Those BLM Signs Are Here to Stay
(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Those BLM Signs Are Here to Stay
(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Can you ever remove a Black Lives Matter poster?

White wokesters across the fruited plain will be agonizing over that social justice riddle tomorrow as they pull up their political yard signs. One way or another Biden 2020 will be over – but “systemic racism” is forever.

Dumping the raised fist they’ve proudly displayed these past months would suggest it was just an allyship of convenience, a paleface effort to exploit BLM to win an election. I think the sign has to stay, Karen.

The permanent BLM yard sign is a symbol of the most significant outcome of this election: The Democratic Party’s embrace of a zero-sum, Darwinian view of America that commits its powerbrokers – who comprise much of the corporate and intellectual elite that runs the country – to grouping citizens into oppressors and the oppressed, and tackling the problem with a new vocabulary and social programs to match.

This mindset -- encapsulated by the New York Times 1619 project, which recast American history through the lens of racial oppression and the implicit urgency of reparation payments -- is a direct repudiation of the vision Barack Obama rode to power on in his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention. In that address, he proclaimed, “There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America.”

Since then, the ascendant left that now dominates Obama’s political party has not only mainstreamed radical ideas such as critical race theory that were considered beyond the pale just a few years ago, but entrenched them in American society.

Like BLM signs, once obscure academic terms such as “white privilege” and “unconscious bias” and “disparate impact” and “intersectionality” and “whiteness” have become common. They will tether our politics to race for years to come, as the prime instruments for their dissemination – mandatory diversity education and anti-bias initiatives – become formalized.  

When I was coming up the ranks in the 1990s, diversity training was just becoming fashionable. My colleagues and I were required to sit in rooms with outside consultants who would urge us to discuss our personal experiences and feelings regarding race. But that was long before the accepted dogma that rejecting identity politics is “white fragility,” and that colorblindness is a favored technique of white supremacists.

Over time, these arrangements have been institutionalized and radicalized. Freelance trainers have been supplemented and replaced by in-house employees whose jobs revolve around race. In 2010, fewer than 500 companies had positions which included diversity and inclusion in their titles. Today, the number stands at more than 2,000. This trend has accelerated since 2015. The Wall Street Journal reported in July that studies show “roughly half of S&P 500 companies employ a chief diversity officer,” and that “a 2019 study by Russell Reynolds found that 63% of diversity chiefs in the S&P 500 had been appointed or promoted to their roles within the past three years.” reports that “between September 2019 and September 2020 … job postings in diversity, inclusion and belonging have risen 56.3% … [and] after the U.S. economy declined in Spring 2020, the DI&B [Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging] industry recovered quickly, with job postings rising by an astonishing 123% between May and September.”

This Diversity Industrial Complex thrives in its natural habitat: academia. A 2018 working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research of schools with more than 4,000 students found that while less than 10% had chief diversity officers in 2001, by 2016 the number was nearly 70%. The Daily Caller reports that 98% of the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News & World Report rankings now have “an office, center, or administrator dedicated to diversity, equity or inclusion.”

These efforts are also spreading to public and private schools, where ethnic studies curricula – which teaches that "whiteness” is the root of all evil and that K-12 students should be trained in social activism – are becoming popular.

Diversity and opening opportunities to all Americans are worthy goals. If these programs achieved that purpose, they would be laudable. But a wide range of studies, many of which are highlighted in the Harvard Business Review’s seminal 2016 article “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” indicate that they have barely moved the needle on making hiring practices more inclusive, while stoking resentment.

After decades of diversity efforts, the Wall Street Journal reported in September that, “Out of the chief executives running America’s top 500 companies, just 1%, or four, are Black. The numbers aren’t much better on the rungs of the ladder leading to that role. Among all U.S. companies with 100 or more employees, Black people hold just 3% of executive or senior-level roles, according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data.”

This certainly points to a problem. But to assert that it is fueled by racism requires one to argue that the woke leaders of America’s top companies and schools are closet white supremacists. One of the ironies of our moment is that the people Democrats routinely highlight as the instruments of discrimination – white, working-class Trump voters – have little real power to advance systemic oppression compared with their own supporters.

White liberals have demonstrated an amazing capacity for self-flagellation in recent years, but do they honestly believe their “implicit bias” and “unconscious bias” explain the diversity industry’s failures? And if the diversity gurus know how to fix the problem, why hasn’t it taken hold among wokesters who hire them?

Like a therapist whose patient isn’t improving, leftists argue their subjects are resisting the treatment because of “white fragility” and structural power imbalances. Meanwhile, the plea from African American conservatives and traditionalists that that solution is to be found in two-parent households and the Protestant work ethic is drowned out by cries that even thinking this way is proof of “oppression.”

But we are also seeing cracks in this façade, especially in schools. In a tacit acknowledgement that they have failed to raise many students to the level where they can thrive, activists are now working to erase the problem by delegitimizing measures of achievement. The Board of Regents of the University of California recently scrapped the SAT.  New York City and San Francisco are among the cities that may remove merit-based admission standards for their elite public schools.

This is the ideology of defeat, the trap of permanent signage and endless sloganeering. From their permanent positions of power – it is even harder to shutter an office of diversity than to remove a BLM sign – left-wing activists will continue to push ideas that are as divisive as they are ineffective.

J. Peder Zane is an editor for RealClearInvestigations and a columnist for RealClearPolitics.

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