by James A. Bacon
Henrico County Public Schools are in an uproar again, this time over the showing of a video entitled, “Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race,” during assemblies on American history and a racial discourse for Black History Month.
After widespread complaints by parents, administrators across the district have been instructed not to use the video, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “In our community, while we do encourage open and frank discussions, perpetuating a racial divide, stereotypes or exclusion of an kind is not acceptable,” said School Board Chairwoman Michelle F. Ogburn. “The Henrico School Board and administration consider this to be a matter of grave concern. … It is our goal to prevent the recurrence of this type of event.”
The four-minute video, displayed at Glen Allen High School, depicts a race between a white male, white female, black male and black female. The two black runners encounter all manner of obstacles, while the white male coasts across the finish line on a people-mover track. Blacks, according to the video, are held back by a laundry list of grievances: wealth disparities, discrimination, poor schools, underemployment, standardized tests, the school-to-prison pipeline, housing segregation, racial profiling, shortened lifespans, connections, privilege and old boy networks.
These are the standard grievances emanating from the left end of the ideological spectrum, and there is an element of truth to some of them. The conclusion the video draws from the state of affairs, however, is that “affirmative action helps level the playing field.” Even more disturbing, the video also feeds the narrative, seemingly omnipresent in a school district as politically conservative as Henrico County, of white privilege and white guilt. Many white kids, including my 17-year-old son, have internalized the message.
Now, I have no problem in the abstract with my kid being exposed to this narrative. I want him to be exposed to all points of view, not just those with which I am comfortable, and I want him to develop the critical thinking faculties to dissect the pros and cons of each and make up his own mind. What I don’t want is for my son and his peers, who probably influence my son’s thinking more than I do, to be propagandized with a single point of view.
And there most definitely is a different point of view. While there is no denying the horrendous impact of slavery and Jim Crow segregation on African-Americans, those evils were expunged more than 50 years ago. Civil rights laws have been on the books since the 1960s, and a host of programs costing trillions of dollars over the years have been put into place to alleviate the plight of the poor, to repair inner cities and to compensate blacks specifically for past injustices. While a large number of blacks have risen to the middle class and some have become wealthy, a large segment remains mired in poverty. The welfare state has ameliorated their material condition but has bred social dysfunction so that the lives of many blacks (along with a growing number of whites) are degraded by teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births, substance abuse, child neglect, academic underachievement and a host of other interlocking ills that prevent them from rising out of poverty.
Compounding the corrosive effect of the welfare state and family breakdown have been catastrophic failures of other efforts endorsed by liberals and progressives to improve the condition of poor people generally and blacks in particular. We could start the list with the urban renewal projects of the 1960s that disrupted the fabric of black neighborhoods, and the public housing projects that perpetuated housing segregation and created crime-ridden hell-holes. We could move on to the grotesque mismanagement of inner-city schools and progressives’ opposition to charters, vouchers and other measures that would give poor black families the freedom to find schooling alternatives. More recently, we could stress the ill-fated initiative to increase black home ownership by lowering lending standards, which culminated with the crash of the housing bubble, massive foreclosures and the obliteration of black homeowner equity. Then we could focus on the current mania that every kid deserves a shot at college, and the government will lend him the money to attend regardless of his academic preparation and chances of success, with the result that hundreds of thousands of blacks are racking up debilitating debt while failing to earn the academic credentials that would enable them to get a job and pay off that debt.
I realize that these ideas are controversial to some. And my point isn’t to insist that I’m right and that others are wrong. The point is that there are competing ways to look at the state of race in America today. My fear is that only one perspective is being taught in our schools — the liberal-progressive view — and that a generation of kids is being indoctrinated with it.
The Times-Dispatch article tells us little about the context in which the video was shown at Glen Allen High School. If the video reflected only one of several diverse viewpoints designed to encourage a meaningful exchange of ideas, then the parents and the school administration should chill out and get over it. If it represented a one-sided effort to guilt-trip kids about their “white privilege,” then it is no more than divisive, leftist agitprop. And it’s not just white kids I’m worried about. What kind of message does it send to black kids that the odds are so stacked against them. What’s the point in even trying?
I tell my son, if he wants to feel guilty about his privilege because he was born to parents who work hard, pay a disproportionate share of taxes, give to charity, maintain an intact nuclear family, and care about him enough to rag his ass every day to get out of bed, eat healthy food, drive safely and be respectful to police officers, never lie, never steal, never resort to physical violence (except in self-defense), treat others (regardless of race) as he would have them treat him, and get off the damn computer so he can get good grades, go to college, and become a productive citizen, then so be it. Just understand where his privilege comes from — it has nothing to do with being white.