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I intend to share this with the people teaching my kids, along with my neighbors, friends and church members, here in our affluent, woke, educated, solid blue-state community, where everyone has a BLM sign on the property, but their kids won't play with the poor kids on the other side of town. This is the crucial passage I want them to hear:

"It seems to me that progressive elites, despite their pieties, don’t really want to live in a more equal society. They prefer the imperfect meritocracy we live under—the rule of the smart, the talented and the rich, most of whom traffic in the fiction that their status was earned.

Still, progressives see themselves as compassionate. What they needed was a way to explain the inequality found in the meritocratic system they hold dear, a way that made them feel they were still on the side of the good without having to disrupt what is good for them."

(And by the way, Harry and Meghan, you two need to hear it as well.)

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I think this passage applies to the neo-liberal left far more than it does to the actual left. All of these articles that Persuasion publishes pushing back against wokeness (and there are so many of them that it makes me wonder if this magazine has any other intellectual curiosity), seem to group the neo-libs in with actual socialists, communists, marxists, etc. They never make distinctions between Black Marxism and Marxism as a class analysis. The actual leftists I’ve encountered - Michael Brooks, Adolph Reed, Ben Burgis, Noam Chomsky, etc. - reject wokeness, but they get no attention from Persuasion or other critics of wokeness.

To add to that, conflating BLM with CRT is disingenuous. BLM is a movement to radically reform, or in some people’s opinion abolish, policing in this country. These actual policy proposal seems to get completely ignored in conversations like these. Your neighbors who have BLM signs in their yard probably do so because they actually want police to stop murdering black people, and BLM is the ONLY movement who is addressing that problem. Could they do more and support politicians who support these policy proposals? Probably yes. But articles like this, and others on persuasion, never seem to acknowledge that BLM and CRT are two different things and can co-exist without destroying American ideals like freedom, equality and democracy.

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Tim, some of your criticism is legit, but as someone who reads Persuasion often they take on many subjects. Probably only 20% of their catalog is about woke topics. And I think the publishers understand quite well the toll of inequality. They are filling a rare role of taking on these issues as opposed to the big media outlets and so perhaps they devote more time to them because no one else is really. Take a look!

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HI Tim, Are you familiar with database in Washington Post of police shootings of unarmed people, including black people? Make an estimate of number shot, then take a look.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/

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Where does this list the shooting of unarmed people? It appears to be fatal police shootings, period. There is a linked article that does cover that data (2015 through 2018): https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/fatal-police-shootings-of-unarmed-people-have-significantly-declined-experts-say/2018/05/03/d5eab374-4349-11e8-8569-26fda6b404c7_story.html

The relevant bit:

"The ongoing Post project has found that police have shot and killed 3,309 people since 2015, or more than twice as many fatal shootings per year as the average reported by the FBI. Of those killed, 231, or 7 percent, were not armed with guns, knives or other objects that could be used as weapons at the time of the shootings, according to the data.

A review of the shootings of unarmed people shows that officers were reported to be under physical attack in about 40 percent of the cases. The remaining 60 percent involved a variety of circumstances, including individuals’ making provocative movements or verbal threats (31 percent) or fleeing, or being shot unintentionally or in undetermined circumstances, according to a review of news reports and video of the incidents. The news accounts cited in the Post database are typically summaries based on information provided by police at the time of each event."

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Go to the part called "Search the Database" toward the bottom and there are filters.

For example, I see that in 2020, 39 unarmed men and 4 women were shot and killed by the police. Of these, 17 listed as black, 16 White, 5 Hispanic. No specific Asians. Several not classified.

6,129 fatally shot in total in 2020. So, under 1% unarmed.

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I wasn’t aware of that, thanks for the resource.

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BTW, there is another database which is more comprehensive than only shootings...includes other methods. I can't seem to google right search string, so maybe another reader is familiar with it.

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Dear Ms. Ungar-Sargon, thank you for writing this. I am a 65 year-old gay male and have read significant excerpts, and reviews, from "White Fragility".

And from those excerpts it became quickly clear to me that "White Fragility" is in so many ways a racialized version of gay conversion therapy/psychology's pathologizing of homosexuals: the methodology, the pedagogy, the accusations, the shaming. And especially, the intratextuality. So let give you a specific example.

