Cashing in on Anti-Racism

The billions we’re spending on ineffective diversity and anti-racism training is just the marketing and public relations campaign before the real dollars start flowing for woke union workers and guaranteed government goods in the name of equity.  Is declaring racism a public health crisis the road to socialism the left has been looking for?

Anti-racism is a rapidly growing industry:  Books, training programs, speaking engagements, online courses, you name it.  The Washington Post was onto the trend in July 2020, telling the story of Robette Ann Dias while noting “It’s a good time to be in the anti-racism training business.”  Ms. Dias had been providing training programs on “how not to be a racist” for 20 years.   “In a typical month, Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training, of which she is the executive director, would get nine requests for training. Within two weeks after George Floyd was killed in May, it had received 110.

 “We’ve been here all along, but now people are recognizing that we have something to offer,” she told the paper.  It’s not just Ms. Dias.  The Post also talked to Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race, who told them speaking engagements had dried up early in the pandemic before the death of George Floyd sparked a wave of social unrest.  “And now all of a sudden, people have the capacity for these conversations,” she says. “It was a reminder of what it takes to get people to pay attention. There’s something that undervalues your humanity in that — that there has to be bodies in the street.”

The Post continues with more details, “Anti-racism books, including Oluo’s ‘So You Want to Talk About Race,’ Ibram X. Kendi’s ‘How to Be an Antiracist’ and ‘Stamped From the Beginning,’ Robin DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility’ and Layla F. Saad’s ‘Me and White Supremacy’ have climbed the bestseller lists. Companies are racing to hire diversity managers. Employees at some corporations were offered Juneteenth as a paid holiday.”  The market for diversity training is diverse as well, from day-long sessions, to sessions spread out over days, weeks and months, all aimed at getting white people to “recognize the ways that white supremacy and implicit bias are a part of their behavior and how they shape nearly every institution in the United States.”  

Even the author of The Socialist Manifesto:  The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality, Bhaskar Sunkara, has noticed this trend.  Writing for The Guardian, he opines, “Why is there so much emphasis on these trainings, then? Part of the story is the budding industry emerging around them – expert guidance through ‘honest and raw discussions of white supremacy and implicit bias and an analysis of racial hegemony’ doesn’t come cheap, and is a job creation program of its own.”

Mr. Sunkara describes another phenomenon as well:  Woke products.  For example, Apple, long known to leverage practically slave labor in China to pad already fat profit margins, has released a special edition “Black Unity Apple Watch” for Black History Month.  For the low price of $429, you can proudly display your anti-racist bonafides, “The Black Unity Sport Band is inspired by the pan-African flag and made from soft, high-performance fluoroelastomer with a pin-and-tuck closure laser-etched with ‘Truth. Power. Solidarity.’”

Call it dismantling white supremacy one watch sale at a time.

As Mr. Sunkara notes, “the political demands flowing from activists are increasingly compatible with corporate profit-making and governance,” and so making money it will be regardless of the effectiveness. According to The New Republic, as of January 2020, “Diversity training is currently mandated at most Fortune 500 companies and about half of all midsize firms in the United States. In addition, nearly two-thirds of colleges and universities use diversity trainings, and about 30 percent require their faculty to attend them.”  At the same time, the authors lament, “today’s diversity industry has largely failed to usher in the diverse workplaces and schools it promises,” citing an increasing number of studies suggesting that “anti-bias training (also known as implicit bias training) and other diversity initiatives don’t work.”

For example, sociologists Frank Dobbin from Harvard University and Alexandra Kalev from Tel Aviv University surveyed 30 years of data from 800 firms only to conclude that “diversity programs not only failed to increase workplace diversity, but in many cases even reduced diversity or exacerbated participants’ biases.”  A 2016 meta analysis of 500 studies also found that “while such sessions sometimes briefly and slightly diminished participants’ implicit biases, they had no significant long-term effects on people’s behavior or attitudes.”

This abject failure doesn’t seem likely to slow the gravy train.

The New York Time’s Michelle Goldberg offered a preemptive defense of the underlying “theory,” claiming that conservatives plan to use state power to “cancel wokeness.”  She opines, “Critical race theory, the intellectual tradition undergirding concepts like white privilege and microaggressions, is often blamed for fomenting what critics call cancel culture. And so, around America and even overseas, people who don’t like cancel culture are on an ironic quest to cancel the promotion of critical race theory in public forums.”

