I don’t consider myself a liberal. I consider myself a radical. My radical belief is that, despite our many inherent flaws as human beings, we can achieve greater collective knowledge and well-being for everyone. This can be done by applying logic, empathy, and the precepts of justice to find and upend structural flaws in our systems of social organization.
You rightly point to poverty as an engine of injustice, but I think this also extends to wealth inequality. Disparate empowerment from disparate levels of wealth inherently lead to injustice and corruption. Sometimes liberals, especially neoliberals, forget that liberalism is founded on both liberty and equality. In truth, neither can be achieved in a system that comprises political imbalance and corruption.
The question of whether we are born as a tabula rasa is a non-sequitur to me. We are surely a collection of DNA, and each of us is different in that regard, but science has also made it plain we are products of our environments and histories. Thus, if the latter can have any influence at all, of course analysis demands explanations for social phenomena beyond “they’re just a bunch of racists.” Regardless of how any of these racists were born, the final product that we see passed through the filter of society. And, regardless of any traits that emerge from nature or nurture, the goal of liberalism, again, is equality and liberty for all of these people.
If you, like me, sense an inherent contradiction in that, you must either live with the cognitive dissonance or embrace radicalism in the face of an irreconcilable and failing liberalism.
It does also strike me as ableist and homophobic to insist that we are born a tabula rasa. Given the overt differences that are exhibited by human beings on both ability and sexuality spectra, this type of thinking is logically and morally equivalent to the white racist who says “I don’t see color.” The point is, it’s not so much the inborn differences among humans that matter, but the arbitrary and unjust types of significance we ascribe to those differences.