Racism on the Public Tab and the 2020 Elections

With the 2020 Presidential Election days away, many friends of Israel insist they are not one-issue voters. They declare America’s “reckoning with racism” outweighs President Trump’s friendly moves to shred the Iran Deal, relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, suspend aid to Palestinian “pay for slay” bosses, and midwife the historic agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. 

But what’s afoot in America is not a reckoning with racism. It’s an exploitation of new racist doctrines. And its target is the liberal society dear to American Jews.

More than 120 straight days of rioting led by Black Lives Matter and Antifa are a sustained assault on civil order that has cost billions in property damage and dozens of lives. At the root of the almost indiscriminate iconoclasm—the toppling or defacing of statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, the first all-black volunteer regiment (“The 54th”) of the Union Army, abolitionists, Columbus, and Miguel de Cervantes (who wrote Don Quixote and was enslaved after his capture by Ottoman corsairs)—is an intellectual riot against core principles of Western thought. To a major extent, that’s what’s at stake in the coming election.

Down with Don Quixote?—for real? A mob, once it’s issued a license, isn’t discriminating. But it would be a mistake to dismiss Cervantes’s defilement as mere collateral damage. Any symbol of the West would do.

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The license to violence comes courtesy of an innocuous-sounding body of thought known as Critical Race Theory. Its recent masterworks identify most of the tenets of liberalism—concern with objective reality, reliance on reasoned analysis, and the tools of falsification and good-faith argument—as the privileges by which members of one race oppress others. Once you’ve dispensed with fact and reason, violence—imposed by someone in the name of something—is a ready option. Only the shirt colors and victims need change.

For many American voters, their first glimpse of the race dogma must have been a shock: a chart displayed by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture this summer listing as characteristics of “whiteness”: “[e]mphasis on scientific method,” “objective, rational linear thinking,” “cause and effect relationships,” “the primacy of Western (Greek, Roman) and Judeo-Christian tradition,” “English common law,” and “protect[ion of] property.” No, the Smithsonian hadn’t been taken over by white supremacists belittling black intelligence and culture. It had become woke to the new race thinking on the left.

Critical Race Theory swaps the Marxist class conflict for a race conflict, in which whites are cast as oppressors and blacks and other preferred minorities as perpetual victims.

The doctrine is being pitched at taxpayer-funded training programs from county school districts to national nuclear labs and federal agencies, as well as at lucrative Fortune 500 venues.

Here’s the message:

“…[T]here is no objective, neutral reality.”

That’s from “antiracism trainer” Robin DiAngelo, author of best-selling White Fragility. “Another unnamed logic of Whiteness is the presumed neutrality of White European enlightenment epistemology.” (DiAngelo and Ozlem Sensoy, Harvard Educational Review, 2017.) “The modern university—in its knowledge generation, research, and social and material sciences and with its ‘experts’ and its privileging of particular forms of knowledge over others (e.g., written over oral, history over memory, rationalism over wisdom)—has played a key role in the spreading of colonial empire. In this way, the university has validated and elevated positivistic, White Eurocentric knowledge over non-White, Indigenous, and non-European knowledges.” The paper calls for the  “decolonization of the academy” not only in scholarship, but in “the everyday commonsense practices of the institution itself”—which has largely been accomplished. 

Ibram X. Kendi, the second Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University (the first was Elie Wiesel), tells us, “…Europe judging the rest of the world from European cultural standards…is where the problem started back during the so-called Age of Enlightenment. Whoever creates the cultural standard usually puts themself [sic] at the top of the hierarchy.” (How To Be an Antiracist, 2019.)

This isn’t fringe thinking in academia, or at many public institutions.

Not only are traditional intellectual standards deemed a cloak for white racism, so are behavioral standards. The Smithsonian found emblems of whiteness also in “the nuclear family” and habits of “self-reliance,” “hard work,” “plan[ning] for the future,” showing up on time, perfecting a task, and “delayed gratification.” Also, perhaps the most repellently racist of all: the “whiteness” doctrine that through your efforts, “you get what you deserve.”  This message to blacks is as demeaning as anything that white nationalist hate groups have spewed, and more damaging. 

The political consequences follow. “Equity”—numerical equality of result—replaces political “equality.”  “Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy,” writes bestselling author  Kendi, who—like the 2020 Democratic Party Platform—endorses racial discrimination: “The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist.”

But isn’t discrimination unconstitutional? To the racialists, the question doesn’t matter. At best the Constitution is irrelevant. At worst, it’s at the root of America’s “systemic racism.” The late Derrick Bell of Harvard, a founder of Critical Race Theory, wrote that constitutionally protected “freedom to worship, assemble, speak, and petition” counts for little to the oppressed. What matters are “economic rights” such as “rights to housing [and] income.” (And We Are Not Saved, 1987.) In Critical Race Theory’s doctrine, the Constitution of the United States was designed to protect slavery; legal equality and individual rights were invented by slave-owning Founders to disguise and perpetuate inequality. And the governmental institutions of the American Republic created by the Constitution are irredeemably tainted by this legacy, viz. The 1619 Project of The New York Times.  Ergo, the United States is “systemically racist.”

