U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
In the first general-election debate last fall between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, moderator Chris Wallace asked the president why he had cracked down on race and diversity training at federal agencies that sought to leverage “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” and “unconscious bias.” “I ended it because it’s racist,” declared Trump. “They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place. And they were teaching people to hate our country. And I’m not gonna allow that to happen.”
The president’s response was typically Trump-like—combative, bombastic, lacking in any serious prospect for educating people or bringing them along. It also happened to be accurate. The interjection of critical race theory into mainstream thinking and action is a momentous development in American life, and it is designed specifically to leverage the issue of race–including bogus and dangerous concepts of racism—for the accumulation of civic power.
Biden dismissed Trump’s harsh statement as beyond the pale. “Nobody’s doing that…he’s the racist,” said the former vice president. Then he sought to put a benign face on such training sessions. “The fact is that there is racial insensitivity. People have to be made aware of what other people feel like. What insults them, what is demeaning to them. It’s important that people know.”
It’s important also that people know what these training sessions are really all about. Consider what’s happening in Seattle, which is at the vanguard of the fast-spreading movement of racial sensitivity training at governmental agencies and, increasingly, in the corporate world. A writer named Christopher F. Rufo has been writing about it in City Journal. It isn’t a pretty picture.
In seeking documentation on the training offered to white city employees, Rufo learned that the trainers described their mission as “interrupting internalized Racial Superiority and Whiteness,” and showing whites how to address their “complicity in…white supremacy” and “interrupt racism in ways that are accountable to black, indigenous and people of color.” It taught them that they had lost their own “humanity” because of their internalized sense of racial superiority, which caused “harm and violence” to minorities.
What to do? First, get rid of such notions as “individualism,” “perfectionism,” “intellectualization,” and “objectivity”—concepts once considered worthy if not salutary, and quite human, but now just this side of evil, because (according to the new orthodoxy) they perpetuate racism and white supremacy.
The Seattle Public Schools goes further in articulating the original sin that attaches strictly to whites. They must acknowledge their “thieved Inheritance” and their intergenerational guilt in the building of the United States with “the stolen labor of kidnapped and enslaved” Africans. As Rufo notes, the image of a black power fist removes “any lingering hope that the presentation might involve a modicum of nuance.”
In the sessions, according to documents, trainers introduce a kind of normative race labeling, in which anyone wishing to speak identifies himself or herself first by race (and, of course, gender category). The message is that white teachers must acknowledge that they “are assigned considerable power and privilege in our society” because of their “white skin.” Thus they must reject their “whiteness.”
And if they resist or seek to offer counterargument to this stark thesis of intrinsic white racism, even measiured or well-crafted expressions? Not allowed. That merely reflects the dissenters’ “lizard brain” sensibilities, which render them “afraid that [they] will have to talk about sensitive issues,” such as their own racially based shortcomings. Teachers are entreated to join the fight against racism by categorizing their friends and acquaintances as “enemies, allies, and accomplices” and work toward the “abolition” of whiteness. As Rufo writes, “They must, in other words, abandon the illusion of neutral teaching standards and get in the trenches of race-based activism.”
Rufo notes that writer James Lindsay has suggested that this isn’t the language of human resources but rather of “cult programming”—or, as Rufo explains it, “persuading members that they are defective in some predefined manner, exploiting their vulnerabilities, and isolating them from previous relationships.”
Now let’s look at Trump’s view of all this. He said the training sessions were racist. It’s difficult to argue that there are no elements of racism in a doctrine that stamps whites as intrinsically defective on race matters and offers, as the only solution, that they obliterate their identity as white people. They must disclaim not only their own personal identity as Caucasions but also their heritage, their history, and their ancestors.
One significant element of critical race theory is that the very concept of race is a false construct designed by whites over the centuries to keep blacks down. But notice that, in these training sessions, only the racial identity of whites is considered evil and subject to effacement. Blacks are encouraged to celebrate their racial identity, as denoted in that symbol of the black power salute that graced the Seattle training session manual.
This disparity in how the two races are regarded constitutes racism on its face. Trump was right when he labeled it as such.
Now consider his pronouncement that an underlying thesis of the training sessions is that “our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place.” Rufo’s reporting establishes that as an incontestable fact. Certainly, the fate of America’s indiginous peoples and the blight of slavery represent blots on the American escutcheon, but the training sessions certainly seem to define America first and foremost by those historical episodes. By rendering that the essence of the American identity, the trainers indeed are labeling it a horrible place. And no one can argue that an embrace of critical race theory doesn’t carry with it the inescapable conclusion that America remains a racist place.
Now consider Biden’s response: “Nobody’s doing that.” This is false. Not only are people doing it but the practice is growing rapidly across America. The critical race outlook, coupled with the bludgeon of political correctness, first took hold on America’s college campuses, but it now has metastasized to government agencies and corporations. And Biden’s effort to give a benign description of how these training sessions unfold is also false. In many instances they are not benign at all—and becoming increasingly coercive in tactic and approach.
It’s difficult to see where this goes. The allegation of inherent racism, based on ancestral behavior and feelings and actions of today that get to be defined exclusively by those making the allegations, can have no end in sight, particulalry given the growing reality that the forces of critical race theory seem to believe they have whites in the workplace cowed, silenced, on the run. But people on the run often see no alternative but to turn and fight. That almost inevitably will happen on this issue in America. The lizard brains won’t accept that racial slur forever.
Robert W. Merry, former Wall Street Journal Washington correspondent and CEO of Congressional Quarterly, is the author of five books on American history, including President McKinley: Architect of the American Century (Simon & Schuster).
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