You will recall that to question white fragility as a concept and book's precept is to be the dreaded "fragile". BTW, so what if you are fragile?

And how did the field of psychology justify in part its diagnosis of homosexuality as illness? Well, a big one was from interviews/treatment of homosexuals.....who were drawn from clinical practice. And wouldn't that make that population suspect? I remember reading that in fact, according to many, drawing from that clinical population painted a healthier picture of homosexuals than the non-clinical population. Why?

Because it postulated that the ones in therapy had the moral probity and presence of mind to understand their depravity, hence "healthier". The ones that felt it was ok to be gay? Those were the real sick ones.

In other words, a non-falsifiable proposition bathed in recursiveness. Precisely the type of claim implicit in DiAngelo's notion of fragility.

I will stop there, but could keep going.

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Thank you for the insight, dd, connecting conversion therapy to the white fragility type of "diversity" training. It seems very apt, and powerful, and I will be thinking about this one some more.

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founding

Fantastic article. I appreciate your connecting for me Hegelian dialectics and the post modernists. I think the only thing I might disagree with is that CRT is an “ideology for affluent progressive whites who want nothing to change—but who still want to feel like the heroes of a story about social justice.” I agree that this may have been the original impetus, but I believe that forced conformity through fear has now taken over. It’s that FEAR (of being cut down, cancelled, life ruined) that I believe needs to be addressed - along with the hollowness and regressive nature of CRT.

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Thank you for your attempted magnanimity toward Israel, but the "occupation" isn't a "disastrous injustice"; it's not even much of an occupation. It's mostly a set of policies that keep the murder of Israelis to a minimum.

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Yesterday I read an article about Israeli snipers opening up about the hundreds of Palestinian protesters they’ve shot. People like to call it anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli government’s apartheid state and downplay it, as you have, as self defense. The author of this article says that casual anti-Semitism is commonplace on the left these days, but all I see are legitimate criticisms of a government, who purports to be the only true democracy in the Middle East, committing human rights violations and war crimes. I’ve been to Israel and absolutely love it and recognize how important it is that it exists, but I reject the idea that it’s anti-Semitic to publicly criticize them for their actions. Some say the anti-Semitism lies in the left’s focus on the Israeli government’s human rights violations as oppose to those of other, even more oppressive governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. but, again, I have yet to find someone who doesn’t criticize all oppressive regimes. The fact that America provides massive amounts of funding to Israel is a legitimate reason for American leftists to speak out against their human rights violations, and to call it anti-Semitism is disingenuous.

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Tim, although I can't have been everywhere at all times, and it's fair to assume that Israeli soldiers -- like every other group of people -- have committed crimes, I don't believe the claim you reference from the article. It makes no sense based on the numbers of Palestinians actually shot; it makes no sense based on the severity with which the military legal establishment, not to mention the civilian courts, treat the use of deadly force; it makes no sense based on what I know firsthand of Israeli society.

If you like, you can watch a whole documentary, "Jenin, Jenin", about Israeli atrocities against Palestinian civilians during the Second Intifada. It's quite damning, but fortunately, it turns out to be fiction -- to the extent that the Israeli Supreme Court, which is widely know to lean left politically, recently determined it was libel.

I don't care much about anti-semitism and made no claims about that, but in defense of the author, she wasn't claiming that criticizing Israeli behavior is anti-semitic. In fact, she didn't mention anti-semitism. She said that Israel's immoral treatment of the Palestinians shouldn't be construed as defining Israel any more than slavery in American should be construed as defining America. I merely pointed out that she's wrong about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Oh, and I agree with you that there's no point in comparing Israel to the Arab states (I wrote about that here: https://medium.com/@michaelberkowitz/half-a-double-standard-b08787ff6fed), but that's a straw-man. Serious people who see anti-semitism in the criticism of Israel see it when that criticism turns to saying Israel should be wiped off the map, or that Israeli civilians are fair game... things like that. The problem with the rest of the criticism isn't that it's anti-semitic, just that it's wrong.

But as I said, I'm not much interested in determining whether something is-or-isn't anti-semitism; I mention it only because you brought it up.