Ms. Goldberg focuses most her ire on government programs and educational curricula, but she ultimately has grander designs.  She is specifically concerned about the actions of Christoper Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at Discovery Institute, and their plan to bring the issue before the Supreme Court.  “As Rufo sees it, critical race theory is a revolutionary program that replaces the Marxist categories of the bourgeois and the proletariat with racial groups, justifying discrimination against those deemed racial oppressors. His goal, ultimately, is to get the Supreme Court to rule that school and workplace trainings based on the doctrines of critical race theory violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

As Mr. Rufo, writing for City Journal, explains it himself, “Do they support public schools forcing first-graders to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, then ranking themselves according to their ‘power and privilege’? Do they support a curriculum that teaches that ‘all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism’? Do they support telling white teachers that they are guilty of ‘spirit murdering’ black children? Do they support telling white parents that they must become ‘white traitors’ and advocate for ‘white abolition’?”  If so, Mr. Rufo believes they are violating the principle that “all Americans should be treated equally, regardless of race, color, creed, or religion” and it is therefore a matter for legislatures and courts to adjudicate.

He believes the movement against cancel culture “is gaining momentum and building an infrastructure to contest this ideology in government, schools, and academia.”  To be sure, there is some encouragement to be found in the backlash around recent public instances of excessive wokeness, including a new poll by The Daily Wire that indicated 65% of respondents felt corporations have taken woke culture too far, “including a majority of every age group tested, 90% of Republicans, 60% of Independents and 47% of Democrats.”

At the same time, I fear Mr. Rufo and others don’t realize what’s coming next.  The proliferation of speech around anti-racism is just the beginning.  Think of it as the advertising and public relations campaign.  Once the market has been seeded and the basic tenets accepted, the real cashing in begins.

Indeed, the primary thrust of Mr. Sunkara’s article is wealth transfers, and big ones at that.  He notes, “Unlike mid-century movements for justice, much of today’s advocacy around racial justice places the onus on individual actors and the private-sector to address problems that are really best fixed through collective action and social legislation.”  Indeed, “A year of privatized solutions and bitter polemics in the media have yielded nothing. Neither anti-woke commentators like Bari Weiss or the Robin DiAngelos of the world have a plan to change the conditions that produce racism and inequality. But the combination of union representation in the workplace and universal, social goods guaranteed by the state gives us a way to actually do that.”

It’s a double whammy:  You pay more for goods made by newly revitalized woke unions and then you are taxed more to pay for goods now guaranteed by the state.  Unions are apparently the key because, unbeknownst to anyone, union workers are more woke than the regular population.  Who knew? Mr Sunkara notes that “white workers are less likely to hold racist views if they’re in a union, and that white union members also tend to have greater support for not only universal social goods, but for policies like affirmative action.”  Plus, they supposedly “decrease disparities between women and men and between people of color and white workers.”

Yes, it’s workers of the world unite all over again, but what if it takes too long for that dream to be fully realized?

Abdullah Shihipar, writing for The New York Times has a plan to deal with that:  Declare racism a public health emergency, just like the coronavirus pandemic.  Amazingly, Mr. Shihipar believes that “There is momentum behind this idea” and “a declaration by H.H.S. that racism is a public health emergency would have immediate impact.”

To be fair, Mr. Shihipar is a public health researcher at Brown University, and most of his recommendations around the public health declaration are related to communities of color being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Some of the goals he is trying to achieve make sense.  For example, here’s a passage, ‘allow the federal government to deploy members of volunteer medical corps and the public health commissioned corps to other communities similar to Central Falls to establish vaccination clinics, engage in door-to-door outreach, and offer free testing. It would also allow governors to request the reassignment of health department staff funded by the federal government to assist with these local operations. Through the Public Health Emergency Fund, funding could be used to procure hotel rooms to serve as quarantine housing for people who test positive.”

You can debate the specifics, but it’s no secret that having middle to upper income means has been a benefit during this difficult period and it’s not unreasonable to target harder hit communities, especially when there are barriers to the vaccines and treatments.

Still, it’s very difficult to see where Mr. Shihipar’s recommendation might end.  A state of emergency grants the government tremendous powers, including placing restrictions that violate the Bill of Rights, as evidenced close to 365 days to slow the spread later.  Under this scenario, what could the government not do if racism is an emergency?  Can it command the firing of white workers and the hiring of people of color?  Why not?

Mr. Shihipar doesn’t say, but he does mention a trio of far left Democrat lawmakers, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Barbara Lee.  Does anyone think they would stop at coronavirus disparities?  He also alludes to the actions of the Biden administration, which has gone all in on the new “equity” as opposed to equality craze.  At least in executive orders, Biden seeks a ““an ­ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda.”

While Biden is somewhat mum on what equity means in this context, his Vice President Kamala Harris is not.  She tweeted on November 1, “There’s a big difference between equality and equity. Equality suggests, ‘Everyone should get the same amount.’ The problem with that, not everybody’s starting out from the same place. So if we’re all getting the same amount, but you started out back there and I started out over here, we could get the same amount, but you’re still going to be that far back behind me. It’s about giving people the resources and the support they need, so that everyone can be on equal footing, and then compete on equal footing. Equitable treatment means we all end up in the same place.”

We all end up in the same place:  In other words, socialism, meaning anti-racism leads to equity leads to socialism however the means.  In the meantime, you can be sure we’ll be spending a lot of money either way.

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