Thursday, June 24, 2021
June 24, 2021

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Allen: Voters reject divisive plan

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Southlake, Texas, is not the most unlikely place for a showdown over critical race theory.

The Dallas-Fort Worth suburb is a red city, but its surrounding county went blue in the last presidential election (for the first time in more than 50 years) and its demographics are dramatically shifting as coastal Democrats flock to Texas. Progressive ideologies about race and culture are starting to close in.

Southlake’s demographics, wealthy, well-educated and white, also are typical of enclaves where things like critical race theory and its more innocuous aliases are ascendant.

But such theories met resistance in the May 1 nonpartisan municipal elections, in which two school board candidates who opposed a proposed “cultural competence action plan” for the district trounced two who supported it, by a margin greater than that which separated Donald Trump and Joe Biden in November.

That suggests these candidates and their respective ideologies weren’t solely defeated by a bunch of pro-Trumpers on purely partisan lines, but by a broader coalition of voters who perceive real harm in the unrelenting effort to frame everything, in all circumstances, through the lens of race.

Carroll ISD’s action plan was the district’s response to incidents in 2018 and 2019 in which students used a racial slur in videos posted to social media. Neither of the videos occurred on campus; both appear to show groups of clueless students doing what adolescents do — acting foolish, albeit not malicious.

But outraged parents demanded the school district, not parents of the offending teenagers or the students themselves, make reparation.

The plan laid out a series of objectives and ways to achieve them, including mandatory “cultural sensitivity training” for students and staff, evaluating instructors on their “cultural competence,” student-led bias self-assessments, and the creation of a database “to document microaggressions and discriminatory behaviors in the discipline offense history for students.”

Some observers may see these policies as harmless and necessary.

Bigotry, whether subtle or blatant, intentional or unwitting, is wrong, and raising awareness about the damage it can incur and the ways it can be confronted can transform individual behavior.

We’ve seen how “diversity and inclusion” training has played out in other environments and how the ethos of “white privilege,” white shame and “white fragility” animates such teaching. It’s reasonable to worry that this kind of plan would have a divisive, damaging and ultimately racist effect on children (including Black students), teachers and the community.

That’s one of the arguments against typical diversity and cultural sensitivity programs made by Black intellectuals such as Coleman Hughes. In a recent webcast, he described how “the sense of being spoken for” leaves him “frustrated as a Black person because of the assumption that I would agree with everything that’s being taught to me by these so-called diversity experts.”

Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter has written extensively about how the victimhood mentality embodied by cultural sensitivity and critical race theory policies, particularly in schools, is condescending paternalism that robs Black people of their agency.

And Chloe Valdary frequently argues that the kind of racial essentialism manifested in critical race theory destroys our humanity. She is the founder of a diversity, equity and inclusion training program, Theory of Enchantment, focused on instilling empathy, pursuing individual and community potential, and developing character. Its first principal is to “treat people like human beings, not political abstractions.”

To the extent that communities like Southlake would benefit from cultural sensitivity training, Valdary’s brand sounds a lot more promising.

Voters resoundingly rejected a plan that would further divide them by race. Perhaps they’d come out in similar numbers to support one that would help them transcend it.

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