A thread about universty DEI statements

January 24, 2023 • 9:45 am

Since August of last year, John Sailer, who works for the National Association of Scholars (NAS), has been putting put together a long thread about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statements (DEI) that are now required for many applicants for academic jobs. Indeed, in many cases they are weighed more heavily in the hiring process than are academic achievements and qualifications themselves. DEI statements can even completely override academic and scholarly merit! For academic jobs in the Life Sciences at UC Berkeley, for instance, your DEI statement is ranked on three criteria: your knowledge of DEI, your track record of DEI work, and your plans to implement DEI initiatives if hired). This is done using a point system (15 points total). If your statement doesn’t accrue enough points, your application is put in the dumpster and is not considered again. Too bad if you look like a future Nobel laureate; there is no job for you at UC Berkeley unless you have a long track record and well-considered philosophy of diversity. (We are of course talking about racial diversity, not viewpoint diversity or socioeconomic diversity.)

I’ve objected to these statements because they constitute “compelled speech”: a prospective faculty member has to adhere to certain specified ideological principles to be hired, principles having to do with social engineering rather than teaching, learning, and research. While I agree with many of the sentiments behind these initiatives, I do not favor making them compulsory, as it foists a political homogeneity on universities and stifles free discussion. How could it not? You simply can’t be hired unless you’re of the right political bent.

The NAS is an education-centered political advocacy group with a conservative bent. But I make no apologies for mentioning right-wing sources; what matters here are the assertions, which you can check for yourself. Every claim I know of below is accurate, but of course I didn’t check all of them.  Also this is Sailer’s own Twitter feed, so this isn’t an official presentation by the NAS—yet.  But one thing is for sure: you’re never going to see a “progressive” individual or organization collect examples of DEI-statement requirements. Progressive favor such statements, but flaunting them in public is not a good thing to do. Why? Figure it out for yourself.

Sailer begins his thread by noting that the governors of the University of North Carolina (UNC) have ended diversity statements, which would be a good thing to do. UNC at Chapel Hill was also the first university in the U.S. to follow the University of Chicago by mandating both the Chicago Principles of Free Expression and the Kalven Principles of institutional neutrality. That’s all pretty amazing for a school in the South!)

I can’t find anything on the web about the ending of DEI statements at UNC, so I’ll take Sailer’s word for it for the time being. I did find an NAS article he wrote in August of last year called “Mandatory DEI statements undermine academic freedom at UNC-Chapel Hill,” which lists all the jobs at UNC-CH that required diversity statements. But it doesn’t mention ending DEI statements, except as a desideratum.

At any rate, here’s Sailer long list of DEI-related requirements for schools, how they are assessed, and then at the end a bit about the burgeoning DEI bureaucracy. There are 18 further tweets that I didn’t have space to include, so look at the thread for yourself. Just regard this as data that you can check if you wish. If it’s all true, and I don’t think Sailer would make this stuff up, you should be very afraid for the future of universities, of free speech, and of academic freedom.

Cluster hires are hiring of a several faculty at once who are committed to advancing DEI initiatives. I wasn’t aware that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which uses taxpayer money, has grants for this purpose.

The first tweet is Berkeley’s infamous Life Sciences DEI initiative. If you said in your UCB DEI statement that you were committed to treating all students equally and with empathy and respect, regardless of ethnicity, your application was as good as dead. The second tweet below that, at Emory, biology puts as much weight on DEI initiatives as it does on research and teaching, presumably for both hiring and promotion.

The Oregon DEI statement is not just an add-on to a promotion package that can be ignored. Rather, it has “clear consequences and influences” on your chances of promotion. Professors: start reading your Kendi!

As noted below, the California Community Colleges system is indeed the largest such system in America, and their DEI evaluation criteria for all employees (does this include everyone employed by the system?) are very strict. Further, the school system has to develop a “pedagogy/curriculum that promotes a race-conscious and intersection lens [sic]” and an “anti-racist and inclusive environment.” This is the total racialization of the educational system, treating students as if they were members of different but individually homogeneous groups.  These initiatives comprise efforts at social engineering on a massive scale rather than as a vehicle to get students to learn, to learn to think, and to promote teaching. The “teaching and learning” here is political propaganda, and I know of no similar large-scale endeavor in American educational history.

Here’s the infamous Berkeley rubric which explicitly rejects Dr. King’s criterion for how to treat people. I’ve put it below, and it’s being copied by other schools explicitly (e.g. “see UC Berekeley’s rubric”).  Below are Cornell’s DEI criteria for hiring taken from the second tweet.  There is no stopping this juggernaut:

Finally—but remember there are 18 other tweets—we have the University of Michigan’s DEI bureaucracy: 56 employees and a salary budget alone of $10.6 million. That does not include the budget for activities. It is a huge investment in DEI, and, once in place, it will not go away.

Have a look at the other 18 tweets and see if you’re not chagrined at the change of course of universities.

In a few months, the Supreme Court will overturn affirmative action, and most likely also prohibit race-based searches for candidates along with race-based hiring. What will that do to these initiatives? It will likely constrict their activities, but—make no mistake—schools will have their DEI one way or another.  With such a bureaucracy, they will somehow have to keep banging the drum that DEI is necessary to overcome the seemingly-permanent “structural racism” of universities, and workarounds will be found. (I already know of a few.)  The social engineering will not stop, nor the deflecting of universities from their real purpose down the path of “progressive ideology”. From now on, all professors, to get hired, must profess fealty to a specified ideology, and that is compelled speech.

“The Problem of Whiteness” course postponed (but not canceled) at my university

November 9, 2022 • 10:15 am

Some time ago, a conservative second-year student at the University of Chicago discovered that a course called “The Problem of Whiteness” was going to be taught this winter. The student, Daniel Schmidt, who has about 30K Twitter followers and describes himself on the platform as “Sophomore @UChicago. Exposing insanity at an elite university. ‘Right-wing college activist’ — Media Matters”, emitted several tweets describing the course and giving bit of the syllabus. The instructor is white and the course is falls under “Critical Race and Ethnic Studies” (“CRES”). Here are two of Schmidt’s tweets.

Of course this caused a social-media fracas, with people getting all hot and bothered and writing the university in protest. I even hear that the instructor, Rebecca Journey (named in the article below), received email threats, but I can’t verify that.

Although I don’t like the tenor of this course, which seems both anti-white and divisive, I cannot demand that it be canceled. What an instructor decides to teach is a matter of academic freedom, and if her department approves the course, it’s their call, not mine.  I of course worry that the University of Chicago will become as woke as some of its peers, which regularly teach courses like this, but while I can criticize the effect and content of such courses as socially inimical, I cannot and will not call or lobby for the course’s elimination or demand that the instructor be criticized—much less threatened—for teaching it.

Nevertheless, as this article in Inside Higher Ed reports, the instructor has, of her own volition, postponed the course until Spring. This is likely a result of the public pushback, though it also may be due to the low prospective enrollment (zero students).

A bit of the article:

The University of Chicago is still offering a course called The Problem of Whiteness, which attracted negative attention online, but it will do so a term later than originally planned—in the spring instead of the upcoming winter quarter.

It’s unclear just what prompted the course delay. The instructor, Rebecca Journey, a teaching fellow in anthropology, did not respond to a request for comment.

In a public statement affirming its commitment to academic freedom, the university said Journey asked to push back the class.

