Christopher Caldwell has an excellent new article up on the rise of “equity” at National Review.
“In mid April, three of the new generation of black women mayors of big cities met (virtually) at a roundtable sponsored by MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, London Breed of San Francisco, Kim Janey of Boston . . . one might assume that crisis management was the kind of management they had been invited to pronounce on. Lightfoot’s Chicago has become the murder capital of the United States, with 774 killings last year, roughly as many as New York and Los Angeles combined — and up 55 percent from the year before. Breed’s San Francisco, cradle of the Information Age, has in recent years faced a problem out of the Middle Ages: people defecating on sidewalks, 28,000 cases of which came to the attention of the police in 2019. Janey is the newly appointed successor to Marty Walsh, made President Joe Biden’s secretary of labor. MIT had invited the three women not to interrogate but to applaud them and to find out how the rest of America’s cities might become as “equitable” as theirs.
“Equity” is the name for a new understanding of racial equality that is now informing public-policy-making. President Biden issued a burst of executive orders on his first day in office, calling for equity to be placed “front and center” in everything his administration does. His cabinet members, unsurprisingly, allude to equity constantly.
If you wanted to be blunt about it, you might call equity a no-excuses imperative to eliminate all collective racial inequalities. There are many such inequalities in our system, and blacks are on the unenviable side of most of them. They possess the fewest financial assets, fare the worst in school, have the hardest time finding work, live the shortest lives, commit the most violent crime, and spend the most time in jail. Equity’s proponents, most of them progressive Democrats, say their aim is to ensure that all races share equally in economic growth and get a fair shake in the justice system. Republicans say that Democrats are abandoning equality of opportunity for equality of result.
Put that way, “equity” sounds like a new name for something that Americans have been arguing about for two or three generations now. Affirmative action, after all, tips the playing field of opportunity in minorities’ favor. “Diversity” is all about managing results. Feminists’ equal-pay-for-equal-work campaigns might be considered a harbinger of these equity debates.
But in two ways the equity movement is radically new. …”
I like how Caldwell expands on the central theme of his book The Age of Entitlement: America Since The Sixties which argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had evolved into a new constitution.
First, there is nothing really new about any of this. There have been three waves of antiracism in American history. The first wave came in the early 19th century and powered the abolitionist movement. White slaveowners were evil sinners. Slavery had to be stamped out by force. Blacks were equal to Whites in every way and racial inequality was due solely to the degrading effects of their oppression. The second wave came in the mid-20th century and powered the Civil Rights Movement. Southern segregationists were evil sinners. Segregation had to be stamped out by the federal government. Blacks were equal to Whites in every way and racial inequality was due to solely to the brutalizing effects of their oppression by “racism.” The third wave has now arrived in the early 21st century. White people are evil sinners. Systematic racism has to be stamped out by force. Blacks are equal to Whites in every way and the persistence of racial inequality is due solely to “institutional” or “structural” or systematic racism.
Second, we have been practicing “equity” in some form for several decades now. Affirmative action is an example of equity. Corporate “diversity” ideology is an example of equity. “Disparate impact” is an example of equity. Systemic antiracism is very real and Whites have long been expected to put up with it. Political correctness has been growing like a cancer in our culture since the 1980s. “Racism” has been treated as the biggest taboo and the greatest evil for decades now. Whites are expected to be antiracists. Blacks are held to a different standard. At least in my lifetime, there has always been a moral halo on the Civil Rights Movement and a blackened image of the past as a bygone and illegitimate age of “racism” and “white supremacy.” A decade ago, we were writing about “Black Run America”: a whole country run as a kind of racial uplift charity for the benefit of blacks as opposed to the declining White majority.
Third, the current mess that we find ourselves in is the inevitable long term result of the above. The idea that racial differences are hereditary is verboten as “racism.” “Racism” is also held up as the single greatest human moral failing in our society. It is axiomatic that all human beings are exactly the same and differ only in their environmental upbringing. The idea that black failure is attributable to White racism and prejudice can only grow increasingly toxic over time as White racism and prejudice ebbs and racial inequality stubbornly persists. American elites have insisted for two generations now that any expression of White identity or White interests is illegitimate and must be suppressed as “racism” and “white supremacy” while simultaneously strengthening non-White racial identity groups, encouraging them to organize on that basis and to nurse racial grievances against Whites. This includes first generation immigrants who are encouraged by the political establishment to resent the native population.
Mainstream conservatism went along with this for fifty years. They purged anyone from the “mainstream” who offended the ADL or SPLC. They upheld the postwar consensus that “racism” is the greatest human moral failing. They refused to challenge the idea that White prejudice and racism is responsible for black failure in spite of a mountain of empirical evidence. They went along with the Left’s indictment of the American past. They insisted as recently as two or three years ago that there was “no place” in the conservative movement or even in America for anyone who defended White people from these insane attacks or who stood up to assert White interests. They hailed MLK as a secular saint and celebrated the federal civil rights regime which necessarily eroded states rights and the Constitution. They went along with the progressive liberal narrative that America was “progressing” toward a colorblind utopia in spite of the fact that no one but Whites had been on board with this since at least the early 1970s.
