“If you’re really optimistic, you can say this was the last time that old white people would command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face,” Charles P. Pierce, a writer at large at Esquire magazine, said during the panel discussion…
In response, Mr. King said: “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
“Than white people?” Mr. Hayes asked.
Mr. King responded: “Than Western civilization itself that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”
The claim is actually quite modest. In response to a writer gloating over the demise of his race, Mr. King asks what other subgroup contributed more to civilization than Western civilization, rhetorically implying that no other group contributed more, and therefore none of them are in a position to demand that whites be singled out in not being allowed to dominate anything anywhere on Earth. The assertion that no group has contributed more than the West is compatible with other civilizations having contributed equally and with other civilizations in aggregate having contributed more. It simply means that the West is second to none.
King is right to connect the white race with Western civilization. Race is a social construct, and today being white mostly means being identified with European civilization. He is also right to be angered by Mr. Pierce’s zeal to replace white people as the “public face” of a Western nation’s political party. If its participants can’t be socially dominant anywhere, Western culture will cease to exist as a culture. No one objects to Chinese being the face of the Chinese Communist Party, of Indians being the face of the BJP, or of blacks running sub-Saharan Africa. It’s a big planet, and a little bit of diversity isn’t a terrible thing.
Still, I think the lesson here is that even the claim that the West is second to none is still too strong. It is certainly contestable, and it triggers an argument we don’t need to win. Suppose it could be definitively shown that, say, Islam added more to civilization as a whole than did the West. Would we all meekly accept that Europe should then be ruled or co-ruled by African Muslims? I prefer to avoid comparisons. Can we not strongly argue that the West–defined broadly as Mr. King does as all Classical, Christian, and European-Anglosphere civilization–has made some contributions to civilization as a whole, and that this is an indication of its inherent worth? After all, the main contribution any given civilization makes to civilization as a whole is its very existence. Simply to give birth to a distinctive way of life is a stupendous achievement.
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