Well, something’s wrong here, because the link above doesn’t say anything about Journey and the class, but merely restates, in the words of Dean Boyer, our principles of academic freedom. I would be surprised if the University had any comment on a specific course. The article goes on:

A description of the University of Chicago course in question says, in part, that “Whiteness has long functioned as an ‘unmarked’ racial category, saturating a default surround against which non-white or ‘not quite’ others appear as aberrant. This saturation has had wide-ranging effects, coloring everything from the consolidation of wealth, power and property to the distribution of environmental health hazards. Yet in recent years whiteness has resurfaced as a conspicuous problem within liberal political discourse. This seminar examines the problem of whiteness through an anthropological lens, drawing from classic works and contemporary works of critical race theory.”

The course became a target for critics earlier this month after Daniel Schmidt, a sophomore on campus with 30,000 Twitter followers, tweeted about it as an example of “anti-white hate.”

“Rebecca Journey, a ‘cultural anthropologist,’ who, ironically, appears to be white, will teach it,” Schmidt tweeted, listing Journey’s photo and Chicago email address. “The course description describes whiteness ‘as a conspicuous problem within liberal political discourse’ with ‘worldmaking (and razing) effects.’ Anti-white hatred is now mainstream academic inquiry. And you’re not even allowed to call that out without being called racist.”

Schmidt posted an apparent screenshot of the course’s registration information, which at the time listed zero students enrolled.

Several days later, Schmidt tweeted another apparent registration screenshot showing the class had been canceled.

“Thank you to everyone who shared my thread,” he said. “We are obviously fighting an uphill battle, but this is a huge victory. Students need to call out anti-white hatred whenever they see it. Just the beginning.”

Of course Schmidt has every right to say what he wants about the course, and that may affect how people see the University of Chicago. That’s proper counterspeech. But there’s also academic freedom, which gives Journey every right to teach her course so long as she adheres to the normal principles of pedagogy. (That, of course, doesn’t mean every course can be taught: teaching creationism in public schools and universities, for instance, has been banned by the courts as an exercise in religious propaganda prohibited by the First Amendment.)

I was glad to see that FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) agrees with me:

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression soon weighed in on this case, saying that while it had learned that the course was actually rescheduled for spring and not canceled, it still had concerns—especially (but not merely) because Chicago has a strong reputation for protecting academic freedom.

“U Chicago told us the class was not canceled, but the instructor had simply ‘chosen to move’ the course to the spring term. All good? Maybe…” FIRE said on Twitter. “Administrators can inappropriately pressure a professor to cancel or delay a class in hopes that a controversy will die down. We don’t have evidence that happened here, but in these cases, transparency is paramount so academics don’t fear teaching controversial material.”

Alex Morey, director of campus rights advocacy at FIRE, told Inside Higher Ed Tuesday that the University of Chicago “doesn’t appear to have exerted any pressure on this professor to cancel their course, which is great and exactly what we expect from a top school for free speech. But other sources of pressure on faculty are also common these days. For example—from legislators or Twitter mobs, who sometimes threaten the professor’s funding or even their safety.”

Given the current polarized political environment, Morey said, “universities should urgently re-evaluate what it means to support a professor through a controversy over their teaching. It likely needs to go beyond just saying their speech is protected. Sadly, that may look like taking interim measures to ensure their safety, like providing their class meetings police protection, so they can continue their important work without delay. That’s what it may take these days to preserve faculty’s rights. Universities and faculty senates should have this on their radar.”

Here’s one of FIRE’s tweets on the issue:

If academic freedom means anything, it means what FIRE says above, and what John Stuart Mill said 223 years ago about freedom of expression: it must not be censored because it exposes people to ideas they don’t like. I don’t particularly like (or agree with) the idea that whiteness itself is toxic, or that all white people are racist unless they are actively antiracist, or that whiteness is the dominant theme of academia, reason, or science, but these ideas aren’t vanishingly rare, either. Let the students take Journey’s course and judge for themselves (if they’re open-minded going in, of course!).


UPDATE: I don’t know if I’ll say much about the Stanford conference on academic freedom until the YouTube videos are released so you can see for yourself, but it’s already been widely attacked. Even this article in Inside Higher Ed is somewhat of a hit piece, concentrating mostly on the more demonized and controversial speakers. Click to read:

Most Americans don’t think race should be an important factor in college admission decisions, but most favor racial diversity as good thing yet back a Supreme Court ruling banning affirmative action

October 24, 2022 • 11:45 am

The other day I summarized a Pew study of what factors Americans thought should be prioritized in making college-admissions decisions.  High-school grades and standardized-test results were by far the most important criteria, with extracurricular activities a ways behind and race or ethnicity far behind, with only 7% of Americans seeing it as a major factor in college admissions, 19% as a minor factor, and 74% as “not a factor”. (Remember, this is how people think things should be, not how they are.) Other factors were more important than ethnicity/race, including being the first in one’s family to go to college, while two were less important (gender and whether a relative attended the school).

This ordering of criteria held for all groups surveyed, including ethnic groups, Republicans and Democrats. The importance of criteria varied, with race/ethnicity—the subject of debates over affirmative action—being rated as a more important criterion for Asians, blacks, and Hispanics than for whites; but in no ethnic group did fewer than 59% of respondents see race/ethnicity as “not important” as a factor.

Today we have a related study from Inside Higher Ed (click on screenshot below), which gives nearly identical results from a different sample (and using different questions). The study was conducted by by The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. 1,238 adults were surveyed (Pew used 11,687).  The results are given in the headline:

There’s not much text, but the article gives two bar charts.  If we compare the “support Supreme Court ban on affirmative action” data below with data from the Pew study (using “race not important” as the equivalent of “support Supreme Court ban”, we get comparable but not identical results.  The comparison: of all US results, 63% here as compared to 74% in Pew, among whites we get 66% here compared to 79% in the Pew study, among blacks we get 47% here as opposed to 59% in the Pew study, among Hispanics we get 50% here as compared to 68% in the Pew data, and for Asians (plus Pacific Islanders) we get 65% below compared to 63% for Asians from Pew.

In all but one group, support for Supreme Court ban on affirmative action in runs lower than the data for those who don’t think race should be an important factor in admission (Pew)—almost surely because people coul be opposed to seeing their opinions made into law by the Supreme Court. And in fact more than half of blacks oppose a Supreme Court banning of affirmative action.

However, every group polled thinks that programs designed to increase racial diversity of college students are a “good thing”. This is not expected from the data above, in which most groups show support for banning affirmative action. This is somewhat of a paradox because affirmative action is one of the only programs that can increase diversity among college students.

The conclusion: Americans are to some extent confused. Most support the Supreme Court making laws banning affirmative action yet most think diversity is a good thing.  And most don’t think race should be an important factor in admission. Perhaps the conflict here is the coercion imposed by a Court ruling, or perhaps respondents saw other ways to increase the good of racial diversity on campus beyond a Supreme Court ruling. I suppose there are many explanations for this disparity, including simply different samples, or that, in the poll reported here, the respondents the way they thought the pollsters wanted to hear. Readers are welcome to comment.

I think racial diversity is a good thing, but my dilemma has always been that to increase it, one needs to reduce the “meritocratic” standards usually used for admissions.  I’m coming around to the view that affirmative action is tenable but on a socioeconomic rather than a racial basis. That kind of affirmative action will certainly increase racial diversity, but will do so without violating the upcoming Supreme Court decision that will ban race as a criterion for admission. (It’s almost a given that this decision will occur.)

