The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

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 any 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.

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33 responses to “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being”

  1. >>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 that point of view.>>
    It’s not just a fear, Jim, it’s a fact.

    That dreadful white guy from the Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley, puts forth this same point of view.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” These are the standard grievances emanating from the left end of the ideological spectrum,”

    do you consider a black person telling this – a “leftist” perspective?

    ” While there is no denying the horrendous impact of slavery and Jim Crow segregation on African-Americans, those evils were expunged 50 years ago.”

    you think the EFFECTS of this was “expunged” 50 years ago?

    ” 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. ”

    tell me what the “correct” – “Conservative” approach should have been?

    do you think providing a GOOD education to someone whose ancestors were not only slaves but succeeding generations of them were also denied access to jobs and a good education is because of misguided ” progressives”?

    Do you think the black folks who were denied a decent education during Massive Resistance were “suffering” from the “welfare” state?

    you kill me.. you live in a delusional world Jim… you just simply deny and deflect the history and the realities so you can keep your Conservative ethic intact?

    FYI – the “family” disintegrates when Mom and Dad do not have an education and fall prey to economic disaster – and prison .

    tell me how you fix that with a “Conservative” approach.

    oh wait… you can’t fix it because it’s Mom and Dads fault, right?


    I’m sorry, I TRY to give you some benefit of the doubt – but you insist on living in denial of history …. and realities.. and you offer nothing as an alternative… welcome to Modern Conservative Philosophy

    1. So, Larry, you’re so totally convinced of the rightness of your viewpoint that you don’t think it merits any discussion or debate, and it should be propagated as the only legitimate narrative in Virginia schools?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        it does merit extensive discussion and debate – but your view of history has to be reconciled if you really want to meaningfully deal with the realities.

        when Mom and Dad ALSO have a crappy education – they are not going to do well staying together as a family much less helping their kid…

        how did Mom & DAd and THEIR mom&dad also not get very good educations?

        If the liberals got it wrong – what needs to happen instead and no don’t give me this foolish blather about non-public schools unless you want to address the reality of the situation about mom/dad and how that gets fixed instead of setting up cherry-picking schools for the well-to-do to escape the public school system.

        where is the 50 years of wrong-headed liberal approaches did the Conservatives advocate for something else that truly would deal with mom and dad’s bad education and subsequent economic and social dysfunction?

        you guys solution here is basically cut and run and blame others – for 50 years now.

    2. Jim,

      I see that Larry is asleep as usual. Larry, quick…without Googling it…who is Jason Riley?
      When you have figured it out, I’ll post a cute link to an article he wrote yesterday.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        JD – I could give a rats behind on this person and what you think he represents or not – it’s a gnat on a dogs butt to the bigger issue except for those who can’t see , refuse to see – the history and reality which is made up of far more than “a” person … got that?

        it’s childish to think that way… it totally undermines you …

        1. Oooo, Larry. I detect some angst, some discomfort. The fact is you don’t care about who this person is or what he represents because you refuse to consider anything other than your own point of view. This is Jim’s point. Henrico puts out/uses a video that perpetrates one point of view…just like you. Jim says, reasonably enough, that there is another point of view. It is folks like you who destroy legitimate debate, who say “my way or the highway”.

          Your post makes it obvious that you don’t want to engage, you just want to spout. And you hope that everyone will ignore the obvious in that regard. Your posts don’t address Jim’s point. For purposes of making a good argument, it’s usually considered good debate form to acknowledge the correctness (or not, and if not, why not) of the argument being made and then move on to the point you want to make. But I don’t think you’re capable of doing it. It’s not who you are.

  3. A major point is this. Look how easily and quickly a propaganda film like this was used by the educators. Only after it was used did parents and others get a chance to even know it existed and to object.

    Let’s assume someone put together a “right wing” film for schools to use. Does anyone here really believe it would be automatically implemented without extensive review and objections by all opposed parties being heard? That’s assuming that it would not be automatically buried by the educators.

    By “educators”, I do not mean teachers, who want to teach. I mean the administrators or special interests who care little about teaching children but care a lot about indoctrinating them.

  4. We should, of course, expect differences of opinion on this video, and on BR tackling the issue. But it bears stating, repeating, emphasizing, underscoring, that the differences in our society get resolved by voting, and the votes you or I disagree with, also matter; and the anger that’s evidently out there this voting season and so obnoxiously articulated by Donald Trump and more elegantly by Bernie Sanders seems to be most succinctly described as a rebellion against “political correctness” of both extremes. This video was born of one kind of political correctness: this is all that matters. The other kind, ignoring racial prejudice entirely, is just as bad.