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Ok well here’s a link to the article, the sources for the claim as are the snipers themselves:

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.HIGHLIGHT.MAGAZINE-42-knees-in-one-day-israeli-snipers-open-up-about-shooting-gaza-protesters-1.8632555

As for why I mentioned anti-semitism, I was responding to the author’s claim that, “Maybe you notice certain avatars for the social-justice left have a penchant for casting troubling aspersions at Jews” and I haven’t found that in my experience, but I have found lots of what I referred to, which is a conflation of criticism of the IDF with anti-Semitism.

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Powerful article, but I have personally experienced that conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The anti-Semitism of the left academic gentry is chilling. The very mention of the word "Israel" is avoided unless it is to be critical.

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Thanks for the link. Unfortunately it's paywalled, but I assume it's of a piece with the general "Breaking the Silence" output. In case you're not familiar with it, that's a group of ex-IDF soldiers who travel the world telling people how immoral the IDF is. I don't expend much energy trying to figure out why someone would do that, but it's worth pointing out that Israel has vigorous mechanisms for prosecuting crimes like the ones claimed by BTS, but BTS refuses -- on principle, though I haven't understood *what* principle -- to report their allegations to the authorities.

As for the author, I hadn't remembered the line about the SJWs and their penchant; I don't have any personal experience with it either, but then I don't spend much time in those circles. The offhand bigotry against Jews from that quarter is well documented, but that doesn't mean any given individual is likely to have experienced it. I don't think I've ever heard a white person hurl an epithet at a black one, but I find it very plausible that it happens. In any case, that line didn't say anything about Israel.

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Actually, these snipers aren’t repenting for their actions or expressing any regret whatsoever. Try opening the link in incognito mode and reading it.

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Thanks, but I'm afraid Haaretz is a little too clever for that. :)

I don't think I'll guess at the contents again, as that didn't work out terribly well last time. Haaretz's editorial line is basically Israel-as-imagined-by-Edward-Said, or worse. Or, if one has sufficient perspective to see the humor in it, it's like the peasant in "Holy Grail" calling "See the violence inherent in the system!" (https://youtu.be/t2c-X8HiBng?t=174)

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This is the most cogent article I have read yet on the behavior of this new burgeoning Ivy League Gentry class. Theirs is not false consciousness, it is Mrs Jellyby consciousness, and like Mrs Jellyby in Bleak House, whose children go unfed while she sends money to Africans she neither knows nor understands, the new Jellyby's, like Ms DiAngello, are motivated by that same sort of narcissism. They are the new landowners and we are the commoners, and like the gentry of 12th century England, they too are fundamentally anti-semitic. Like all the gentry classes of history only they, the new Ivy League Gentry, are allowed to own the intellectual landscape, not, God forbid, Jews and commoners. The narcissism of the graduate school students passes for some once they receive their degrees; for others it does not. It is fed by the terrifying self doubt that perhaps they have been duped by their gods of postmodernism. So in Freudian terms, they engage in the Great White Reaction Formation: Critical Race Theory. It is perfect; it allows anti-semitic hatred and self assuagement and the indubitable divine right of ownership of the intellectual landscape, all at once.

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Though an excellent and welcome description of the intellectual background of CRT, I don't find the analysis of why whites adopt it particularly compelling. In any case, psychologizing is beside the point. Systemic racism. That's the point. Are they right about its prevelance and effects? If so, they might be excused for not caring about basic civilities in the pursuit of justice. However, they are not right. They have completely distorted cause and effect in our complex reality and their solutions, such as they are, will not work. I just read Heather McGhee's The Sum of Us, in a last ditch efforrt to see if I was missing something. I wasn't. It is a pathetic, poorly reasoned re-tread of progressive ideas that failed a half century ago. She dresses up her "ideas" in CRT jargon, but essentially the book could have been written by any New Deal progressive of the last 75 years. She seems truly oblivious of the manifest failures of this ideology and the voluminous critique of it. She's now reached the Elect status John McWhorter talks about, where critique is not allowed in mainstream media. That's what needs to be corrected. It doesn't matter why The Woken do what they do. They're wrong and worse than wrong. They're incompetent to address the actual problems. They will, in fact, make them worse by alienating a voting majority.

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Thank you for another great article on Persuasion. I send my kids to public schools in an urban area in the South and watch in bewilderment as my friends who send their kids to private schools scream the loudest about BLM on social media. These articles on Persuasion make the world just a little bit more sane to me.

