by James A. Bacon
Loudoun public school officials thought it would be a good idea to provide “cultural competency and sensitivity” training to teachers, administrators and school board members. As described by LoudounNow, the county rolled out a workshop series designed to “push participants outside their comfort zone” and “question their belief systems.” In particular, participants were “forced to grapple with the benefits afforded them from generations of white privilege, stretching back to America’s earlier days.”
Last week, board member John Beatty made the mistake of actually participating in the conversation. He made the observation that in the Jim Crow era following Reconstruction former slaves were worse off than they had been during slavery because they lacked the patronage of a master. The comment was meant to be an indictment of Jim Crow, not an endorsement of slavery, but it ignited a firestorm.
Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee Chairwoman Katrece Nolen and Executive Board member Wande Oshode found his observation so heinous that they called for him to be removed from two school board committees and asked the full board to condemn his comments.
“Most people in the civilized world recognize this statement as being rooted in the very racist, inhumane and oppressive institution of slavery. To justify any aspect of slavery only 66 years after Brown versus Board of Ed eliminated inequities in the public school systems, and only a year after LCPS made national news about racially-insensitive lessons and conduct by administrators, is absolutely inexcusable,” Oshode said. “No parent of minority children should feel comfortable with Mr. Beatty remaining on the school board.”
I’ll get to the substance of Beatty’s remarks in just a moment. But there’s a more immediate issue at stake. Since when is it justifiable to spend public funds to provide ideological indoctrination of teachers, administrators and elected officials? Make no mistake, these workshops are not about having “an open dialogue about race.” They’re about propagating a leftist view of race and American history and brow-beating people into submission. In the supposed land of the free, these workshops are nothing less than political re-education sessions.
In an email response to Nolen and Oshode, Nolen responded that his comments were misconstrued. He does not support slavery, he said. “I abhor slavery and all the injustices that have occurred since then.” He continued:
In reading the quote out of context, I agree that it is offensive. However, the point I was making was not, as I was speaking to the issue of being deliberate and thoughtful before taking any actions. As elected officials, we have an obligation to consider all sides of any question and to carefully consider the ramifications of any actions we take. History teaches us that if we fail to do so, our actions can have far-reaching negative consequences. I referenced the Jim Crow laws as a particularly egregious example of this, as the laws made it impossible for the recently freed slaves to support their families. To avoid making similar mistakes, we must always consider all sides of any question and think carefully about the impact of our actions. And as I have just learned, we must also guard our words to make sure that when quoted out of context, they cannot cause offense.
Beatty’s argument in a nutshell: You took my quote out of context.
That’s the safe argument. If I were in his shoes, I would make a very different argument. I would argue that Oshode’s comment was offensive — indeed that the entire workshop series was offensive. I would criticize the expenditure of public funds to engage in political indoctrination.
By way of preface, let me state the obvious so the enforcers of PC rectitude don’t accuse me of what they accused Beatty of. I’m not defending slavery. Slavery was a moral abomination. As practiced in the United States, the institution expropriated the value of the slaves’ labor, sexually exploited slave women, broke up the families, subjected them to mistreatment and brutality, and inflicted a multitude of other harms. Slavery was a hideous stain on American history. There is no moral “defense” of slavery. None.
But it appears from their comments that Beatty’s critics have no interest achieving a dispassionate understanding of the “peculiar institution.” Their apparent intent is to portray slavery not only as a moral evil but as an unadulterated evil in every aspect. Their political goal is to maximize white guilt. Thus, they find offensive any observation that could be construed (in their minds) as diminishing African-American victimhood and white guilt, thus reducing their moral leverage in contemporary debate.
It is not “defending” slavery, however, to contend that American slavery was not in the same league as the Holocaust in its severity, as some have suggested it was. (The slaving wars in Africa and the “middle passage” in which slaves were packed into slaving vessels and transported to the Western hemisphere were a different matter; millions of people died.) It is not “defending” slavery to note that, following the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the slave population in the United States flourished demographically. To Beatty’s point, it is not “defending” slavery to observe that, as abusive as many were, white slave owners had a material incentive to protect the value of their property by keeping their slaves in good health while Jim Crow-era landowners had no comparable incentive to look out for their sharecroppers. It is not “defending” slavery to consider the possibility that, from a purely material perspective (food, shelter, other basic material needs), African-American slaves might have been better off than, say, penniless Irish immigrants stepping off the ship in New York harbor.
But the leftist “cultural competency and sensitivity” crowd isn’t interested in the complexity and nuance of history. Their starting position is maximizing white guilt, and they work backwards through history from there. They have no interest in dialogue — they lecture, others must listen. They have no tolerance for dissent. Rather than engage in rational discussion, pointing out the errors in his thinking and inviting him to adopt another view, Beatty’s critics seek to cast him into outer darkness.
Oshode and Nolen are entitled, of course, to their own opinions. They are entitled to criticize any elected official they want. And they are free to organize any kind of event they want — on their own dime. But Loudoun County has no business using public funds to organize political indoctrination sessions, compel public employees to attend them, and encourage participants to “question their belief systems.” Virginians should condemn such a use of taxpayer dollars.There are currently no comments highlighted.