The complex issue of racial reparations

October 22, 2022 • 12:00 pm

UPDATE:  Reader Daniel sent me this link to a half-hour video of Christopher Hitchens and Glenn Loury on the question of reparations.  Hitchens is in favor of them, Loury opposed. The debate took place in 2001.

One of the big issues in the antiracist debate is the question of reparations, or restorative justice through dispensing money, good, or advantages like mortgage help.  This is motivated by trying to make up for the evils of slavery and the subsequent bad treatment of minorities, especially blacks, by making accommodations, though payments or otherwise, to the descendants of those who still feel the aftereffects of slavery and find their opportunities limited.  And there’s no doubt that the historical legacy of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow racism still lingers on, narrowing the opportunities for many black people.

Perhaps the most eloquent—and certainly the most famous—argument for reparations was Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article in the June 2014 issue of The Atlantic, an essay called “The Case for Reparations” (free read). It’s a must-read for those who want to think about this issue.  Those who haven’t read it often think Coates was calling simply for direct payment to blacks, but that’s not all of what he wanted, although it seems to be part o it.  He did assert that affirmative action wasn’t sufficient. We had to undergo a fundamental transformation of society and of the minds of white people, Coates argued:

And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans.

. . . . What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.

. . . Something more than moral pressure calls America to reparations. We cannot escape our history. All of our solutions to the great problems of health care, education, housing, and economic inequality are troubled by what must go unspoken. “The reason black people are so far behind now is not because of now,” Clyde Ross told me. “It’s because of then.”

And yes, he did think that some kind of monetary payments might be part of the package.

. . . Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.

I do think Coates has a point, though I don’t think direct payments are the way to go. The objections are familiar:  Why do I (a Jew whose ancestors came to the U.S. well after slavery) need to balance the ledger? Many white people had nothing to do with oppressing blacks, so why do they need to bear the burden? To that I say, “We all bear a societal responsibility to the marginalized.” After all, I pay taxes for schooling young Americans, though I have no kids. I do so willingly, for that furthers the good of America as a whole.  Others bring up more vexing questions.  Who will get the payments? What about black immigrants to America, or people not descended from slaves? Will those of partial black ancestry get partial payments? Most important, is the direct-payment form of reparations going to solve the problem of inequality? I don’t think so—any more than winning the lottery makes people happy (it often doesn’t).  Surely it would be better to spend the money eliminating the societal barriers that prevent blacks from having equal opportunity to success.  Note, however, that the debate that Coates wants has already started: it’s the discussion about “racial reckoning” we’re having now.

An alternative, one to which I subscribe, is outlined in this article on NPR (which means it’s passed the progressive “sniff test”). Click to read (you can also listen):

The man with the ideas is Andrew Delbanco, the Alexander Hamilton professor of American Studies at Columbia University and president of the Teagle Foundation. In an interview on the NPR All Things Considered show, Delbanco laid out his program, outlined more fully in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ annual Jefferson Lecture, held just this month.

Here are some excerpts; you can hear the show at the link above:

On why he believes everyone has a responsibility to help with reparations, even though they did not create the system

If we allow ourselves to be thoughtful, I think we all understand this instinctively. I mean, no one should be blamed for the sins of the fathers, as the scripture puts it. And yet we live in a world that has been damaged by history. And we have a responsibility, I think, to do what we can to repair the world.

So it’s a paradoxical problem that on the one hand, the past is past and should have nothing to do with us in the present as individual moral actors. But on the other hand, we live in the world that we’ve inherited, and so do people who’ve been injured by history. So it’s a difficult moral problem. It’s a problem that writers and philosophers have wrestled with for centuries. And we’re never going to arrive at a clean, clear answer to it. But the very fact that we’re talking about it, I think, is a positive sign for where we could go as a society.

You’d have to be blind to not see the effect that slavery and Jim Crow had on today’s black population. What to do about it? Delbanco talks about the damages at length, but I’ll let you read about those and see his solution:

On putting a monetary value on many of these intangible concepts

I don’t think we can. Some people have tried and we’ve seen numbers from the thousands to the millions to the billions and trillions proposed, and different programs for distributing financial benefits to all persons who are regarded as Black, according to some pundits.

Others say, “No, it should be restricted to only those who can prove they had an enslaved ancestor.”

I don’t think that’s the right path to travel on, and I recognize that this is a point of view that will anger and upset many, and that should be part of the discussion. For me, the more sensible and the more plausible — in the sense that something might actually come of it — approach to this is to recognize that many Americans have been injured by history, notably Black Americans who have a good case to make that they’re at the head of that line. But there are many others who can point to disadvantages that were visited on their families or on themselves for reasons of racial prejudice and for other reasons, as well.

What we need to do, and I take my cue here from a great person, from the past, that is Dr. King, and from a young scholar, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, who teaches at Georgetown University, who speaks of reparations not as a process of payback, or settling scores, or getting even, but as what Professor Táíwò calls, “A construction project,” a future-oriented reconstruction of our society to make it a fairer place. To ensure that the kinds of depredations that Black people and many others have had to deal with over the decades and centuries will be mitigated in the future.

And you can imagine the sorts of policies that someone who takes this point of view would have in mind, providing wraparound services for schoolchildren of the sort that affluent families take for granted. Providing better access to quality health care to try to close those shocking gaps in infant mortality, maternal deaths and childhood, and many others in childbirth. And many other measures on which Black Americans still lag behind, providing better educational opportunities beyond those early years.

And that’s my solution, too.  Although some people may object that it smacks of paternalism, it really doesn’t—not if your program is aimed at creating more opportunities for those at the lowest end of the socioeconomic scale. Those are disproportionately members of minorities, of course, but by aiming at those who lack both well being and access to the pipeline to well being, you’re helping all of those who are deprived of opportunity. And those are often descendants of slaves.

This, of course, takes will and money. I’ve already said that I’d be more than willing to pay a substantial part of my savings, or accept a rise in taxes on those who are better off to help all Americans achieve equal opportunity. In the end, this is the only way that reparations can work. It may not involve handing out checks, but it’s the pecuniary equivalent, and has the advantage that these structural changes will be in perpetuity, and devolve on everyone, so it can’t be criticized as a simple form of affirmative action. Remember that, if you’re a determinist (or even if you’re not), you can see that low societal well being is not the “fault” of the affected individuals in that they could have risen in America had they chosen otherwise, and many people don’t even know the opportunities, or have the environments, that could help them.


The Jefferson Lecture will eventually online; here’s Delbanco giving a preview:

h/t: Williams

Pew study on what criteria Americans think should matter for college admissions

October 21, 2022 • 11:15 am

Although colleges and universities are, left and right, dropping or devaluing high school grades and standardized tests as criteria for admission, the American public still maintains that these two factors (which I’ll consider as indices of “merit”) are the most important considerations, ahead of “community service and involvement” and well ahead of being first in your family to go to college, athletic ability, race or ethnicity, gender, and whether one is a “legacy” (i.e., had a relative attend the applicant’s school). This is what today’s article concludes.

The big contention, of course involves whether one should consider “merit” (as evinced by tests and grades) a lot more important than “race or ethnicity”. This is the conflict involved in debates about affirmative action.  But according to this Pew study in March, all groups see indices of merit as more important than ethnicity, though the emphasis on merit has dropped a tad in the last three years. But the order of importance of the eight factors shown below, including legacy admissions and “outside activities,” hasn’t changed since 1999.