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Those who are actively engaged in the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work are as diverse as the issues they are trying to address. You attempt to homogenous their thinking to identify some of the downsides of some of the work is as unfortunate as claiming that all Jews are Zionists. Since I agree with your suggestions that some of the language within the EDI conversations is another form of racism, I want to address two inaccuracies in some of your statements.

The first is that your globalization of "anti-rascism" elevates group membership as the defining aspect of one's being completely represents the work of Ibrahim Kendi who is one of the leading voices among those who are promoting become "anti-racist" as a good thing. I am actually surprised that so many in the EDI world are promoting his work. As you argue, many in the EDI world are what can be called essentialist (e.g., because you are white, this is what you believe and do, because you are a women, this is what you believe and can do). Being racist, or sexist, and being an essentialist are closely aligned intellectual and practical position. Kendi is asking us to understand that one's race should not define who and what one is. To assume that a black person holds all the characteristics of black people is racist and that is how we organize the world. In short, there is a diversity of perspective that you are ignoring to make your point. You also collapse a lot of ideas (anti-racist, EDI, social justice) in a single group which is unfortunate.

Second, your definition of critical race theory is inaccurate. Yes, some of the thinking is rooted in social critical theory (which is grounded in Marxist thought). CRT actually took root in Law Schools where the attempt was to understand how the theory and practice of law needed to be grounded in social context and that, in America, that demand developing an explicit theory of how the law is grounded in how race is managed in our social contracts. It is a great question and leads to interesting answers.

Finally, I am not sure where you get the idea that 1619 Project is grounded in critical race theory rather than an argument that we would be well served knowing the history of race in America. Kendi makes the argument that, in America, race and capitalism are conjoint twins and to undertand who we are , we must understand that relationship. I respect the argument over when American history starts ( you suggest it is 1776, why not when the Mayflower landed?). Dismissing others arguments because of your inaccurate description of their theory does not represent the best of liberal elements of a good debate, from where I sit.

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Critical Race Theory has its roots in Critical Theory, which came out of the Frankfurt School in the 1920's and does indeed lean on Hegel, Marx, Foucault and Derrida. When correcting people you have to be right.

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The best I’ve read on this subject

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“The basis for today’s social-justice movement is a deep skepticism about liberal values like equality, justice and democracy.”

I believe this is a strawman. The social justice movement looks to understand how these values manifest in society, its institutions, and in individuals; and looks to take notice of hidden ways the ideals may be boxed in.

I’m curious if people who criticize 1619 Project and the corresponding Pulitzer curriculum have actually looked at the curriculum? Do they understand how teachers or school districts use it? I’ve attended webinars where teachers share how they use it. It’s exciting and interesting, not scary. I have never seen any of the Pulitzer curriculum (which is quite limited - it currently comprises lists of terms and discussion/writing prompts) specifically critiqued. I get the feeling that as a parent, I know more about it than the publishing critics do. I see little indication that these curriculum critiques are anything more than shallow forays into understanding how teachers are using the information.

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Hi Tiffany: I'm afraid that Batya Ungar-Sargon is right about the "deep skepticism." If anything, "deep skepticism about liberal values" understates the opposition of those who produce these doctrines in the academy. However, it makes sense that not all those who adopt dimensions of these beliefs in other domains of social, political, and economic life understand them in the same terms. After all, most of us are attached to ideals of equality, justice, and democracy, so many citizens are likely to interpret social justice through the lens of those ideals. But that translation of ideals neither exhausts the uses of the ideology nor testifies to the intentions and aspirations of those who produce it.

You note applications of the 1619 Project in (I'm assuming) K-12 instruction as examples that vindicate the social justice ideology the author is criticizing. So I imagine a hypothetical. Let's say that we ignore the many critics of the Project who are in favor of increasing equality, justice and democracy but find the Project itself to be profoundly historically flawed. Children are educated using the 1619 Project and other tools and come away from the instruction with a worldview that confirms the value of liberal democratic ideals while analyzing the many flaws in our liberal democracy and pointing the way to reform. These children go to college. I know what happens next because now they're in the domain of those Ungar-Sargon is writing about: the intellectuals who produce and uphold the ideology. Scorn is poured on their naivety by peers and professors alike, and they probably reorient themselves quickly to the prevailing ideology. They become apostles and atone for their embarrassing liberalism by harassing others in woke mobs--the more anonymous the better.

