The question presented by current public standards regarding racial discrimination is whether it’s OK to prefer to form connections with people to whom one has an ethnic or cultural connection, on the grounds that things tend to work better that way, or whether it’s so wrong to do so that extirpating such conduct is an obvious and pressing duty, and anyone who thinks otherwise is an illegitimate person with no place in public life.
I don’t think it overstates the case to say that the second alternative is the universal public view today, enforced by law and propaganda and held by all respectable people, including all respectable conservatives. The main distinction in permissible opinion is that conservatives apply the antidiscrimination principle literally and categorically, while moderates and liberals say it’s OK for minority group members to form ethnic caucuses and the like, as long as they aid the overall goal of destroying ethnicity and particular culture as functional aspects of the social order. In effect, mainstream conservatives say market forces, American nationalism, large-scale immigration, the innate decency of the American people, and vigorous enforcement of antidiscrimination laws are enough to disrupt and destroy ethnic connections, while moderates and liberals believe such things go a bit deeper and more forcible means are needed to root them out.
That’s hardly a distinction worth arguing about when the main point, that there’s something terrible about recognizing inherited connections, is so odd, especially for anyone tempted to call himself conservative. Culture—meaning particular culture, since that’s how culture comes—exists to the extent it can be presumed authoritative among a group of people living together. It requires local common understandings and local cohesion, and thus (in a diverse society) selection. “Civil rights” says that’s wrong, that it’s an inexcusible wrong for a group of people sharing a common historical background and the common culture that grows out of it to prefer to deal with each other or to take their common background into account for any practical purpose whatever other than devising means (multiculturalism, “affirmative action” and the like) of counteracting any residual social effect their commonalities may have. The “challenge of diversity” is compulsory everywhere, even for those who think they’re already dealing with challenges enough and would rather have some things that just work habitually without special effort.
The basic issue, then, is whether it’s OK for culture to be relevant to social functioning, in which case forming connections that take ethnic culture into account can make sense, or whether society has to be reconstructed on rationalized technocratic lines to keep its functioning culture-free. How can the latter even have become a debatable position among conservatives, let alone universal dogma?