Click on the screenshot to see a summary of the study. (The methodology is here, detailing the use of 11,687 subjects.)

Here are the overall results, lumping all Americans together. Each criterion was weighted by each respondent as “major”, “minor” or “not a factor” in how they should be weighted for college admissions.

As you see, high-school grades are by far the most important criterion, followed by standardized tests, and then, in decreasing order of importance, “first in the family,” athletic ability, race or ethnicity, legacy admission, and gender.  I would reverse grades and standardize tests, since standardized tests put everyone on the same scale, while high school grades vary tremendously among schools. Rather than “community service involvement,” I’d use “extracurriculars” as an index of breadth of interests.  For “race or ethnicity” I’d substitute “socioeconomic class”, which would allow a form of affirmative action for racial groups but also give a leg up to the disadvantaged in other groups.  Then “first in family”, which is correlated with socioeconomic status. I wouldn’t consider athletic ability at all, nor whether one’s relatives attended the school, but schools use the latter criterion as a way of ensuring an income stream from families with an intergenerational college affiliation.

I’m not sure about gender, as more women than men now get college degrees, so the problem is largely solved. But I’d make an exception for historically male colleges like military schools, where qualified women should be admitted on the same basis as qualified men.

Here’s the inter-year comparison (2019 vs. 2022) of how grades and standardized tests are rated, which is of lesser interest than how different population groups and how Democrats vs. Republicans see these factors. Blacks and Hispanics tend to see high school grades as less important than do whites and Asians, while Republic and and Democrats are pretty equal on the importance of grades.

The same holds for ethnic groups regarding standardized tests, while Democrats see standardized tests as of lesser importance than do Republicans—in line with the greater emphasis of Republicans on formal indices of merit.

Finally, we have a bar graph showing how different ethnic groups—and Republicans vs Democrats—regard legacy, first-generation status, and race/ethnicity as weighting factors for admissions.  All three “groups of color” see “first in family,” “legacy” and “race and ethnicity” as more important factors than do whites.  I can understand these data except for the “legacy” part, which I would think would be less emphasized in groups of color.  There’s also a substantial difference between Democrats and Republicans on the race/ethnicty and “first in family” criteria, with Republicans putting less weight on race/ethnicity and “first in family” criteria. That, too makes sense since Republicans, in my view, care less than Democrats about “leveling the playing field”. Political affiliation makes little difference, however, in how one weights “legacy” as a criterion.

In sum, the public apparently still wants grades and standardized tests to be the most important criteria for admission to college, with “activities” a bit behind and other factors, including race/ethnicity, far behind.  In the public’s view, including the views of blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, the debate between merit vs. ethnicity seems to have been settled, though a ranking doesn’t rule out affirmative action—it just makes race a less important criterion for helping a student jump the merit queue.

This debate, however, will all be settled when the Supreme Court bans affirmative action in its next term.

Saturday reading: Glenn Loury on the history of civil rights

October 8, 2022 • 12:00 pm

Glenn Loury is, as you know, a black heterodox thinker and writer, much like his friend John McWhorter. Loury was also the first professor of economics at Harvard to get tenure, and that at only 33. Now he works at Brown University.

I found out only yesterday that Glenn has a Substack site, and saw the post below on it. Click to read, but, as always, subscribe if you read regularly. This post is free to the public, and if you’re pulled up short, just click “Let me read it first”:

This is a long post, much of it reproduced from an earlier interview that is not online. Loury intro:

There is no better time than now to think back with a critical eye on the conditions that brought about landmark mid-century civil rights legislation and Supreme Court decisions. Below I do just that in a long interview from 2019 led by Bucknell University sociologist Alexander Riley, which is taken from his edited collection, Reflecting on the 1960s at 50: A Concise Account on How the 1960s Changed America, for Better and for WorseIn it, I speak at length on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Panthers, affirmative action, mass incarceration, and reparations, among other topics.

A few quotes under topics I’ve chosen:

The relative efficacy of Dr. King’s actions vs. those of contemporary activists:

. . . .I get why people are saying that. I get why contemporary social justice activists are impatient with the color-blind “I have a dream that one day my children will be judged by the content of their character. Black and white will walk hand-in-hand together, etc., etc.” I understand people’s impatience with that rhetoric in our current day, but I just ask people to reflect on what the power of that rhetoric actually was in transforming structures in American society. Again, I don’t think the threats of violence, the rejection across the board of American norms, the contempt for patriotism, the classification of the Founding Fathers as a bunch of dead white males, half of whom were slave owners anyways, and “we were 3/5 of a man in the constitution,” I don’t think that kind of rhetoric gets us anywhere. So there’s that.

On affirmative action:

 I’m not one of those who would respond to affirmative action by saying it’s discrimination against non-black or non-Latino people and therefore it’s wrong and must not be done. It is discrimination to the extent that it’s undertaken to benefit blacks or Latinos, but it’s not discrimination that I think should be prevented on a constitutional argument. That’s one thing that I would say.

But we are here in the year 2019. Affirmative action is something that dates back to the late 1960s, and really gets going in the 1970s. President Lyndon Johnson famously says, I believe it’s at a commencement address at Howard University in 1965, that you don’t take someone who’s been hobbled by history, the chains that encumber them, and remove the chains and bring them up to the starting line of a race and then you set the race off and expect that you’re being entirely fair. This is a paraphrase of Johnson. What he says is we need equality as a fact, and equality as an outcome, not merely equality in principle or equality as a theory.

We are a half-century into this idea that we’ve got to do something special for the blacks in the competitive venues where they lag behind in order to ensure equality of opportunity. A half-century, that’s a long time. It’s as long from Johnson giving that speech in 1965 to where we sit right here, today, in 2019, as was the time that expired between Appomattox, where Lee surrenders to Grant, and Versailles, where the First World War is brought to a conclusion. That’s a long time. That’s three generations. It’s a long, long time.

There is a lot more he has to say on the issue, and it’s relevant because the Supreme Court is set to overturn the Bakke case. Last night I discussed with my friends, who are longtime social-justice activists of the good sort (they actually did and are still doing stuff: teachers at minority schools and social workers), and we all agreed that the true solution to underrepresentation (“inequity”) is not the magicking of equity into existence by lowering the bar for some groups, but a fundamental change in opportunity, allowing everyone equal opportunity from birth. And that would require income redistribution—anathema to most Americans and all Republicans. It would also require other changes difficult to make. But it’s the only viable long-term solution. As McWhorter notes:

There was recently this controversy about the exam schools in New York City: Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, Stuyvesant. They have an exam. They give the exam. Tens of thousands of people take it. They are admitting only hundreds. Stuyvesant constitutes a class—an incoming class for the fall next year—of 895 admits. Seven of them are black. And the newspaper article says, in the spirit of affirmative action, “Racial Segregation Returns to New York City’s High Schools.” The presumption is the low number of African Americans being admitted is a reflection of the failure of the institution to be fair and open to all people.

It is not! It’s a reflection of something else, something less pretty, something much more challenging, something that goes much more profoundly to the heart of what’s wrong in our country. It’s a reflection of the failure to develop the human potential of those youngsters who happen to be black. The test is only a messenger. It’s merely telling us what people know and what they don’t know. Some respond, “Well, let’s get rid of the test, let’s put a quota on the schools, let’s raise those numbers.” But why not, “Let’s develop those people so that they can compete”?