    My children were raised to think for themselves, and each of them in their own way experienced the dangerously conformist political correctness on college campuses today. Debate in the dorms was suppressed by name-calling and emotional outbursts; debate in the classroom was, in some (thank goodness not all) cases cut off by the instructors’ argument that some viewpoints were simply so unwelcome that they should not be allowed because it might disturb or offend the audience. I believe they managed to get a good education in spite of these shortcomings, but certainly not because of them.

    It doesn’t seem inconsistent to teach that life throws many obstacles at us, and among them is racial prejudice with all its pernicious manifestations, and racial prejudice is evil; but it is only one of the obstacles out there, and it must be kept in perspective. In the larger scheme of things it is only one form of prejudice, only one form of harm, that we do to one another. Take a look at any news report from downtown Aleppo this week and you will see what’s really evil in this world.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    more conspiracy theory that evades the real issues.. geeze

    1. Real issues according to who? Jim’s issue is the one sidedness of Henrico’s approach. You don’t want to engage on that.

  6. So Larry, why don’t you stand by to maybe think about perhaps it should be better that you actually engage: Who is Jason Riley? When you come to grips with that, you might make progress.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    here’s the thing – in 50+ years in 50 states – there has been the opportunity to try different ways to approach this problem – a 50 state laboratory if you wish on endless variants of liberal and conservative approaches to dealing with the specific problem of generational problems associated with a failure to get educated and the downstream economic and societal disasters that emanate from it.

    but if you believe some only one approach could ever be tried. and all others were systematically denied – therefore it’s a failure of an entire philosophy because nowhere in 50 states in 50+ years could other approaches been tried.

    think about what it takes to adopt such a belief…

    1. Yet another failure to engage the point. Larry, do you even know what dialogue is? Or are you so attached to asserting your position that it blinds you?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        JD – you do not have a relevant point to the issue itself – you’re swatting at flies that have nothing to do with the real issue.

        but that’s been the Conservative approach to tough issues in general.

        they don’t want to do with the fundamental core problem other than to blame others then they want to latch on to anecdotal things as if those things actually made any difference – one way or the other

        Henrico probably used some bad judgement – move on. that happens these days – a LOT of a variety of issues that riles up parents over the sensibilities of their precious offspring. It doesn’t come close to dealing with the generational problems of those who fail to get even a basic education sufficient for them to become employed and care for their families – and here’s we’re chewing on some imagined liberal “plot” instead..


        1. Oh, dear, Larry. Again? Really?

          The “real issue” according to who? You? Maybe you should consider starting your own blog and make the issue what you want to talk about. Jim’s issue was the lack of the other side of the equation in what Henrico used as a video. You don’t seem to dispute that, and you finally grudgingly almost acknowledge this when you say they used “some bad judgment”. This is good. But then you get far afield in your further remarks. To review: it’s customary in argument to acknowledge the correctness of the other side’s point (again, or not and if not why not) and then go on to make your point. Your contumacious refusal (’til just now) to even acknowledge a possible problem diminishes you. Even when you do acknowledge it , you use the favorite phrase of the left, starting when Clinton lied under oath in his depositions: “Move on”, you say. Nothing to see here. The problem may be something you just can’t “move on” from. Lunsford at least takes a stab at the real “real issue” that is the subject of Jim’s post. You want to talk about something else. That’s called deflection.

  8. DLunsford Avatar

    We are seeing this kind of thing almost every day now. A school district does something out of the ordinary, parents howl and complain and the district does a 180. Why don’t they just stand-up a parent/community review board to look these things over ahead of time? Seems like it would save everyone a lot of time and trouble and in some instances I suspect the district might just save some money.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      totally agree..

  9. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    In addition to absolving Black people of all responsibility for the consequences of their own actions, like committing vastly more crime as a proportion of the population, these Cultural Marxists let the Global Capitalists off the hook for taking away the chance for livelihoods by exporting American industry and importing foreign workers for service jobs. They also, as you note, let Liberals off the hook by showing how dependency is harmful. So, in addition to creating ill will, they prevent the resolution or at least the amelioration of some preventable ills. The Left is all about envy and hatred. They cannot raise up, only pull down. We need to reject the Globalist “state of nature” so that communities in America can thrive again and not just scapegoat one another. It is so ironic to see Black leaders embrace Hillary Clinton when her husband helped bring much of this upon us with NAFTA and GATT. And Obama has similarly helped shill for Big Business. As the Godfather said, “It’s not your enemies you have to worry about, it’s your friends!” The same is true with Conservatives: The grassroots have been betrayed by the elites.



