When did Karens become more racist than Rednecks? Conventional wisdom used to insist that Americans who live in densely-populated cities were more sophisticated than those who live in rural areas. After all, cities tend to be more diverse, and city-dwellers typically vote Democratic. Surely this means they are less likely to hold "backward," racist views, right?
A recent spate of racial news-stories this week casts doubt on the commonplace assumptions mentioned above. Racist incidents happen, increasingly, in America's major metropolitan cities outside the Deep South. As former Obama administration staffer Van Jones recently explained during a CNN segment, "it's the white liberal Hillary Clinton supporter walking her dog in Central Park" that he worries about more than the Klu Klux Klan. Jones is referring, of course, to Amy Cooper, who went batty and called the cops at the instigation of moral busybody Christian Cooper (no relation).
But why should this be? Why would a black person feel white liberals to be more of a threat than Klan members? Why would racial tensions increase in America's metropolitan areas at the same time that race relations improve in the Deep South and old racist groups dwindle into irrelevance?
One might blame ineradicable human nature for the problem. Perhaps the mere proximity of different racial groups in urban environments inevitably brings out hard-wired racist tendencies. The modern American Left, like their Puritan forebears, tend to agree that human beings are totally depraved in this way. As Van Jones put it in the aforementioned interview, "even the most well-intentioned white person has a virus in his or her brain that can be activated at an instant." The trouble with this explanation is that it does not explain the different trajectories of North and South.
One contributing factor to this phenomenon is found in the nature of metropolitan morality. People who live in liberal areas become accustomed to a political atmosphere where victim status is a crucial component of identity. When they find themselves in tense situations, not only are they more likely to claim to be victimized, they are also far more likely to weaponize their adversary's victimhood-based fears. In the case of Amy Cooper, this meant threatening a black man with the very thing that every liberal believes black Americans are supposed to fear most: the cops.
Yet another contributing factor stems from the nature of liberal policy on crime. Afraid to appear racist and reflexively critical of law-enforcement, Democratic policies leave Democratic districts with atrophied and over-extended police forces. Not only does this often lead to increases in crime, it also creates a power imbalance that makes adversarial confrontations more likely and such situations much riskier when they happen. A nervous cop is much more likely to have a happy trigger.
On top of all of this, some Democratic districts are choosing to respond slowly to violent bands of looters rampaging their streets under the auspices of George Floyd—while mainstream media outlets praise the cops' "restraint." This does not bode well for the future of Democratic districts, which will surely see more performative violence as a result.
And this is the curious situation in which America finds itself: old-style racism is recedes from memory while a new, metropolitan racism replaces it in America's consciousness. Unfortunately, because the words we use to describe racial politics are taken from a lexicon built during the decades of Civil Rights, it will likely take Americans a long while to understand the change. Older voters may never notice it, assuming that current conflicts are mere extensions of the ones they remember from their childhood. Mainstream media outlets, who are already facing irrelevance and obscurity, will doubtless remain vested in their old narratives.
Conservatives would do well to recognize this change. It is their responsibility to point out where the bulk of new, racist incidents happen. The old, Democratic South used to be where racism resided. Now, it looks like the new, Democratic metropole will be its next home.