. . . I used to be one of those people who said, “Oh no, it is just racial discrimination, it is just reverse discrimination, and we shouldn’t do it.” And then I became one of those people who said, “Oh no, wait a minute, I do think we need to defend affirmative action.” And now I am one of these people who is saying, “Are we ever going to get serious about the actual problem of inequality and address ourselves to it? Affirmative action doesn’t take us to that point.” Imagine how weak, and, at the end of the day, pathetic it is to be in this position of begging not to have affirmative action taken away. Throwing a tantrum not to have them take away affirmative action. “We want our affirmative action!” Pathetic!

I still think that in the interim some form of affirmative action is needed, but perhaps it should be based on socioeconomic considerations rather than ethnicity. Since ethnicity is correlated with socioeconomic status, that would still create more “equity,” and perhaps that is the way colleges will counter the upcoming dismantling of affirmative action by the Supreme Court. I always wonder what will happen to the elaborate and expensive apparatus of DEI bureaucracy erected by many colleges and universities, including mine.  Will “D” no longer include race, but diversity of viewpoints and of socieconomic status?

On reparations.

I actually think that little bit of the question is kind of interesting, and maybe even ironic to me, because if I said that the family has a right to pass his wealth on to from one generation to the next without the encumbrance of inheritance tax, or call it the death tax as Republicans like to call it, a lot of progressives would say “Oh no, oh no. Just because your father made a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anything. You didn’t earn it.” Well, likewise, just because my ancestors may have been deprived of the fruits of their labor by being forcibly enslaved doesn’t mean that necessarily that I am entitled to anything. I really don’t see, conceptually, a distinction between one or the other. In some sense, intergenerational entitlement being transferred from one generation to the next is intergenerational entitlement being transferred from one generation to the next.

But that’s not my main point. Do the facts of slavery, and Jim Crow segregation, and inequality, and restrictive covenants, and racial discrimination, and poll taxes, and literally tests, and anti-miscegenation laws, and all of that figure in a social scientifically identifiable way in accounting for some of the disadvantage of African American? I have no doubt that that’s true. I have no doubt that history casts a long shadow, that some dimension of African American poverty does indeed derive from historical mistreatment of African-Americans. Saying how much would, it seems to me, be a bridge too far. I don’t know how you do that as an empirical project.

. . . How about this? How about those who are concerned about the lasting effects of slavery and Jim Crow as they manifest themselves in the lives of very poor and disadvantaged and marginalized people, how about if we get about the business of building a coalition of poor, disadvantaged, and marginalized people of all races, and try to formulate a politics in which the essential needs of those people for opportunity would be at the center of our advocacy? I am prepared to include white people, brown people, yellow people, red people, as well as black people in that effort. That would be, I think, a serious American political enterprise. This sectarian enterprise—“Y’all disadvantaged my ancestors and I need to get paid”—I don’t think it’s going anywhere and I don’t think frankly it should go anywhere.

There is much to read and think about in Loury’s essay, including prison reform as well as these Big Three racial issues: Is our goal to become color blind? What should we do about affirmative action? And should we enact reparations, and, if so, how? You may disagree with Loury, but he will make you think. (Feel free to give your opinions below on these three questions or other related issues.) But do read this piece.

We are probably going to have Loury speak on our campus this year, and I wonder what sort of disruptions would ensue.

A podcast: Loury and McWhorter discuss race

October 3, 2022 • 2:01 pm

Here’s a 51-minute podcast that first aired in July and has been reissued on Bari Weiss’s site (click screenshot below to listen).  It’s John McWhorter and Glen Loury discussing race in America, with good moderation by Kmele Foster. First, the podcast’s introductory statement:

Today’s episode is borrowed from the feed of the great podcast The Fifth Column. Usually hosted by Kmele Foster, Michael Moynihan, and Matt Welch, this episode, which aired in July of 2022, features Kmele and two guests who have become elder statesmen around the persistent issue of race in America: John McWhorter and Glenn Loury.

Over the past few years McWhorter, Loury and Foster each have written, discussed and lectured exhaustively on anti-racism, the role race plays in America, and the changing meaning of the word “racism” itself. In this episode, they talk about the inadequacies of regarding people solely by their racial category, the dignity of the individual and what a future might look like if we were to abolish race all together. While all three men bring a contrarian streak to this discussion, you’ll find that they have disagreements when it comes to questions of race abolition and the so-called “Racial Reckoning” of 2020.

Loury is an economist and professor of social science at Brown University. You can listen to his interview with Bari here. McWhorter is the author of numerous books, including Talking Black and Woke Racism. He’s also professor of Linguistics, Philosophy and Music at Columbia University, and a columnist at The New York Times.

Since 2015 Kmele Foster has been a prominent voice in a number of discussions about race in America, including his reporting challenging the mainstream media’s verdict on Amy Cooper, better known as the Central Park Karen.

There’s a lot of ground covered here, including the Zeitgeist, how John McWhorter’s book Woke Racism came to be, McWhorter’s take on the pair being seen as pawns of the Right, the nature of DEI, whether it’s an ideological position, how, according to both, it patronizes and dehumanizes minorities, and the question of whether racial identity is of any use—much less being necessary—or does it merely confer a kind of soothing tribalism on people. (This is one reason McWhorter calls Wokeism a “religion”.)

This is a good take on their views, and I love to listen to these guys. Like Pinker or Sam Harris, they speak in complete paragraphs, without even an “uh” or an “umm”. But of course it’s what they have to say that we you should pay attention to.

More ideological bias: the National Science Foundation gives grants for people to document what the NSF already claims to know

September 25, 2022 • 11:15 am

You can argue about whether the purview of the National Science Foundation (NSF) should include investigating whether American science and science education are “systemically racist” in addition to doing what the NSF normally does—funding science itself.  I won’t argue that, since I think that the NSF does fund sociology, and I suppose science is as good a field for sociological investigation as any other.

But I will argue—and what I discuss hre—is that the NSF isn’t calling for investigations of whether systemic racism is an important impediment to education and professional advancement in STEM. No, the NSF assumes that this is true, and then throws money at investigators to figure out how to remedy a problem that hasn’t yet been demonstrated.

In other words, the NSF claims to already know that not only is systemic racism real and prevalent in STEM, but is also the overweening cause of the inequities in representation.

This is question-begging in the authentic sense—assuming what you want to demonstrate. And I take “systemic racism in STEM” to mean the presence of ingrained features in STEM that cause discrimination against people (it could be any group, but they’re talking about racial discrimination). “Systemic racism” does not mean that “STEM has bigots”—all fields, do, of course—but rather that education in science, math, engineering, and technology have built-in features that discriminate against minorities and women. And that’s why those groups are underrepresented in STEM studies and among STEM academics.

Many NSF-funded scientists were sent a link to a new program solicitation for “racial equity in STEM” education, which has a pot of money between $15 million and $25 million. The goal is to show how systemic racism impedes STEM education and then how to overcome these impediments. The program assumes there’s systemic racism in science and science education, something that many scientists would contest, especially in view of the eagerness of many science departments to recruit minority students and faculty, sometimes giving them advantages over non-minorities. (Not long ago the National Institutes of Health started a program that gave minorities preferential access to grant money, but then quickly dismantled it when I think they realized it was illegal.)