    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Andrew – have you thought about all the other OECD countries in the world with public education and these issues you speak of?

      got any thoughts?

      1. Andrew Roesell Avatar
        Andrew Roesell

        Which issues, Larry? Also, what is the acronym OECD? I Googled it but it only brought up an NGO with an awfully Orwellian sounding name.



  10. Larry,

    You are not being fair. I have seen Jim advocate for mixed income communities on this blog. Before urban renewal, African Americans lived in mixed income communities, albeit segregated, and arguably had stronger communities. Economic segregation is the biggest barrier to economic mobility. It fossilizes systematic generational poverty. Root Shock by Mindy Fullilove provides good overview of the damage wrought by urban renewal. It includes Roanoke as a case study.

    As an aside, this film is stupid. Most white peoples ancestors did not arrive to America in 1492. Many white people’s ancestors often fled oppressive circumstances in their homeland. And white people,in raw figures, make up the largest grouping of impoverished peoples in the U.S. I imagine many white folks in the Appalachian region of our state scratching their head about their supposed privilege. Lastly, a film that starts in 1492 and talks about the unequal race without referencing the natives is a butchery of thought.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Basil – Jim does advocate for mixed-income but he refuses to acknowledge what happens when Mom and Dad had crappy educations and their Mom and dad did also – and the result is a cycle of poverty and family dysfunction when such parents never are economically secure nor educated enough to truly provide the support their kids need to escape such circumstances in most cases.

      and he continues to blame bad teachers and bad parents for the consequences of people who live in poor neighborhoods where the schools are under-resourced and typically can only attract the entry level or bottom of the barrel types because almost no teachers who are good and experienced – given a choice are going to go into such awful circumstances that will endanger their own careers .
      Finally – you DO make an excellent point about rural Va where we have a very similar issue – chronic generational poverty and ignorant that makes it hard for any young who fail to get educated – to leave – go to where jobs are – and escape those circumstances.

      But the thing that is probably the most idiotic is the idea that if a kid has bad parents – it’s his fault he fails… it cannot be fixed… it’s just the way things are…and if you are a person who does not accept that – you obviously are a “leftist” and part of the left who are “complicit” with 50 years of failed thinking on generational poverty and how to go about dealing with it while “conservatives” knew all along what the right solutions were but were kept from implementing them for 50 years – everywhere in the US.

      ” Lastly, a film that starts in 1492 and talks about the unequal race without referencing the natives is a butchery of thought.”

      You’re talking about the similar plight of Native Americans – and yes I agree with you and as a visitor to the Canadian frontier, I can affirm the same terrible conditions for First Nation natives.

      I don’t completely absolve any of having no responsibility in this – clearly not having a ancestral culture and appreciation of education and it’s importance is part of it.

  11. Les Schreiber Avatar
    Les Schreiber

    First of all OECD is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development based in Paris. Is it basically a research and data gathering organization. The membership is comprised of the Western capitalist countries.Its research is accepted as apolitical.
    Now back to the video.
    As a retired social studies teacher I am very aware of dealing with sensitive topics.In secondary school there are a few you just don’t touch such as sex and drugs. Religion can be difficult as can be race.
    The video seems to put forth the argument that the system is rigged based on race. It doesn’t seem to address changes over time or legislative actions that have been enacted in post WW2 America to”right past wrongs”.
    Were I still teaching, I would probably use this as a basis for discussion.Let both sides put forth their points and put them an historical context.
    It is a mistake to ban the film. Let it be used as a basis for discussion or as the educates say “a teachable moment” .Difficult issues should be explored especially at the secondary level.

    1. Thoughtful, Les. In general, it’s hard to disagree with using something as a teaching vehicle. I think the problem here arises out of your further comment:
      “Let both sides put forth their points and put them an historical context.”

      The film in question does not do that. Why does this matter, you say, we’ll just let the other side have its say. 1. Young minds (indeed, all minds) tend to view something written on paper or set out in a film produced by grown ups as truthful. It was always one of the touchstones of union negotations that we in management wrote the contract proposal. That tended to limit discussion to what was written down in the proposal. It was “the Truth”. Not always, particularly if you were dealing with a saavy union rep on the other side, but generally, this was so. So, 2. Now you are faced with the problem that the “Other Side” is not on equal footing with whoever is in the film. E.g., is the film voice over more persuasive sounding than whoever presents the “Other Side”. The Other Side also faces the problem of being attacked as “racist” for even proposing the other side. No, the best way to make this a teaching vehicle is to have the film present both sides, and only then open it to fair discussion. However, I think there are many on this blog, including myself, who believe the education establishment is incapable of doing this because of its liberal bent. (You never hear of or see phone-captured videos of teachers going on a “right wing” rant. I’m willing to be corrected on this, but you need to tell me I’m wrong with more than one citation).