“Racism is an insidious cultural disease,” poet Scott Woods tells us, “…a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class.”

The national ad hominem becomes explicit in best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates: “Black nationalists have always perceived something unmentionable about America that integrationists dare not acknowledge—that white supremacy is not merely the work of hotheaded demagogues, or a matter of false consciousness, but a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it…. The crime indicts the American people themselves, at every level, and in nearly every configuration.” (“The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, 2014.) 

The issue came to the political fore recently as President Trump ordered a halt to race theory training at federal agencies. The programs had reached wide and deep. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had weekly “Intersectionality Workshops” scheduled this past August; Department of Homeland Security materials explained that the “myth of meritocracy” is a “microaggression”; “denial of individual racism” is “proof of racism”; and white employees have been “socialized into oppressor roles.” Also getting tutored were employees at the State Department (“institutionalized/systemic racism, colonization, and white supremacy”), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Comptroller of the Currency. The Centers for Disease Control is reportedly proceeding with a thirteen-week Critical Race Theory program this fall.

White executives at Sandia National Laboratories, which tests components of American nuclear weapons, learned that aspects of “white male culture” such as “hard work” and a “can-do attitude” are “devastating” to women and “people of color” at a retreat held in a luxury Santa Fe resort in September 2019. Participants wrote self criticism-style messages “to women and people of color” apologizing for their privilege. (Documents: Chris Rufo in City Journal.)

Executives of Argonne National Laboratory, the country’s largest, messaged employees: “We live in an institutionally racist society,” warning, “Equity of outcome means non-uniform treatment.”

At the first presidential debate, asked by moderator Chris Wallace why he issued the order halting the indoctrination, Trump said “because it’s racist.” Biden said, “Nobody’s doing that. He’s the racist.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times has launched a school curriculum based on the paper’s Pulitzer Prize winning The 1619 Project, which asserts that Americans fought the Revolutionary War primarily to preserve slavery.

The silencing of academic opposition underscores the movement’s absolutism. University of Colorado, Boulder administrators said this summer that embracing “what it means to be anti-racist” is a “bottom line, non-negotiable condition of enrollment and employment.”

The 2020 Democratic Party platform pledges: “Democrats will root out structural and systemic racism…because we believe Black lives matter.”  It will remedy “profound and lasting inequities” with racial discrimination: “Democrats…recognize that race-neutral policies are not sufficient to remedy race-based disparities.”

The Biden-Harris team have stirred the pot with the “systemic racism” refrain repeatedly after officer-involved shootings and grand juries declining to charge police officers, including in the six-year-old Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., which had already been reviewed by a local grand jury and the Obama-Biden Justice Department. Together with Biden’s defense of the “anti-racism” indoctrination of federal employees, which Trump banned, and the Democratic candidate’s use of “equity,” Critical Race Theory code for numerical parity, it’s clear that a “moderate” Biden-Harris administration would not slow the accession to power of some of the most illiberal elements of American society.  

Why worry about this? 

Here are three reasons. First, it’s an easy segue from anti-white rhetoric to the anti-Jewish stand-bys that persist in parts of the black community, e.g., Louis Farrakhan’s celebrity-endorsed Nation of Islam.  Jews who imagine they can align themselves with vehemently anti-white ideologues are making a questionable bet—from both ethical and pragmatic standpoints. 

Second, the societal order that is under attack—intellectual and economic liberalism—has provided the greatest safety, freedom and prosperity to American Jews, as well as to blacks and citizens of every description. It’s a value that deserves a vigorous defense.

Third, for those who believe they can support Israel without being “one-issue voters,” the Obama-Biden record of U.S. distancing from Israel was as transparent as the Trump administration’s record of successful support. As the Democrats have moved left, embracing race victimization, they ally themselves with the ideologues of Black Lives Matter, to whom Israel is an “apartheid state” engaged in “systematic discrimination” and “genocide…against the Palestinian people”—a statement that has remained on the Movement for Black Lives website since 2016.

There’s a lot at stake for all of us: in particular the hope of a civil, colorblind America.

About the Author
For sixteen years Mira Boland kept tabs on domestic extremist and terrorist groups and hate groups as Washington Factfinding Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Her editorial features and scholarly articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, The Journal of Contemporary History, Forward, The Washington Times, and the Times of Israel (Blogs). She has lectured federal, state, and local law enforcement officers at U.S. Department of Justice -sponsored information sharing consortiums, and several law enforcement and military agencies and departments.
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