the alleged grounds that science is not sufficiently “diverse,” is an injustice. Reverse bias simply replaces one injustice with another.

For progressives, there should be quotas for each gender and racial category, whatever their level of accomplishment, according to their representation in the general population. Justice in the progressive perspective is equal statistical representation in every occupation and institution of members of each racial, gender, sexual, ethnic category.

This collective equality trumps every other value. For progressives, ideas of merit, achievement, and excellence are reflections of institutional racism, sexism, and white male supremacism, and can be happily disposed of. If some white or male individuals are disappointed, they have not sufficiently reflected on their sex and race “privilege” that gave them an unfair advantage, to begin with. Progressives do not consider the cultures of underrepresented minorities, which might be a better explanation of differential educational results.

One of the values that progressive equality replaces is suitability and practicality. The evidence is clear that students of whatever race admitted with weak qualifications to elite educational institutions will do poorly, while students of all races with strong qualifications do quite well.  Why would we expect otherwise? And if weak students admitted because of race do not do well, what exactly is the point of forcing their admission? The point for progressives is that equality of categories is upheld, and poorly qualified racial admits, like well qualified racial rejections, are both collateral damage — trivial compared to the abstract, statistical equality achieved.

{Campus Censorship Is Leaching Into Business and the Arts}

Progressives take the view that we should always “believe women,” and that university and government kangaroo courts determined to condemn accused men are a fair way to undermine the “patriarchy” and empower females. Men are guilty of being male, which, progressives believe, makes them “toxic” and brutal. According to progressives, including virtually every university administration, every female who accuses a male of sexual impropriety, should be considered a “survivor,” and believed. Further evidence is really not required, and rules to preclude such evidence should be the norm. For progressives, the most important value of all —  equality — does not apply to equality before the law.

The liberal view is in favor of legal immigration on the basis of official procedures established by the legislature and executive. Immigration can only be just if everyone follows the same, democratically established rules, and that the rules be upheld and applied equally to all.

Progressives believe that it is racist to refuse to admit all people of color who wish to enter the country, and it is racist not to regularize illegal aliens who have snuck into the country.

For progressives, legal immigrants of all colors and ethnicities who have followed immigration procedures are no more legitimate than illegal aliens who have flouted the law. For progressives, their highest duty is to provide sanctuary to illegal aliens and protect them from law enforcement agencies.

In the liberal view, treating people according to their race, rather than their qualities as individuals, is racism. Viewing people negatively because they are white is exactly the same thing as viewing them negatively because they are people of color. Similarly, viewing men negatively is just as sexist as viewing women negatively. Discriminating against whites and men is just as racist and sexist as discriminating against people of color and women.

Progressives, on the other hand, say that urging “color-blind” treatment of other people is racist.

{Academic Activists Make a Published Paper Disappear}

Progressives argue that our structural racism and sexism means, first of all, that only the powerful — that is whites and males — can be racist and sexist, and that therefore non-whites cannot be racist, and females can never be sexist. Discrimination against males and whites cannot be considered sexist and racist, but instead should be viewed as justice, as compensating for the injustice of structural racism and sexism. Non-whites and females are deemed by progressives to be victims of structural oppression, and, as victims, to be virtuous and deserving of all special benefits.

Citing the idea of “structural racism,” invented by sociologists, progressives are obsessed by “underrepresented minorities,” particularly African-Americans and Hispanics. But they do not explain why structural racism did not block other despised minorities from achieving success.

Jews did not always have an easy time immigrating. In Canada, as the Holocaust revved up in Europe, the civil servant who headed immigration replied to the pleas of “admit at-risk” Jews by saying “None is too many.” The resistance to admitting Jews was especially strong in Catholic Quebec. In the U.S., most Jews arrived as penniless (legal) immigrants, and faced barriers in jobs, housing, and university admissions. After WWII, some who arrived were survivors of Nazi extermination camps. Rather than receiving favorable treatment, Jews were restricted to low quotas at elite universities, not allowed to buy houses in better neighborhoods, and were not welcomed in elite business. (I remember signs saying, “Christians only” and personally shying away from gangs of youngsters at Easter looking for Jews to rebuke.)

Jews nonetheless persevered in business, many inventing their own businesses and starting their own companies, or pursuing education and succeeding in the professions of law, medicine, and academia. Once economically successful, Jews were not admitted to established country clubs and started their own (the German Jews started their own, and the Eastern European Jews started separate ones). Although always socially of low standing, Jews reached high status economically and in the professions in both the U.S. and Canada. This lack of status crystallization is characteristic of North America.

{How ‘Social Justice’ Warriors Kill Free Thought}

In North America, East Asians suffered from greater barriers than Jews in immigration and economy. For most of the 19th and 20th century Europeans were preferred, and Asians less welcome than even Jews. As “people of color,” Asians should certainly have been suppressed by the fearful “institutional racism” of North America. And they have undoubted been discriminated against. But they climbed onto the social mobility escalator of education with determination and tenacity, and succeed admirably. In fact, they have succeeded so much that they, far from being an underrepresented minority, or now deemed to be a despised “overrepresented minority.” Too many Asians have succeeded, according to progressives, and they must be blocked. Lawsuits are now being pursued against Ivy League universities for turning down highly qualified Asians and taking in their places poorly qualified members of “underrepresented minorities.” Here is reverse racism against Asians for being too successful.

The cover for “progressive” measures to replace and marginalize men and whites is “diversity.” No other idea has such prestige in our time. Diversity means gender, racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity, justified by the assertion of “enrichment” that is not demonstrated and suspect. What it does not mean is diversity of opinion or politics, for only progressive views are acceptable. Progressives view classical liberal views as sexist, racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic, and believe that these should not be allowed. So, the net result of “diversity” is people who look different from one another, but all saying the same things. The progressive orthodoxy precludes diverse opinions and works hard to exclude liberally-minded heretics.

Progressives appear to be obsessed with equality to the exclusion of all other values, such as freedom, prosperity, beauty, and truth. The advance of anyone value at the expense of all others, no matter how good the intentions, leads to a cultural and societal imbalance that turns into hell. This is not speculation; recent historical cases are well documented and incontestable. Societies that have taken equality as their sole value have disregarded freedom, efficiency and prosperity, property ownership, and due process. They have exterminated whole classes, such as the kulak

prosperous peasants in the Soviet Union, the entire professional class in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge communists, and bourgeois class in Communist China under Mao.

Progressives, who increasingly admit they are socialists, now rant against white men and white women, so obsessed with underrepresented minorities that they disregard the democratic obligation to respect the majority. The progressive undermining of liberal Enlightenment values will not lead to “progress” in any sense, but to increasing chaos and injustice.


  • Philip Carl Salzman

    Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Past President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

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One thought on “How Equality Became the Enemy of Justice”

  1. This is an absolutely wonderful exposition of the intellectual nonsense that has taken hold of academia over the last two or three decades. Very well written and reasonably argued. Something like this should be required reading for every freshman student beginning his or her studies at a college or university. The bane, the poisonous ideology, of identity politics is eloquently addressed by the clear, common sense, empirically verifiable truths expressed in this essay.

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