Before I show you this question-begging, let me add that the goal—to give historically disadvantaged minorities a leg up in education—is admirable. But before you do that, you have to figure out exactly how the disadvantages act to reduce STEM participation. And, as I note just below, “systemic racism” is one of just several potential causes for underachievement.  Especially for a science organization, you cannot assume that systemic racism is THE cause. That has to be demonstrated, not assumed. But the NSF assumes and doesn’t demonstrate.

At any rate, here’s the proposal, sent by a colleague who was surprised that an organization that gives money for scientific research assumes from the outset that “systemic racism” is ingrained in STEM, so that there is no need to

a. demonstrate that this is true using an explicit definition of “systemic racism”, and

b. further demonstrate that systemic racism is the cause for inequities of representation of minorities in STEM.  As you know, there are other possible reasons, including “pipeline problems” based on unequal opportunities that start at birth and lead to educational deficits, as well as differences in career preference of different groups.

Click on the screenshot to see the program announcement.

I’ve taken some excerpts. Here is the “Important information” at the beginning of the announcement. I’ve highlighted “systemic racism throughout” so you can see how it’s assumed. Note that three of the four requirements assume systemic racism exists and is important in cause unequal representation.

I presume that “led by or in authentic partnership” means that proposals should have principal investigators that are minorities or at least collaborators. While you can’t investigate racism without studying minorities, this may be code for saying “we will favor proposals by minority Principal Investigators.” But they can’t say that outright because it’s illegal, just as it was with the NIH.

The rationale for the study, which is fine. Every American should have an equal opportunity from birth to study science and become a scientist. That doesn’t assure equity, of course, but it does assure equal opportunity.

The NSF Strategic Plan focuses on ensuring that U.S. research is an inclusive enterprise that benefits from the talent of all sectors of American society – a research enterprise that incorporates the rich demographic and geographic diversity of the nation. The strategic plan recognizes that the more people who engage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and the more diverse their backgrounds, the richer the range of questions asked. The result is a greater breadth of discovery and more creative solutions

The assumption that inequities are due to systemic racism:



There will be a total of 15-35 awards given, each award can be for up to five years, and you can ask for up to $5 million.

Note the big problem: they explicitly and repeatedly ascribe inequities (unequal representation of racial groups in proportion to their presence in the American population) to systemic racism. This is an assumption, not a fact.  And in truth, you cannot even begin such projects without a demonstration of what role ingrained features—and exactly which ingrained features—of STEM impede education in the sciences. Perhaps the NSF should use that $15-$25 to investigate the contribution of various factors to inequities. But that, of course, is taboo, because progressive doctrine already tells us the answer without any need for empirical investigation. It’s revelation, Jake! Or at least ideology.

NYT and other media fall for a hoax because it matched their ideology

September 16, 2022 • 9:20 am

I read about this incident (or rather, non-incident) the other day, but Jesse Singal, in a post on Bari Weiss’s site, tells the whole story in detail. The lesson is that when a story appeals to the ideological bias of a newspaper, even if it doesn’t check out, they sometimes print it as if were true, or at least don’t check it out especially thoroughly.  It’s especially galling when America’s premier newspaper, The New York Times, falls prey to this confirmation bias, as it did in this story.

Click to read; it’s free and short (but do subscribe if you read often):

The story is one indicting Brigham Young University (BYU) students as racists, supposedly evinced during a volleyball game against Duke University on August 26:

Last month, Rachel Richardson—the only black starter on the women’s volleyball team at Duke University—leveled a shocking accusation. She said that during her team’s August 26 match against Brigham Young University, fans inside the BYU arena in Provo, Utah inundated her with racist abuse and threats.

After the match, 19-year-old Richardson told her godmother, Lesa Pamplin, about the incident. Pamplin is a criminal defense attorney running for a county judgeship in Texas, and was not at the game—but the next day, she published a tweet that rocketed the story to national attention: “My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes [sic] volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a [n-word] every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”

The tweet is no longer available, but it racked up 185,000 likes before it was archived. LeBron James himself responded: “you tell your Goddaughter to stand tall, be proud and continue to be BLACK!!! We are a brotherhood and sisterhood!  We have her back. This is not sports.”

The story was reported widely, most prominently by the New York Times in this story by Vima Patel (click to read):

One student, said to have led the racist insults, was banned from all University athletic venues. The story then spread widely:

The national response to this heinous allegation was swift and righteous. Utah’s governor, Spencer Cox, issued a statement on Twitter (now deleted) expressing his shock and disappointment. “I’m disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it,” he wrote. “As a society we have to do more to create an atmosphere where racist a**holes like this never feel comfortable attacking others.” For its part, BYU quickly acknowledged that something horrible had happened in the fieldhouse. The day after the game, it published an apologetic statement, saying that the fan deemed responsible for shouting the epithets—who was not a BYU student—had been banned from all university athletic venues.

Unsurprisingly, major media outlets were all over this story. The Times’ coverage set the tone, with the Washington Post and CNN and Sports Illustrated and NPR all publishing similar articles, alongside the predictable think pieces. The incident also had consequences for BYU sports more generally. The head coach of women’s basketball at the University of South Carolina canceled its home opener against BYU. A match between Duke and Rider University’s women’s volleyball teams—scheduled to be played at the BYU arena—was moved to a nearby high school gym in order to provide both teams “the safest atmosphere,” according to Duke’s Director of Athletics, Nina King.

For millions of people watching this story unfold, this was yet another example of the ineradicable stain of American racism, of just how little progress we’ve really made.

Singal, whose reporting I like quite a bit, then adds the four-word kicker.

Except it didn’t happen.

Yes, this was all made up. Completely made up. There is no evidence that any slurs were emitted, that the n-word was used when Rachel Richardson was serving, that there was a cop assigned to sit by the Duke bench, and so on. And it’s not as if there weren’t potential witnesses, either: there were cameras recording the game, cellphones doing the same, and thousands of witnesses. Not a single bit of film documented the assertions, and no witnesses came forward, even with requests to do so by the cops and the newspapers.

It was either a hoax or a massive lie, however you want to characterize it. How was it discovered, then?

Not by any major paper. The Salt Lake Tribune did question whether the right student had been banned, but the whole truth came out via—you guessed it—”a conservative campus newspaper at BYU”, the Cougar Chronicle  (BYU is a Mormon school, quite conservative, and has few black students.)  Here’s their attempt to get at the truth, done the old-fashioned way: using the phone and shoe leather.

Click to read:


BYU then did its own investigation, and on September 9 issued this statement (click to read):

An except:

From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event. As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.

As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.

Yet, as often happens during these hoaxes, institutions who were deceived nevertheless must say something that affirms their virtue, so the statement adds this:

Despite being unable to find supporting evidence of racial slurs in the many recordings and interviews, we hope that all those involved will understand our sincere efforts to ensure that all student-athletes competing at BYU feel safe. As stated by Athletics Director Tom Holmoe, BYU and BYU Athletics are committed to zero-tolerance of racism, and we strive to provide a positive experience for everyone who attends our athletic events, including student-athletes, coaches and fans, where they are valued and respected.

