The Progressive Business of Extirpating Whiteness

Published June 14, 2019

National Review Online

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who, like nearly everyone, is running for president, presides over the largest and most media-centric city in America. His national name recognition is respectable, but his support is undetectable. Literally. He’s at zero percent, lagging behind such Democratic titans as Tim Ryan, Andrew Yang, and John Delaney — all of whom garnered 1 percent support in a June Morning Consult poll.

It isn’t so much that people have never heard of de Blasio; it’s that those who are aware of him don’t like what they’ve heard. He has the highest unfavorables of any candidate. Even in New York State, only 29 percent of respondents think well of him compared with 53 percent who don’t. He’s underwater with Democrats as well as Republicans. That makes him nearly as unpopular with New Yorkers as Donald Trump.

A recent Des Moines Register/CNN poll of Iowa voters asking for first and second choices found that not one person named De Blasio. He offered fresh ammunition for those who dislike him by hand-waving away his non-showing, saying the results were just “600 Iowans.” Well, yes, but they . . . oh never mind.

De Blasio is the variety of progressive who racializes everything. His administration is spending $23 million on “implicit bias training” for city employees. If you’ve never had to submit to these indoctrinations, they feature elements such the “white privilege exercise.” It guides the subject through questions such as “I can be pretty sure that when I ask to speak to the person in charge, I will be facing a person of my race” and “If a police officer pulls me over, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.”

There is little doubt that most white people will respond differently to being pulled over by a police officer than African Americans, and with good reason. But regarding the first question, it is whites who ought to be less confident, if that’s the right word, about the race of supervisors. According to New York City’s own Workforce Profile Report, 61 percent of the city’s employees are members of minority groups, and only 39 percent are white. Not that it should matter. And it wouldn’t if de Blasio and his allies were not so keen to fetishize racial distinctions.

De Blasio’s pick for schools chancellor was Richard Carranza, who decries “white supremacy culture.” Carranza has inaugurated a training program to teach supervisors to “disrupt the power structure and dismantle institutional racism.” The workshops are run by Courageous Conversations, a division of the Pacific Educational Group. Their fee? $775,000. Extirpating whiteness can be good business.

Some of the white employees who’ve been through the training complained that it assumed deep-seated bias among their group, but not others. Carranza’s response to this was vaguely Maoist: “It’s good work. It’s hard work. And I would hope that anybody that feels that somehow that process is not beneficial to them, I would very respectfully say they are the ones that need to reflect even harder upon what they believe.” Engage in self-criticism, comrades!

More than the insulting insinuations about people’s racist attitudes is the worrying conflation of “whiteness” with excellence.

A presentation slide from the workshop listed the following items as examples of “white supremacy culture” — perfectionism, sense of urgency, defensiveness, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, paternalism, either/or thinking, power hoarding, fear of open conflict, individualism, progress is bigger/more, objectivity, and right to comfort.

Perfectionism? Really? You don’t think Robert F. Smith, the chemical engineer and investment banker who just paid off the student loans of Morehouse College graduates, has a bit of perfectionism in him? What about Oprah Winfrey? Is she not someone with a “sense of urgency”? Does Colin Powell not believe in individualism?

This month saw the passing of Dr. Kenneth A. Forde. He was the surgeon who performed a colonoscopy on Katie Couric that helped raise awareness about the life saving potential of the procedure. When he graduated from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1959, he was the lone black graduate. He went on to join the faculty and serve as president of the New York Surgical Society. What prepared him to scale such heights? His New York Times obituary contains this hint: “He was sent to live with an aunt in Barbados, then a British colony, for his primary and secondary education which included memorizing much of Shakespeare.” Did someone say “worship of the written word?”

Too often, those who claim to speak for beleaguered minorities are actually condescending to them — attempting to discredit high standards as tools of oppression. That can annoy white people, but it can cripple others.


Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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