During the past few decades, enthusiasm for multiculturalism has resulted in the view that diversity is our greatest strength. Fueled by the widespread acceptance and enforcement of intersectionality, those who are members of a minority “identity group” are societally required to celebrate their “culture,” regardless of whether or not their identity group even has an associated culture. With multiple groups defined by race, sexual orientation, or religion, the notion of “pride” is often actively encouraged. In many ways, this is an objective good. Pride in your heritage, or the progress made by a group close to your heart, is something we should all support.
However, this uncovers a strange juxtaposition when it comes to the moral judgement of pride depending on one’s identity, demonstrated by the treatment of “gay pride” versus “straight pride,” “black pride” versus “white pride,” and women’s marches versus men’s marches. This same binary attitude is also applied to the cultures of the past, with the growing consensus amongst “progressives” being that we can judge bygone generations solely by their position in the world hierarchy through the lens of “colonialism.” This leads to the same simplistic characterizations of morality we see today. Colonialist cultures were “bad,” and the cultures they “victimized” were therefore “good.”
Admittedly, one legitimate criticism of some forms of “cultural pride” is that they are rooted in the desire to present a “counter protest.” “If they can celebrate gay pride, why can’t I celebrate straight pride?” “Why can’t I celebrate being white if someone else can celebrate being black?” “If she’s proud to be a woman, why can’t I be proud of being a man?” The error here is the assumed premise that the celebration of “pride” is skin deep. In reality, most are not celebrating the minority label, but the historical context of that label. Unfortunately, instead of taking this nuanced and empathetic position, the alternative to such “counter protests” if you are a member of a non-minority group is enthusiastic cultural self-flagellation.
In this case, you are required to demonstrate deep shame for your immutable membership to your identity group if that identity group is viewed as a historical “victimizer,” while also celebrating the cultures of anyone who is viewed as historically “victimized.” In the eyes of genuine conservatives, such labels are absurd. In a battle to reject every element of identity politics and intersectionality, combined with the understandable discomfort often elicited by such discussions, the subject of whether cultural pride is appropriate is often abandoned by the mainstream Right, leaving the remaining radical (and often racist) fragments to provide any counter narrative.
By relinquishing this subject, conservatives have provided the Left with the ammunition required to label any criticism of their cultural demands as motivated entirely by bigotry. Phrases such as “western culture” or “Judeo-Christian values” have been allowed to become synonymous with the racially charged and ideologically meaningless terms “white culture” or “European values.” Under this umbrella of presumed bigotry, even mentioning the term “Judeo-Christian values” is dismissed as a racist dog whistle without question.
The problem underlying this false conflation is the immeasurable difference between the former and the latter. Western culture is a collection of beliefs, political structures, and societal ethics which grew from an amalgamation of Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman cultures. Western culture, and the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman cultures which underpin it, is a concrete set of such ideals which allow it to be differentiated from other cultures and civilizations. This is not a statement of moral judgement, but a statement of simple fact. Conversely, the phrases “white culture” or “European values” hijack the notion of Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman cultures by literally whitewashing them in order to make an implicit or explicit claim of racial ownership. By making the objectively true claim that western civilization has been the foundation for the proliferation of historically unimaginable peace, prosperity, and liberty, they make the illogical assumption that such successes are evidence of “whiteness,” and therefore “white supremacy.” The fact that the biblical Jews who gave us the “Judeo” in “Judeo-Christian” were neither white nor European is conveniently ignored.
It is crucially important that mainstream conservatives reclaim this subject of debate from the radical wings of the American Right. Firstly, this must be done in order to fight back against the false argument that “western culture” is “white culture.” While the Left routinely wield the sword of “racial justice” in their sporadic fight against racism, any form of bigotry is entirely antithetical to the fundamental concepts of individualism on which conservatism is built. As such, it is our duty to reject the deplorable claim of white exceptionalism which assumes that the success of western culture was not founded on an ideology, but on skin color.
Conservatives must also return to the field on this subject because western culture — and in our case the culture of freedom and liberty provided by the words of The Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution, and The Bill of Rights — is worth defending. By permitting western culture to be intentionally or unintentionally unified under the banner of “white” or “European” dominance, we are opening the door to the intentional or unintentional destruction of our unique system of rights as collateral damage in the fight against bigotry.
We have a historical responsibility to protect the unbelievable privilege bestowed upon us by generations past. While countless people across history have lived lives of unthinkable suffering under relentless tyranny, we stand as free men and free women. While these rights are given to us by God, history is riddled with evidence that such liberty is far from guaranteed. The fact is that some cultures are different, and some are better than others. Those who disagree and claim that this is simply a “racist dog-whistle” should explain how the combination of cultures under the shared embracement of American values is no better than that of primitive cannibalistic societies, brutal totalitarian regimes under communist dictators, or ISIS.
The answer here is not the dismissal of pride, but its proper application. We must recognize that pride in one’s heritage or background is not the same as the assumption of one’s supremacy over other comparable groups. Gay Pride, for example, is a celebration of the remarkable strides made by the gay rights movement in recent history. The proper application of pride involves the recognition of the positive elements of our culture and history which we wish to embrace, protect, and nurture. It also involves the continued recognition of the multiple wrongs of the past, and the ongoing pursuit of ideological betterment and societal development.
With that in mind, there is no reason why pride in our western culture should be viewed as evidence of bigotry. Instead, we should celebrate that we are fortunate to live in a time and place where we can live together and celebrate our differences under a shared mission of promoting liberty and justice.
That is western culture. That is why we should be proud of it.
Ian G. Haworth is a conservative commentator who provides an honest, principled, and hard-hitting insight into our politics and culture from his unique perspective as a British immigrant to the United States. Ian hosts “The Ian Haworth Show” and “The Truth in 60 Seconds.” He is a regular columnist for Townhall.com, and his work has appeared in other outlets including The American Mind, The Washington Examiner, and The Federalist. Ian graduated from Oxford University, and now lives in California. Follow him on Twitter @ighaworth
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.