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Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism”.

– Ayn Rand

One cannot be a racist and an individualist. They are concepts that are absolutely mutually exclusive. Stereotyping another human being based on phenotypical attributes over which they have no control (apart from the odd Michael Jackson or so) is anathema to libertarianism, as stereotyping and collectivism go hand in hand. Liberty dictates to treat each individual as exactly that: the unique individual that they are.

Since the origins of homo sapiens, we’ve banded together in voluntary cooperatives (the whole voluntary part has unfortunately been discarded), and human prejudice actually developed as a function of living together, according to psychologist Catherine Cottrell at the University of Florida and her colleague Steven Neuberg at Arizona State University. They argue that “… group living also made us more wary [sic] of outsiders who could potentially harm the group by spreading disease, killing or hurting individuals, or stealing precious resources. To protect ourselves, we developed ways of identifying who belongs to our group and who doesn’t.”

What is more interesting than this is the following: Cottrell and Neuberg also argue that this prejudice has become so streamlined that it has become an unconscious action. Racist collectivists (though you can’t really be the former without being the latter) pounce on this as a justification of vilifying and even oppressing racial and ethnic groups: it’s natural thus justified. However, we as homo sapiens have also developed a cognitive power which no other animal species on this planet possesses: higher critical reasoning capabilities.

As humans, we possess the ability to counter our evolutionary instincts. We can counter our drive to stereotype others based on a deep-rooted unconscious evolutionary defence mechanism. We can teach ourselves to treat others the way we want to be treated: as unique individuals, not praised nor vilified based on our melanin levels. You simply cannot identify as a libertarian if you refuse to treat or at least learn how to treat your fellow men and women as individuals in themselves. There is, however, a catch when it comes to racism and liberty.

Liberty dictates that we defend the freedom of those we disagree with. Even though racism and libertarianism are not compatible, defending others’ freedom to hold racist views on the condition that they don’t use physical violence against others, is crucial to a society built on the foundation of liberty. It does not mean that their views should not be countered. It does not mean that they should not be named and shamed. It simply means that freedom extends to defending others’ rights to hold deplorable views. It is not racist in itself to not advocate for the criminalisation of racist views and the utterances thereof (sorry, Pieter Howes disciples).

It is disappointing is that a lot of libertarians have concluded that affording others the freedom to hold racist views means that we should not counter such anti-libertarian stances. We should definitely do more to identify racists posing as proponents of liberty and force them out of the movement. If we are truly fighting for a society that upholds individual liberty to the utmost extent possible, we cannot respect that which is anathema to our end goal.