Overdose of individualism

The New Yorker on anti-anti-anti-racism. I think. I lose count after a while. It centers on a guy called Christopher Rufo.

… an employee of the city of Seattle documented an anti-bias training session and sent the evidence to a journalist named Christopher F. Rufo, who read it and recognized a political opportunity.

I’ve been an employee of the city of Seattle and I’ve attended one or two of their training sessions of that type and I have to say I found them stupid. Not too lefty but too stupid. In a way they weren’t lefty enough – they were more like self-help sessions.

When Rufo received the anti-bias documents from the city of Seattle, he knew how to spot political kindling. These days, “I’m a brawler,” Rufo told me cheerfully.

Through foia requests, Rufo turned up slideshows and curricula for the Seattle anti-racism seminars. Under the auspices of the city’s Office for Civil Rights, employees across many departments were being divided up by race for implicit-bias training. (“Welcome: Internalized Racial Superiority for White People,” read one introductory slide, over an image of the Seattle skyline.) “What do we do in white people space?” read a second slide. One bullet point suggested that the attendees would be “working through emotions that often come up for white people like sadness, shame, paralysis, confusion, denial.” Another bullet point emphasized “retraining,” learning new “ways of seeing that are hidden from us in white supremacy.” A different slide listed supposed expressions of internalized white supremacy, including perfectionism, objectivity, and individualism.

This is what I mean. It’s just stupid. It’s not left-wing, it’s therapy. The issue isn’t what every individual has in her soul, it’s how the system works. You can’t fix the system by retraining the nearest individuals.

Marooned at home, civil servants recorded and photographed their own anti-racism training sessions and sent the evidence to Rufo. Reading through these documents, and others, Rufo noticed that they tended to cite a small set of popular anti-racism books, by authors such as Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo.

Which is unfortunate because they both suck.

Rufo read the footnotes in those books, and found that they pointed to academic scholarship from the nineteen-nineties, by a group of legal scholars who referred to their work as critical race theory, in particular Kimberlé Crenshaw and Derrick Bell. These scholars argued that the white supremacy of the past lived on in the laws and societal rules of the present.

As it does! So the point is the laws and societal rules, not the innermost thoughts of every single individual, you get a retraining and you get a retraining and you get a retraining.

As Crenshaw recently explained, critical race theory found that “the so-called American dilemma was not simply a matter of prejudice but a matter of structured disadvantages that stretched across American society.”

So it’s far more urgent to tackle the structured disadvantages than it is to have touchy-feely training sessions. Far far far more urgent.

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