At first one thinks, this is a horrible joke. Could such an article have been written by Hannah Arendt, the author of the book on totalitarianism? So one then looks for the obvious clues one has missed, the clues which will reveal the convoluted level of irony on which the argument was deliberately put. But those clues are not there. And finally one is led unmistakably to the conclusion that the argument is meant just as it is stated, with all its metaphysical mumbo jumbo, all its disregard for basic facts of sociology and history. It is all there, incredibly arguing that further desegregation of the schools can only cause trouble, most of all to Negroes. Why? Because, says Arendt,
the more equal people have become in every respect, and the more equality permeates the whole texture of society, the more will differences [all differences? any differences?] be resented, the more conspicuous will those become who are visibly and by nature unlike the others.
There it is. The more equal people become, the less equal, because the remaining inequalities, no matter how small, take on much more psychological meaning than ever before. The nightmare world of Orwell’s Animal Farm has been brought into being. And this, Arendt assures us, is not some ghoulish fantasy, but rather, a condition which is “well known to students of history.” Nor is it only a matter of small likelihood. It is rather, our author assures us, a danger point which invariably emerges.
How likely is it that this danger will materialize? Let Arendt tell us herself:
It is therefore quite possible that the achievement of social, economic and educational equality for the Negro may sharpen the color problem in this country instead of assuaging it. This of course does not have to happen [Gott sei Dank] but it would be only natural if it did, and it would be very surprising if it did not. [My emphasis: MT]
What then should we do? The conclusion would seem obvious. Let all of us who care the least bit about what happens to Negroes and to our country, let us all immediately declare a moratorium on any action which might produce further equality. Indeed, if the logic of the argument were to prevail, we should all immediately work to reverse the trends of the last two decades, and get back quickly to some condition of more widespread inequality so that we keep as far away from that ominous and highly probable danger as possible.
But no, Miss Arendt will not come along with us on this retroactive historical journey. Instead, either out of timidity before her own ideas, or out of a reflective recoil from the sense of what she has advocated, we are told that any further government intervention ought to be guided by “caution and moderation rather than by impatience and ill-advised measures.” After all those hurricane warnings, all those ominous massings of portentous...
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