      I have gotten pretty cynical about this, I’m afraid. I attended Richmond Metro Race Dialogues a few years back (I think I have the name wrong, but I’m talking about the several day seminar typically held at Richmond Hill with speakers brought in. The subtitle was “An honest dialogue about race) I was new to Richmond and the South, and wanted to understand the underpinnings of racial strife in the South…

      It was anything but an honest dialogue; the non-liberal side of things was never presented. It was about grievance and the acquisition of goodies, plain and simple. On the surface, there was some good history, eg. the breakup of Jackson Ward by the placement of I95 through the center of the Ward instead of through Windsor Farms. But in the end, it wound up not being about present day race problems at all. It was unquestionably about liberal politics, liberal policies, and the desire for “stuff”. I was prepared to hear honest stuff. As I said: Anything but.

  12. Reading thru all of this, one of the ways to get ahead is by getting whatever education you can by not having kids until you are settled with a job. Have fewer children. Pick men who are going to hang around and are settled w/education and jobs.

    We looked for the things we could control. That’s one of them. I see it in the article but am not sure it is addressed.

  13. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    This small event helps explain why the political stability our nation has enjoyed so long is now approaching the edge of revolution from both sides of the political spectrum that could easily cast us irrevocably into unknown.

  14. White privilege is another concept to perpetuate and strengthen control over a class of victims that must be kept in chains to justify the existence of a pseudo -elite quagmire of bureaucratic leeches and politicians who benefit from the status quo.

    BTW, there were 500,000 slaves, on the high side, that were brought to the original American colonies during a period of 150 years. There were an additional 11,500,00o slaves transported to the New World during this same period. The Portuguese, Spanish, Britiish and Africcans captured , transported and sold the slaves. So why must the entire United States and it’s descendants be held responsible and convicted as guilty for a brief episode in the scope of human history, and that still continues in numerous countries across the globe?

    My point is, white privilege is a simplistic myth.

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    FYI – the film was bound to be provocative – I agree – but in many ways little different from the teacher in Shenandoah earlier this year who assigned an actual SOL task in calligraphy for Arabic scripts and parents went ape-crap over it.

    or to V/Rs point about not bringing kids into this world until you can take care of them properly – and the provisioning of IUDs on a voluntary basis that resulted in a 40% reduction in unwanted pregnancies in Colorado a year or two back – something you’ll find Conservatives generally not supportive of – morally or funded by govt because you know- in the end – you were born poor and stupid because your parents were that way – and that’s just the way it is so suck it up.

  16. LarrytheG Avatar

    @Crazy – re: Riley – one persons point of view who happens to also be black proves what exactly?

    what exactly is your actual point?

    please lay it out. If a black person adopts the same view that you as a white person does – espouse – it’s proves what?

    have at it guy.

    1. Good, Larry. You finally engaged. So now you understand that the black community is not ALL centered on grievance and race baiting. So now, we’ll move along to the next point: Did you actually read his article in WSJ?

  17. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    No, Larry. What has brought all communities, but especially the Black community, to this disastrous state is a moral collapse and Globalization, not slavery or Jim Crow. Just as debilities on Blacks were taken down, is when the Culture as a whole went rotten, during the 1960s, and then in the 1970s the jobs began to go “over there.” Morals (and economies) can be renewed. Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote a book over 20 years about the de-moralization of society going on ( , and about how Britain was regenerated from the moral sewer during the Georgian period to that of the, admittedly, over-the-top priggishness of the Victorians. But the point is, that there is hope, but people have to be encouraged to be their best, not their worst, as has been the case since the 1960s, and our elites have to stop pursuing policies that are ruining us, like free trade and immigration. Scapegoating White people, who themselves are suffering from a similar malaise, for bad decisions made Black people solves nothing, but only compounds everyone’s problems. To do this will require, in addition to a religious revival, the cooperation of Government, artists, and corporations, that they will not tolerate nihilistic “art,” which currently is “official policy.” The elites will need to change either by repentance (“turning back”) or by replacement. Black people and White people, and everyone, need to demand a change to the filth of our culture, starting with each individual, family, and community and spreading outward. The Far Left is propelling us toward civil war which benefits only themselves, or so they think.



    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd


      Excellent Point. Thanks to for pointing up Himmelfarb’s fine book, as relevant today as ever.

      Regarding yet more rot sinking into today’s culture via politicized myth see Heather MacDonald’s piece in today’s WSJ: The Myths of Black Lives Matter. It is devastating.

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