The following entry is from November, 2013. One reason to repost it is because a couple of neo-reactionary conservatives have, to my surprise, asked me what is wrong with being a tribalist. I had naively assumed that among philosophers at least tribalism would be deemed a Bad Thing. So I want to give them the opportunity to make a case for tribalism. If they choose to respond, however, I hope they keep it pithy. As one of my aphorisms has it:
Brevity is the soul of blog.
We live in a hyperkinetic age. Short incisive comments are better than long rambling ones, leastways in a venue such as this.
Recent examples of what I am calling tribalism are Juan Williams' and Colin Powell's refusal to condemn the virulently anti-cop thugs that parade under the banner of Black Lives Matter while chanting "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon." It is as if these otherwise outstanding gentlemen identify as blacks first and as Americans second. Tribalism was on prominent display among the jurors in the O. J. Simpson trial. It is evinced by women who will vote for Hillary because she is a woman. The whiff of tribalism is about Geraldo Rivera, whom I greatly respect by the way, when he says things that suggest that he identifies as Hispanic first and as American second.
By the way, let me say that my opposition to tribalism is entirely consistent (as it seems to me) with wanting to keep out of our country those who would destroy it and its culture, at the present time these being radical (or, if you will, orthodox) Muslims, Muslims who support sharia and have no intention of assimilating to American culture and accepting our values. There is nothing tribal about standing up for Western values, values I have already argued are universal even if not universally recognized. The fact that dead white men discovered and promoted these values does not make them racially white values: they are universal values contributory to everyone's flourishing white or black, brown or yellow or red. And let's not leave out pinkos. We're inclusive!
Suppose you present careful arguments against Obama's policies and ideas, foreign or domestic or both. Some black is sure to jump up and shout, "Racist! You hate him because he's black!" Oprah Winfrey is the latest example. There is no point in arguing with such an idiot, argument being fruitful only with those who inhabit the plane of reason; but you must respond. I suggest "If I'm a racist, then you are a tribalist."
If I oppose Obama's policies because he is black, then you support them because he is black. If I'm a racist, then you are a tribalist! If his being black is no reason to oppose his policies, then his being black is no reason to support them either. If racism is bad, then so is your knee-jerk tribalism.
One of the sad facts about American blacks is that many if not most of them cannot seem to transcend their tribal identification. They identify, not as human beings or as rational animals or as Americans, but as blacks. That tribal identification so dominates their consciousness that even the calmest and most polite arguments against Obama's ideas cannot be comprehended except as personal attacks on their man who is, first and foremost, a black man, even though he is half-white. That tribal identification was also at play in the O. J. Simpson trial. The prosecution presented a mountain of evidence of his guilt and yet the black-dominated jury acquitted him of double homicide.
My advice to blacks: if you want to be judged by "the content of your character and not the color of your skin," to adapt the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., then drop the tribal identification. if you want to be treated as individuals, then stop identifying as members of a racial group. Why is your race so important to you? Are you perhaps raaacists?