When ‘diversity training’ is all about feeding racism

Last month, the city of Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights sent an e-mail inviting “white city employees” to attend a training session on “Interrupting Internalized Racial Superiority and Whiteness,” a program designed to help white workers examine their “complicity in . . . white supremacy” and “interrupt racism in ways that are accountable to black, indigenous and people of color.” Hoping to learn more, I submitted a public-records request for all documentation related to the training.

The results are disturbing.

At the start, the trainers explain that white people have internalized a sense of racial superiority, which has made them unable to access their “humanity” and caused “harm and violence” to minorities. The trainers claim that “individualism,” “perfectionism,” “intellectualization” and “objectivity” are all vestiges of this internalized racism and must be abandoned in favor of social-justice principles.

The city frames the discussion around the idea that black Americans are reducible to the essential quality of “blackness” and white Americans are reducible to “whiteness” — that is, the new metaphysics of good and evil.

Once the diversity trainers have established this basic conceptual framework, they encourage white employees to “practice self-talk that affirms [their] complicity in racism” and work on “undoing [their] own whiteness.” As part of this process, white employees must abandon their “white-normative behavior” and learn to let go of their “comfort,” “physical safety,” “social status” and “relationships with some other white people.”

As writer James Lindsay has pointed out, this isn’t the language of human resources; it is the language of cult programming — persuading members that they are defective in some predefined manner, exploiting their vulnerabilities and isolating them from previous relationships.

This “interrupting-whiteness” training is not an anomaly. In ­recent years, nearly every department of Seattle city government has been recruited into the ideological struggle against “white ­supremacy.” As I have documented in these pages, the city’s homelessness agency hosted a conference on how to “decolonize [its] collective work”; the school system released a curriculum explaining that “math is a tool for oppression”; and the city-owned power company hired a team of bureaucrats to root out “structural racism” in their organization.

Dozens of private firms now ­offer diversity training to public agencies. The idea is that all whites have unconscious, “implicit” bias that they must vigilantly program themselves to overcome, and it has become an article of faith across corporate boardrooms, academe and law enforcement, even though the premise is unscientific and ­impossible to verify.

The endgame is to make Seattle’s municipal government the arbiter of the new orthodoxy, and then work outward. At the end of the session on “internalized racial ­superiority,” the diversity trainers outline strategies for converting outsiders and recommend specific “practices for interrupting others’ whiteness.”

In effect, the activists have organized an ideological pyramid scheme — using taxpayer dollars to establish their authority within government, then using that authority to recruit others. As Lindsay writes, “the goal is no longer to indoctrinate on what is ‘right-think’ and ‘wrong-think.’ It is to make the [subject’s] thinking be completely in line with the view of the world described by the cult.”

How far can this racial-justice shakedown extend itself? The new racial orthodoxy has seen exponential growth in the past few years and has proved extremely difficult for local governments and elite institutions to resist. The movement’s key rhetorical premise is designed as a trap: If you are not an “anti-racist,” then you are a “racist” — and must be held to account.

Skeptics might dismiss ­Seattle’s “interrupting-whiteness” training as a West Coast oddity, but it is part of a nationwide movement to make this kind of identity politics the foundation of our public discourse. It may be coming soon to a city or employer near you.

Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal, from which this column was adapted. Twitter: @RealChrisRufo

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