This is typical of what happens when a campus “hate crime” is revealed as a hoax—as a substantial proportion of them are. I suggest having a look at Wilfred Reilly’s book, Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War. (Reilly, by the way, is black.) I’ve read it, and the stories he tells are dire. I can’t remember the proportion of campus hate crimes or hate “incidents” that turn out to be fake (usually perpetuated by a member of the minority group that was a victim of the fabricated “hate”), but it’s substantial.

What’s telling is what these incidents have in common after they’re revealed as hoaxes. The perpetrators are often not punished, even when they’re caught; the fact that the hate crime or incident was a hoax is not revealed to the college community (this is bad, because it perpetrates the idea that racism is prevalent on campus); these hoaxes happen everywhere, and, after the “crime” is revealed as a hoax, the schools nevertheless continue to insist that it could have been real because racism is everywhere. Finally, the colleges even put in place new antiracist initiatives—simply to show that they’re doing something, even in the face of a hoax. These colleges, like the newspapers, have a substantial ideological investment in perpetrating the idea that racism is ubiquitous.

At any rate, the New York Times also responded with a retraction (below), but also some tut-tutting about the prevalence of racism at BYU. Here’s the retraction:

And Singal’s take on the NYT’s most recent story, which still maintains that the “hate” against the black player happened as described.

By this point, between the original New York Times story and a tepid followup, a combined five reporters and researchers had been pantsed by a small student paper. If all this provoked any soul-searching on the part of the Times, it was unclear from its report on BYU’s findings.

Remarkably, their most recent story treated the events as unresolved: “B.Y.U. did not directly address why its findings contradicted the account by Richardson, and the statements by both universities left questions unanswered.” It also included a statement from Duke’s athletic director saying the university stood by the volleyball team. The story ends with a reminder that at the overwhelmingly Mormon school, less than 1 percent of students are black, and that a recent report highlighted the university’s diversity issues. It’s unclear exactly why this is relevant; the point seems to be for the Times to advertise that it understands racism is a serious problem at BYU, and that even if the school were not guilty of it this time, everyone knows the university’s soul is not entirely spotless.

The lessons are several. People were all too willing to believe a story that comported with their ideological views, especially the view racism is everywhere and “systemic”. But the press bought into it too, abjuring their traditional role in news stories to state the facts and omit anything that isn’t supported by the facts. Further, this shoddy reporting damages people, as well as the public, who are misled by biases. Singal mentions, as examples of similar hoaxes taken seriously by the public and the media without proper vetting, the Covington Catholic High School issue (three media settled with the supposedly “smirking racist” for a substantial amount of money), and the Jussie Smollett case, immediately believed as an incident of racism though Smollett’s claims were ridiculous.  And of course the fact that a “hate crime” or a “hate incident” was a hoax is never publicized as widely as the original “transgression” itself, so the public never learns the truth.

Here’s Singal’s conclusion:

. . . there’s an established pattern of journalists being far too credulous when these incidents first burst onto the scene.

It won’t take some radical revolution for journalists to better cover fast-developing, controversial incidents involving race and other hot-button issues. All they have to do is rediscover norms that are already there, embedded in journalistic tradition. The best, oldest-school newspaper editors—a truly dying breed—constantly pester cub reporters to make that one extra call, ask that one extra question, follow that one extra unlikely lead. They do this all in the service of making sure their organization prints the best, most accurate version of the news (and doesn’t get sued). They can adhere to these norms without becoming a shill for the powerful. It’s simply a matter of approaching a story with curiosity and skepticism, of not believing they are the advocate for one side in a conflict—no matter how righteous and obvious the battle lines may seem at first glance.

It’s getting so that one has to turn to Substack instead of the “MSM” to get the real news!

The lesson, then, is one that scientists have long had drilled into them. If a result tends to jibe with your innate biases—with what you want to be true—then that is the time you have to exercise the most doubt and give the results the highest scrutiny.

NPR touts CRT, and CRT embraces MLK

September 14, 2022 • 9:45 am

If you follow National Public Radio (NPR), partly funded by American taxpayers, you’ll know that it’s gone pretty woke. The latest example was called to my attention by a reader who noted a 7-minute interview between NPR host A. Martinez and Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the big doyens and architects of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Krenshaw was in fact the person who introduced the concept of “intersectionality” into CRT.

There were three things about the interview—you can either read it or listen below—that bothered the reader. First, CRT was presented as a done deal without any issues or criticism, due largely to softball questions by the interviewer. Second, the interview sounded scripted, as if the whole “discussion” had been written down and was being read. (This is a no-no in journalism, but I’m not as bothered by it as by the other two issues.) Finally, Crenshaw tries to fold Martin Luther King into CRT, presenting his views as an early version of CRT when they were nothing of the sort.

But let’s back up. Here’s what the reader sent me:

Thought you might be interested in this. I had on Morning Edition this morning and my jaw just about dropped as I washed my face and heard this. It’s like they did an infomercial for Critical Race Theory. CRT is presented as if it’s a physics formula, an absolute given that it’s 100% correct and nothing controversial, but it’s been hijacked by crazy right-wingers.

It’s mostly an interview with Kimberle Crenshaw, but this “interview” sounds as if it’s literally pre-arranged to make sure she gets to say exactly what she wants. And I do mean “literally.” Do you know how the NPR presenters will often a back-and-forth conversation with one of their correspondents, rather than having the correspondent just report their story? When they do that, it’s very irritating because it’s clear they’re following a script but pretending to have a spontaneous conversation. And that is exactly what this sounded like. I seriously think they had a pre-arranged script with Crenshaw.

I already stopped supporting NPR, so I can’t do it again unfortunately.

The reader added this caveat:

If I’m wrong and this interview was not scripted, that’s almost as bad—because the reporter did nothing but back up Crenshaw and ask leading questions to let her continue giving an infomercial for CRT, rather than asking her any of the many valid questions about the real problems with CRT. He didn’t even try the “some people say this, what do you say to them?” approach. And since Crenshaw is one of the creators of modern CRT, that is bizarre journalism.

Click to read or listen, and note that the title is a simple declarative statement of truth, which is not true when applied to Martin Luther King.

Listen for yourself.  The distortion that upset me most was the attempt of Crenshaw, as I said, to pretend that Martin Luther King, Jr. was actually a critical race theorist. Here’s the telling exchange:

MARTINEZ: You wrote an article – an op-ed actually – in the LA Times in January, and the headline is “Martin Luther King Was A Critical Race Theorist Before There Was A Name For It.” [JAC: it’s here but it’s paywalled, and I haven’t read it.] In what way, Professor?

CRENSHAW: Well, in several ways. No. 1, he was a critic of the contradiction between what America says it is, what its deepest aspirations are and what its material reality is. You know, a lot of people like to quote his March on Washington speech, particularly the part where he talks about how our aspiration is to be judged on the content of our character, not the color of our skin. That was his sort of aspirational moment. The rest of the speech was a trenchant critique of the idea that America had given African Americans a rubber check. Basically, the promises of the 13th and the 14th Amendment came back marked insufficient funds. So his entire point of that speech was to make good on the Democratic promises.

Well, I urge you to read the entire “I have a dream” speech (transcript here), paying attention to the “rest of the speech” touted by Crenshaw as expressing CRT.  As you might know, there’s been considerable agitation concerning King’s famous statement in this speech that I’ve put in bold below: his aspiration to have all people judged not by their skin color but by the content of their character. That implies that we should stop dividing, judging, and treating people differently based on race; rather, we should judge people by who they are as individuals. He’s calling for universal brotherhood.

