J. Pharoah Doss: The yin to the progressive yang

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

In the 1960s, Nikki Giovanni wrote a short story called A Revolutionary Tale where one character asked another, “How can Black people be conservative? What do they have to conserve?”

For these characters, a conservative was someone inclined to preserve the existing system and resist change. These characters lived in a White racist society and concluded Black people had “absolutely nothing” to conserve.

Progressives believe existing systems are always in need of improvement for the betterment of humanity. Except, social progress through organic change doesn’t materialize fast enough, and every progressive movement has attempted to speed up the process.

For progressives, forcing change is a moral duty, and history reveals the “modern world” wouldn’t exist without these efforts.

However, there’s a scene in Alex Haley’s Roots when a young man from Africa refused to accept the name assigned to him by the plantation owner. Eventually, the young African was whipped until he answered to the name imposed on him.

As you can tell, this scene was selected to show that forcing change doesn’t always lead to desired outcomes and that resisting change isn’t negative in itself. But modern progressives believe conservatives resist change out of moral duty due to their allegiance to the status quo and conclude “change” is not a “conservative value”.

They’re right, “change” is not a “conservative value”.

Change is inevitable and unavoidable. Therefore, it’s unnecessary to categorize “change” as a value. A conservative thinker said that conservatives are not reactionaries, conservatives understand the need to reform in order to conserve. That means “resisting change” isn’t a moral duty either, but it’s vital as the yin to the progressive yang.

Philosopher Will Durant explains it best, “The conservative who resists change is as valuable as the radical who proposes it.   It is good that new ideas should be heard for the sake of the few that can be used, but it is also good that new ideas should be compelled to go through the mill of objections and opposition. This is the trial heat in which innovations must survive before being allowed to enter the human race.”

Now, if it’s true that conservatives must “reform in order to conserve”, then progressives must reject reform in order to force change, and if Black people have nothing to conserve, then Black progressives have everything to reject.

Since the 1970s, Black progressives have rejected capitalism, individualism, meritocracy, and race-neutral policies. They have also rejected the “incremental step-by-step progress” advocated by the traditional civil rights movement in favor of forcing redress for historical wrongs.

The latest example was the new contract for Minneapolis public school teachers.

The school district and the teacher’s union agreed that past discrimination resulted in the lack of diversity amongst public school teachers. Therefore, White teachers will be laid off first, regardless of seniority. According to the school district, this will protect “underrepresented populations” and keep the school district’s White staff from becoming more homogenous. A representative of the teacher’s union stated that the new contract was the first of its kind in the nation. It was a huge move forward for the retention of teachers of color, and it could be a national model for other schools in other states to emulate.

Critics called the new contract state-sponsored racial discrimination. However, the progressive professor Ibram X Kendi proclaimed, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

In the 21st century, Dr. King’s famous dictum of judging people by character and not their skin color has been rejected in the name of progress.

Therefore, resisting forces that weaponize the past to hold the present hostage is the necessary yin to the progressive yang.


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