Salvo 05.07.2021 5 minutes

Schoolhouse Scapegoat

Burnt Abandoned Schoolhouse

Joe Biden wants to instill racial hatred and resentment as the new American values.

The president’s first day in office is fraught with symbolism. What he accomplishes that day signals his priorities. So when on his first day President Biden cancelled former-President Trump’s Executive Order 13950, which forbids certain forms of diversity training by the federal government and contractors, he was making a powerful, intentional statement.

Trump’s order forbid federal agencies from teaching racial or sexual stereotyping. It sought to eliminate federal training that engaged in racial scapegoating, i.e., assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex or to individuals based on their race or sex. The Trump order went on to forbid training that seeks to “teach” that one race or sex is inherently superior to another, that individuals, by virtue of their race or sex, are, consciously or unconsciously, inherently racist or sexist, that the U.S. is an inherently racist or sexist country, and that individuals should be discriminated against or otherwise treated on the basis of their race or sex. The order also targeted training claiming that an individual, due to his race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex or that meritocracy or other traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist.

Whether he appreciates it or not, in rolling back that order, Biden is standing the American Idea on its head.

In the U.S. we have always regarded the individual to be the object of justice. In theory, if not always in practice, each of us are more than archetypes of the groups to which we belong or subjects of the state.  Rooted in the Declaration’s recognition that all are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, the American Idea has held (to quote Ronald Reagan) that “you and I have within ourselves the God-given right and the ability to determine our own destiny.” Informed by the Judeo-Christian recognition that each person is created in the image of God and has inherent—and not merely instrumental—value, we believe that it is the individual person, even as he or she is embedded in a web of relationships, that is the bearer of rights. Much of our history has involved a struggle to grow into the fullness of this idea.

To be sure, some might quibble over the wording of Trump’s order or even argue that its application to training by federal contractors that is unrelated to the performance of those contracts violates the First Amendment (although the federal government mandates a great deal of speech activity by federal contractors). But Biden cancelled the entire order in one fell swoop on his very first day in office. Our new President does want the people’s government to teach that their country is inherently racist and sexist. He does want those who work for it to be taught that they are responsible for the misdeeds of those who went before them and ought to bear the price. People should be treated on the basis of their race and sex at least insofar as the motive can be said to be “benign” or “compensatory.”

Any doubt we might have about Biden’s intentions is dispelled by his call for a government-wide effort to pursue “equity” within the federal government. As others have pointed out, racial progressives have advanced the concept of “equity” to replace the “old” and “outmoded” concept of equality. For proponents of “equity,” there is no distinction between equal opportunity and equal results. Indeed, as Ibram X. Kendi and other proponents of critical race theory would have it, any deviation of the latter from the former—at least if it results in the “underrepresentation” of a panoply of groups thought to be disfavored—is assumed to be the result of “entrenched” discrimination. The group disparity must be eliminated.

Government, corporate, and academic elites will manage an “equitable” society—perhaps socialist; maybe corporatist—in which society’s opportunities and goods will be directed by fiat to the groups that deserve them. In order to achieve group parity, individuals must be treated differently on the basis of their race or sex without regard to their individual culpability or injury. Doing so is the only path to “equity” and it is imperative that federal employees and contractors (as well as the general public) be made to understand and accept this. Executive Order 13950 had to go.

In the progressive fantasy, no one will object to this top-down imposition of “equity.” But, of course, people will and do. Even if our commitment to it has been inconsistent, the American Idea has emphasized individual worth and effort. Even as we lived with—and many struggled against—exclusion on the basis of race, the tension with our founding principles was unavoidable. While left progressives strain to qualify Martin Luther King Jr.’s call that we be judged on the content of our character—”he was becoming a Marxist,” “he came to see the value of affirmative action and radical redistribution”—it was his call to a color-blind society that captured our moral imagination.

For all its emphasis on individuality and tolerance, a pluralist and classically liberal society requires, for lack of a better word, a citizenry—a population regarded as equally entitled to its benefits and equally obligated to assume its responsibilities without regard to the incidentals of race, sex, sexuality, etc. This citizenry must believe that its members will be judged as individuals and not as archetypes. It must see itself as comprising one nation and not a balkanized collection of identities. The notion that we can deviate from the American Idea “just for a while” to “even things out” is fanciful. Biden’s way is not the path to diversity and inclusion, but to division and collapse. It is certainly not the way back to normal. It will not “build back better.”

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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