Anti-racist pursuits lose sight of greatest equalizer -- jobs
State legislatures, primarily in Republican states, are adopting resolutions banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools. Democrats have cried foul, yet they are mandating CRT in public schools and in other dimensions of public policy. Aren’t bans and mandates two sides of the same bad penny?
Yet, the battle has been joined, so there’s little point in simply crying “a pox on both your houses.”
CRT is wrong, first because any version of history and sociology so controversial should not be taught in public schools. Let university intelligentsia debate such ideas until a consensus interpretation develops that is appropriate for young minds in elementary, middle and high school.
Furthermore, the central precepts of CRT and its highly promoted version, The New York Times’ 1619 Project, are extreme to the point of invalidity, including prominently the related public policy prescription of overt reverse racism.
One of the leading proponents of CRT, Ibram X. Kendi says, “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.” This sweeping absolutist observation is patently false, falling apart, for example, when looking at just one specific disparity: Asian Americans outperform whites and all other minority groups both academically and economically. Where’s Kendi’s racism?
Kendi: “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Is this what we want taught in public schools – that white schoolchildren should be discriminated against and Black schoolchildren should advance because of the sins of white ancestors and the oppression of Black ancestors? Should it be public policy that the sins and the oppression of ancestors determine the future of today’s schoolchildren?
Yet that is what the Biden administration has proposed. On April 19 it published in the Federal Register a proposed new rule, titled “Proposed Priorities – American History and Civics Education.”
The proposed rule will prioritize federal grants for both teacher training and classroom instruction to projects that “incorporate anti-racist practices into teaching and learning. As the scholar Ibram X. Kendi has expressed… ‘Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.’”
This is hardly the unifying policy that Biden the candidate promised.
Federal education policy is not the only public sphere in which reverse racism is being employed. In Connecticut, a new law declares racism a public health crisis. It sets up a large committee to reduce “disparities” — hiring that does not reflect society demographics — by a whopping 70% in education, health care, criminal justice and income. While it is long on ambition and short on specifics and, ultimately, may suffer the fate of many committee-driven initiatives, the 70% target is enormous. If the law has even half the intended impact, that impact will be enormous, mostly for the good.
However, at least one veteran Connecticut state legislator sees the law’s reverse-racism as a potent negative force in public sector employment. Janet Lockton, former state representative for the 149th District, says, “Each state agency executive, legislative, judicial and higher education shall … prepare a plan to hire and retain at least 70% more people of color.” She concludes that “if you are white, the likelihood of getting a job with any state agency, higher education or judicial branch in the future is unlikely.”
Lockton raises the specter of white flight. Indeed, why wouldn’t white workers depart the Nutmeg State in search of better job prospects in states without a high hurdle of reverse “anti” racism?
Connecticut cannot afford more outmigration. It has been suffering outmigration for years. Recently the U.S. Labor Department released monthly data for May showing that the state has the worst employment statistics in the nation with the highest drop-out rate from the pre-pandemic civilian workforce and the sixth highest unemployment rate of 7.7%.
Employment in May of 1.62 million is 16% below the state’s pre-pandemic civilian labor force of 1.93 million in February 2020. The next biggest gap is in Hawaii at 11.1%.
There’s a severe jobs crisis in Connecticut. Inevitably, a shrinking workforce means a shrinking economy.
The jobs crisis should be the number one focus in Hartford. Among CRT’s many faults is that it seems to have distracted Connecticut officials from this priority. That is not to downplay the importance of concerns about racial disparities, income inequality and social justice. It is to say that CRT’s prescription of reverse-racism is wrong both as a cure and as a distraction from an essential part of any cure — jobs.
There can be no social justice without jobs and a healthy economy.
Red Jahncke (Twitter: @RedJahncke) is president of The Townsend Group Intl. LLC, a Connecticut business consulting firm, and a contributing Day columnist.
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