A teacher lectures the class. (Photo credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)
In their new curriculum, the Buffalo Public Schools claim that “all white people” perpetuate systemic racism. The curriculum makes kindergarteners watch a disturbing video of dead black children, warning them about the danger of being killed by “racist police and state-sanctioned violence.” The school district’s diversity czar, who developed this new “antiracism” curriculum, tells teachers they must become “woke” and achieve “critical consciousness,” a Marxist concept.
In a presentation, diversity czar Fatima Morell claimed that America “is built on racism” and that “America’s sickness” leads whites to believe that black people are “not human,” which makes it “easier to shoot [them] in the back seven times if you feel like it.” The school district’s mandatory Black Lives Matter curriculum requires schools to commit to “dismantling cisgender privilege,” creating “queer-affirming network[s],” and “the disruption of Western nuclear family dynamics.”
Bufffalo’s new lesson plans are racially divisive and inflammatory. As Chris Rufo notes in the New York Post, “In kindergarten, teachers ask students to compare their skin color with an arrangement of crayons and watch a video that dramatizes dead black children speaking to them from beyond the grave about the dangers of being killed by ‘racist police and state-sanctioned violence.’ By fifth grade, students are taught that America has created a ‘school-to-grave pipeline’ for black children.”
In middle school, students are told that “all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism” and that “white elites work to perpetuate racism through politics, law, education, and the media.” Whites derive their wealth from slavery and are “unfairly rich,” Buffalo claims.
In high school, students must begin “confronting whiteness in [their] classrooms,” with teachers asking white students to atone for their “white privilege” and to “use their voices” to eliminate it. The lesson plan includes false history, about the supposed difference between white and African systems of justice. It claims whites created a “retributive,” harsh, “merit-based” justice system, while traditional Africans relied on “restorative” justice focused on healing. (In reality, traditional African justice was often brutal: vast numbers of people in Africa “were enslaved for petty debts or minor criminal or religious offenses,” while countless others were executed).
Buffalo’s repeated depiction of all white people as racist could create a racially hostile environment for the white teachers forced to peddle this hateful message, and the white students subjected to it. That would violate laws against racial harassment, such as Title VII, and the New York Human Rights Law.
Federal civil-rights laws do not agree with Buffalo that all whites are racist. Quite the contrary, courts have ruled that “baseless accusations of racism” made against employees because they are white, can be illegal racial harassment. (See Underwood v. Northport Health Services (1989)).
“White privilege” theorists often claim that only whites can be racist. But the courts reject that claim, and say that blacks can be racist, too. They let whites sue over racial harassment by blacks. (See Huckabay v. Moore (1998); Bowen v. Missouri (2002)).
Forcing kindergartners to look at dead black children could be scary and traumatizing for them. It’s wrong for Buffalo to suggest that police routinely kill black children. In 2019, 9 unarmed black people were shot and killed by police, compared with 19 whites, in a country of over 330 million people. Police seldom kill young children. Race is not a significant factor in police shootings, according to a black economist at Harvard.
Nor are blacks in special danger from whites. As a black attorney noted in the National Review, “blacks aren’t being ‘hunted’ by whites.” Indeed, “‘Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed 85.5 percent of all black-white interracial violent victimizations…That works out to 540,360 felonious assaults on whites. Whites committed 14.4 percent of all interracial violent victimizations.'”
Buffalo is wrong to say whites derive their wealth from slavery. They don’t. Most wealth is not inherited, and most of the wealth gap between whites and blacks is not due to differences in inherited wealth. Nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, and few trace their origins to the time of slavery. People often spend their wealth, rather than leaving it to their kids.
Slavery does not keep black people poor. African immigrants to America, especially those from Nigeria, actually out-earn whites — even though they, too, have a legacy of enslavement. Slavery wasn’t abolished in parts of Nigeria until 1936 — long after it ended in the United States. Moreover, forced labor persisted in Africa well into the twentieth century. Yet, African immigrants have no trouble succeeding in our country, where people of all races have an opportunity to succeed. Asians, too have higher incomes than whites in America, on average. That shows America is not racist against non-whites.
There is a simple “roadmap out of poverty” that works for people of any race, according to the black economist Walter Williams: “Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits.”
Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department.
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