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. Systematic 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 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 at least since the early 1970s.
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