The push to inject “anti-racism” into education is a terrible evil. Primarily, it seems a transparent attempt to push divisive, radical politics into schools and elsewhere under the gauzy disguise of humanitarian resistance to hatred.
On the individual level, the whole progressive approach to race and education takes the form of toxic affirmation. Rather than teaching students how to observe facts, find truth, and cope and thrive in reality as it is, the progressive pedagogy teaches them to deny, recoil, and complain. The point ceases to be evaluating the complex factors that create discomfort and injustices, thereafter addressing the sources, but becomes destroying any system or institution that doesn’t automatically filter out and silence those discomforts and injustices.
As one protester advocating for “anti-racism” in Rhode Island schools put it: “one of the most important things is to have training for all of our educators, whether they are white or not, on how to be antiracist, not just culturally responsive.” In other words, it isn’t enough to genuinely understand where somebody is coming from and help them find a place in the universe; one must conform entirely to their narrative of grievance and actively destroy anything that provokes discomfort.
Perhaps the most objectionable aspect of “anti-racism” is that, as a political program designed not to deal with a problem so much as to attack a bogeyman that is not actually the problem, it will inevitably fail to address legitimate complaints. Consider the testimony of one former Providence student, with which Madeleine List ends her above-linked article:
Black students also need to be given the same opportunities to succeed as their white peers, said Kevin Fofanah, 21, who graduated from Classical High School. Even at Classical, the city’s highest-performing school, Black students, in his experience, weren’t held to the same academic standards as white students, he said.
“The only time I ever saw Black students like myself actually thrive were in classes like gym or afterschool programs,” said Fofanah, who now attends North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. “During English, we weren’t pushed to take the AP [Advanced Placement] courses, AP tests. I’d really like to see that change.”
For decades, we’ve heard that standardized tests were part of a racist system. Sometimes those statements have gone so far as to place the “systemic racism” label on the supposedly white value of academic achievement.
To the contrary, to the extent that there is actually something like systemic racism, it is in the progressive identity politics that filters everything through the lens of race. A colorblind system cannot be systemically racist. In fact, if it highlights outcome disparities between groups, it is helpfully pointing to original sources of difference and, potentially racism.
Even here, the ideology on which “anti-racism” is founded has historically responded to this feature by claiming it is racist to address those sources, as if the identity of the minority group is intrinsically defined by the qualities that lead to failure in the supposedly racist system. By assuming the racism of the system, this insidious rhetorical trick defines groups of people by the factors that (on average) lead them to fall behind. That is racism, full stop.