Memo to the Prime minister and justice minister: Stop counting and dividing by race
Mark Milke, Calgary Herald
February 16, 2018, A13
For much of history, human beings have divided over unchangeable characteristics, the mistaken notion of "race" or obvious fixed ethnicity. Similarly, men and women have divided into tribes over religion and economic models.
Tribal behaviour is inevitable. Human beings cannot love seven billion people; we can care for those nearest to us. More broadly, divisions are not always bad. It was proper for western countries, our "tribe," to oppose both Soviet communism and Nazi fascism in the last century and Iranian theocracy today.
But diverse peoples are best united by laudable ideas. Those are the ones severed from any notion that skin, birthplace or ethnicity matter. In the western tradition, useful and superior ideas include property rights, independent courts, freedom of religion, association, speech and the economy.
Where practised, such implemented ideas have had the practical effect of allowing for equality of opportunity, prosperity and much else.
The best leaders understand how ideas, the ones just noted, and many others, can unite people. They grasp that even a well-intentioned focus on unchangeable characteristics will instead divide and harm people.
Which brings us to the comments from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Raybould: Both were recently critical of the not-guilty jury verdict in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, in the trial of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley.
The politicians' comments implied racial motivations influenced the jury's verdict. Such remarks were a mistake.
The courts are institutionally separate from the political system for a reason. Canada is not Venezuela, but a liberal democracy anchored in the rule of law. That includes zero attempted persuasion of judges and juries in the future, courtesy of critical comments from politicians.
The rest of us can weigh in for or against a judgment because we have no potential influence over the courts. Politicians should avoid commenting because politicians possess institutional political power, which is at its heart, coercive.
Just as unhelpful was Wilson-Raybould's later remark on the assumed need for reform of jury selection. She assumed at least some modern-day juries decide matters based on prejudice and not the case in front of them, including the ability of defence and prosecution lawyers to persuade.
The justice minister's implied "reform" is for yet more racial quotas, but applied to juries. Such set-asides, so-called affirmative action policies, are flawed at their core. They promote the false notion that people are mainly guided by colour, ethnicity or gender.
That skips over the possibility of guidance by a great idea - relevant here: That the prosecution must prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The pernicious identity politics assumption also ignores how most people possess compassion and reason and can allow both to guide their attitudes and actions.
There's a reason, for example, why Lyndon Johnson could argue against southern racial segregation and why Martin Luther King could ally with him: Because both men gave not a damn about the outside, but instead valued the inside of men and women.
It was why King spoke of how he wished to live in a country where his four children "will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Instead, identity politics practitioners, the prime minister and justice minister among them, presume only people with the same ethnicity can represent "their" side. It assumes that the outside, or even one's own history, is determinative of views and behaviour.
That's daft and dangerous. If it were accurate, it would mean human beings cannot reason and possess little compassion, an incorrect and flawed view of most people.
Politicians who assume racial motivations guide our heads and hearts do citizens no favours. With such slurs, they instead nurture the divisive beast they are trying to kill.
(To have me speak to your group on why the traditional Western focus on ideas can unite people, see my keynote speech, Why the West matters: Free thoughts, people and markets.)
Picture credit: Pixabay.