The election of Barack Obama as president raised expectations to the moon. When nothing really changed and Donald Trump was elected president in his wake, it sent progressive liberalism into a soul-searching tailspin and empowered people like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ibram X. Kendi who indicted the system itself as “racist” and blamed it for oppressing blacks. The lack of explicit White racism or identifiable White racists in institutions only meant that Whites must be oppressing BIPOC people through a more subliminal, unconscious form of racism that was generating racial inequality. Whiteness itself must be evil and must be abolished. White people should be expected to go along with whatever is necessary to eradicate systematic racism because there are obviously no limits to the righteousness of the cause of “antiracism.” It is inconceivable that this country could be run for anyone but the benefit of blacks.
“First is in the categorical simplicity of its diagnosis. It views all inequality across groups as illegitimate on its face — as evidence of white racism, in fact.
Second is in its tools. Equity doesn’t concern itself with more-traditional understandings of inequality — differences, say, between bosses and laborers. It is about equality for blacks, as laid out in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and for the various groups, from immigrants to transgender people, that have come under the act’s protection in the decades since. The power of civil-rights law to punish employers and schools, to investigate those suspected of noncompliance, and even to silence detractors has been steadily strengthened by bureaucratic fiat and litigation. Race-conscious rather than race-blind, open to almost any kind of remedial discrimination, equity has brought us to a crossroads. Either our civil-rights laws are being overstretched to the point where they are growing intolerable to much of the country (though people remain frightened of saying so) or they are in the process of becoming the supreme law of the land, overriding even the Constitution. …”
We’ve been pretending for a long time now that these two systems can coexist. The segregationists argued from the beginning that the federal civil rights laws are incompatible with republican government and White freedom and equality and necessarily required creating an anti-White racial caste system that infringes on the freedom and equality of White citizens. They also argued that racial differences were hereditary and therefore integration was futile and doomed to failure. Pretty much everything that the segregationists predicted would happen has come to pass although we are not supposed to notice that we have traded “white supremacy” for “white inferiority” or subordination to blacks in law and status. We’ve steadily traded away our traditional republican form of government for racial communism.
“Activist government must intervene explicitly in behalf of blacks. It must practice affirmative action without apology. It must pay reparations for the aftereffects of slavery. It must discriminate. “The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity,” wrote the best-selling black-studies professor Ibram X. Kendi in 2019. “If discrimination is creating equity, then it is anti-racist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.”
As equity has advanced, most Americans have sat around scratching their heads. The Civil Rights Act was passed to “fight discrimination,” they assume, and probably most of them assume that is still what it does. But civil rights have moved on. The evolution has been both legal and sociological. After the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in mid 2020, it was only a matter of days before equity ideology had been proclaimed the official culture of virtually every large corporation in the country. That is because, in part to strengthen their defenses against proliferating civil-rights lawsuits, corporations have been equipped with large human-resources departments, which mete out company policy, ideological training, and discipline. …”
It is the role of mainstream conservatism to do its part to uphold consensus antiracism and to keep a lid on White disaffection with the status quo and to marginalize anyone as an “extremist” who would push back against this and to embrace and assimilate things like critical race theory into conservatism. Judging by what we are seeing in the polls though, it is plainly not going to work this time.
“President Biden frequently stresses how overarching his commitment to equity is. It even applies overseas. In his “Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons around the World,” promulgated on February 4, the president warned foreign nations that opposition to homophobia and transphobia is now among “our most dearly held values,” noting that same day that equity “has to be the business of the whole of government in all our federal policies and institutions.” …
COVID testing and vaccination are largely the province of states, and these have, on their own initiative, put in place equity plans that treat whites and nonwhites in very different ways. …
In Vermont, the Republican governor, Phil Scott, felt no need to dissemble. When nonwhite vaccine rates fell behind those of whites, he opened up vaccinations to all nonwhites in the state, excluding only whites. When Vermonters accused him of his unfairness, he reached for the contemporary politician’s all-purpose retort. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the legacy of racism in America, and in Vermont, still drives a lot of anger and fear.” …”
Woke ideology has infected the Biden administration.
It is now playing out in virtually every aspect of public policy whether it is 1.) who can serve in the U.S. military or 2.) who is considered a “domestic extremist” and therefore whose civil liberties can be trampled on by the national security state or 3.) Merrick Garland’s Department of Social Justice and its War on the Police which is fueling an explosion in violent crime in the big cities or 4.) the collapse of the border because ICE has been essentially abolished or 5.) pushing critical race theory in the public schools or even things like 6.) the distribution of the COVID vaccine (yes, COVID is systematically racist against BIPOC people) or 7.) the systematic racism and inequity inherent in America’s infrastructure.
As I noted last night, woke progressivism has replaced liberalism as the governing ideology of the Democratic Party. It is violent, censorious, collectivist, authoritarian, hierarchical, humorless and puritanical. It is explicitly anti-White. It is explicitly illiberal and anti-republican. It is a total repudiation of America’s traditional identity whether racial (whiteness), religious (Christian), cultural (Anglo-Saxon norms) or even ideological (liberal republican). 3 out of 4 of those pillars were toppled in the late 20th century to accommodate the Civil Rights Movement. Woke progressivism is bent on toppling that last pillar. It isn’t exactly clear what is supposed to prevent the country from completely disintegrating.