That, of course, explicitly contravenes CRT, which makes race and racism the central organizing principle of American society, and insists that people’s views be judged taking race into account as well as  being treated differently based on their race.  King’s views have discomfited advocates of CRT, and now, as Crenshaw is doing here, they are starting to paint King (and his famous aspiration) as really being an early advocate of CRT. That’s about as wrong as you can get.

First, although the components of CRT, an academic theory, vary among analysts, we need to know its main contentions. I could have used the book Cynical Theories by Pluckrose and Lindsay, which did a very good job laying out the tenets of the theory. Although both authors are opposed to CRT, I thought their presentation of it was quite good, and presented my summary of its tenets here. (Note that the idea of race as a social construct, but one that gives members of a group a unique voice, were not embraced by King.) However, I’ll use the Wikipedia “common themes” of CRT as I suspect they’ve been vetted by advocates of the theory, so we can take them as more or less a definitive summary. Here’s the list (quotes are taken from the article).

  1. Critique of liberalism. “First and foremost to CRT legal scholars in 1993 was their ‘discontent’ with the way in which liberalism addressed race issues in the U.S. They critiqued ‘liberal jurisprudence’, including affirmative action, color-blindness, role modeling, and the merit principle. Specifically, they claimed that the liberal concept of value-neutral law contributed to maintenance of the U.S.’s racially unjust social order.”
  2. Storytelling/counterstorytelling and “naming one’s own reality”. “The use of narrative (storytelling) to illuminate and explore lived experiences of racial oppression.”
  3. Standpoint epistemology. “The view that a members of racial minority groups have a unique authority and ability to speak about racism. This is seen as undermining dominant narratives relating to racial inequality, such as legal neutrality and personal responsibility or bootstrapping, through valuable first-hand accounts of the experience of racism.”
  4. Intersectional theory. “The examination of race, sex, class, national origin, and sexual orientation, and how their intersections play out in various settings, such as how the needs of a Latina are different from those of a Black male, and whose needs are promoted.”
  5. The discussion of essentialism vs. anti-essentialism. “Scholars who write about these issues are concerned with the appropriate unit for analysis: Is the black community one, or many, communities? Do middle- and working-class African-Americans have different interests and needs? Do all oppressed peoples have something in common? This is a look at the ways that oppressed groups may share in their oppression but also have different needs and values that need to be analyzed differently. It is a question of how groups can be essentialized or are unable to be essentialized.”
  6. Structural determinism and race, class, sex, and their intersections.  “Exploration of how ‘the structure of legal thought or culture influences its content’ in a way that determines social outcomes.”
  7. The debate over cultural nationalism/separatism. “The exploration of more radical views that argue for separation and reparations as a form of foreign aid (including black nationalism).”
  8. Legal institutions, critical pedagogy, and minorities in the bar. “. . . differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society by race. Institutionalized racism is normative, sometimes legalized and often manifests as inherited disadvantage. It is structural, having been absorbed into our institutions of custom, practice, and law, so there need not be an identifiable offender. Indeed, institutionalized racism is often evident as inaction in the face of need, manifesting itself both in material conditions and in access to power.”
  9. Black/white binary. “The black-white binary is a paradigm identified by legal scholars through which racial issues and histories are typically articulated within a racial binary between Black and white Americans. The binary largely governs how race has been portrayed and addressed throughout U.S. history.”

Now read King’s speech from the 1963 March On Washington, delivered August 28 at the Lincoln Memorial. I’ve put below not only the words following his famous quote, but do read what goes before as well. It’s these statements that Crenshaw say make Martin Luther King an early advocate of CRT. Emphasis is mine:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,  From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

Those are of course stirring words, but, either before or after the quote in bold, I find very little that corresponds to CRT. Crenshaw tries mightily to drag King into the CRT corral, but what his entire speech consists of is a passionate advocacy of equality—combined with the palpable fact that the founding fathers and people like Abraham Lincoln declared all “men” equal, but that this promise had not been met. There is nothing about intersectionality, standpoint theory, “lived experience,” a critique of liberalism, and so on. What we see is the delineation of a persistent, vicious, and hurtful racism that violates America’s own principles, and a call for brotherhood: for equality, not for separation. And, of course, his famous line underscores that.

If you want to say that those sentiments make King a CRT advocate, then you’re really throwing overboard the tenets of CRT and just asserting that it’s about racism per se and a striving for brotherhood and equality. But that’s not what CRT is about. Other King writings I’ve read and speeches I’ve heard (see a famous example here) don’t materially differ in what they call for, nor bring King closer in philosophy to modern CRT. The only similarity between King and, say, Ibram Kendi, is their emphasis on racism and how to rectify it. But how they portray racism, and the methods they espouse for eliminating it, are completely different. I won’t dwell on this: if you know your Kendi or DiAngelo, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Antiracists, disturbed by King’s words and especially the bold line above—which in fact accurately expresses his views—have either ignored the disparity with CRT, or, lately, tried to pretend that King and Kendi are two peas in a pod. But over the years I’ve also seen mentions of King diminish, though I expected the opposite during the “racial reckoning.” That’s because his views don’t really jibe with modern ones based on CRT. My correspondent also noticed this:

Yes, the whole thing of claiming MLK was espousing CRT started this past year, and there were at least a couple of very good articles explaining how completely wrong, and knowingly wrong, that is. I didn’t bookmark them or anything but I’m sure you can find by googling if you want to. Before, CRT was trying to play down or erase MLK, and this is their attempt to instead claim he’s one of them. But I was just reading that the California ethnic studies curriculum—I believe it was California—literally doesn’t include him, since until recently, it was easier to ignore him since MLK completely conflicts with CRT. Note no pushback from the interviewer even though this was a well known issue only a little earlier this year.

I found just one of those articles, by Coleman Hughes, and a discussion article here. I also looked at the latest draft of the California ethnic studies curriculum and found a handful of mentions of King as well as of CRT. (Update: there’s more on his relative neglect here, and here.) But King is perhaps the most eloquent and effective African-American of our time with respect to civil rights—a man whose powers helped bring the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts into being. He deserves a much bigger portion of the curriculum. Oh, and he wasn’t an early exponent of CRT.

As for NPR, well, let’s just say that once again their programming is ideologically slanted, and this time in a misleading way.


I’ll finish with a quote from the Coleman Hughes piece (it was written when he was an undergraduate):

With regard to the role that racial identity should play in politics, King was unequivocal: First and foremost we are human beings, not members of races. The verbal tic of modern racial-justice activists—“As a black man . . .”—would sound foreign on his lips. Even when fighting explicitly racist policies, he deployed universal principles rather than a tribal grievance narrative.

“The problem is not a purely racial one, with Negroes set against whites,” King writes of the civil-rights movement in his 1958 essay “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression.” He adds that “nonviolent resistance is not aimed against oppressors but against oppression. Under its banner consciences, not racial groups, are enlisted.”

. . . If we use the adjective “radical” to describe King, then we should follow it with the right nouns. King was a radical Christian, as demonstrated by his commitment to loving his enemies no matter how much they hated him. He was a radical truth-teller, whether that meant telling white moderates that blacks wouldn’t wait any longer to be granted full rights, or telling blacks not to make oppression an excuse for failure. Most important, he was a radical advocate, not on behalf of any subdivision of our species, but on behalf of humanity as a whole.