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I think there is a difference between being skeptical about liberal values vs. being skeptical about how our institutions do - or do not - embody liberal values. I've attended public talks with scholars who are probably considered critical race theorists. I do them the kindness of accepting them on their own terms. By their own words, they show a deep commitment to liberal values and a desire to see them made real. They are so committed to them, they want to understand the values not in a vacuum, but in our real world those values inhabit.

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I would be deeply suspicious of anyone who claims that our society needs their help in making our liberal values 'made real.'

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Would you like to say more? I have a guess what you might mean, but it’s only a guess.

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Just last week there was a NYT article referenced on Persuasion where Professor Peralta at Princeton said he didn't believe in free speech as an 'end goal' or something similar. His end goal isn't free speech and liberal values, it's a better outcome for what he sees as historically disadvantage groups (as this article lays out). As an extreme example, let's say part of that end goal was criminalizing micro-aggressions against disadvantaged groups. Would you expect them to describe that as being "less free speech" or "more freedom from microaggressions"? I'm sure they are intelligent people who know how to co-opt language around liberal values while proposing the exact opposite. Our country is a shining beacon of liberal values, through which we've steadily improved the lives of collective millions of people over 230 years. We don't need an overhaul from the Peraltas of the world.

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My guess was way off ;)

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I appreciate this comment, about taking people at face value. Unfortunately, all this means is that they are good-faith actors, not that they are right or understand the full implication of their views. I work in the documentary field and I'm very sure that most of the left have no idea what they are actually talking about anymore. When I recently asked a keynote speaker, "whether or not gravity was a true fact" in order to see if we could find any common ground on the definition of "truth", she, not wanting to admit that there might indeed be some types of universal truth, told me that they were not facts but "earthly forms". You have to ask yourself why!

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"It’s the erasure of the possibility of equality, of a common humanity, that requires we treat each other as equals before God and before the law."

First, if people do not believe in a creator deity, then the idea of all humans being made in the deity’s image or being equal in the deity’s eyes, makes no sense, and (more importantly), cannot serve as the basis for arguing for equality before the law of all persons.

Second, the notion of a “common humanity” has reached the end of its usefulness. Western Judeo-Christian society chose to ground equality in the concept of an intrinsic “suchness” that—though subject to being expressed in a great variety of ways—ultimately overrode those expressions since this “suchness” emanated from a creator deity that regarded these intrinsic essences as equal. But at the same time that Western culture asserted a common humanity, it argued that this common humanity was “fallen” or “sinful,” and that there was a hierarchy to individuals’ states of fallenness or sinfulness—thereby opening the door to unequal treatment.

As a result, positing that people possess a common humanity—which once recognized—will result in people treating others equally has not led to equal treatment. For example, people would argue that I, as a gay man, am intrinsically disordered—that though I possess a common humanity, this humanity is disordered, and this disorderedness justifies me being treated unequally before the law, despite my (alleged) possession of a common humanity. What progressives are trying to do is close the “fallen human nature” loophole in Western ideology without abandoning Western Judeo-Christian ideology (good luck with that—we are talking about a feature, not a bug). In other words, they are trying to replace one slate of intrinsic essences with another (not realizing that the concept of “intrinsic essence” is the source of the problem in the first place).

"We cannot right the wrongs of racial inequality—an urgent task—by erasing the ideal of equality."

A concept of equality is necessary, but the understanding of equality employed by Western Judeo-Christian culture has shown itself to be unequal to the task. We need a concept of equality not grounded in a hypothesized “suchness” which is simultaneously contravened by a concept of “fallenness,” but rather one grounded in a demonstrable “emptiness’ (in the Buddhist understanding of the term, not a nihilistic one).

"What they needed was a way to explain the inequality found in the meritocratic system they hold dear, a way that made them feel they were still on the side of the good without having to disrupt what is good for them."

Exactly. Meritocracies are not structures of compassion. Progressives who have begun to prioritize compassion over obedience (what I would deem beginning to take a Buddhist turn), are faced with the problems of a) acting with compassion in a Western culture which posits that suffering is redemptive, i.e., things which are gotten wrong on this plane will be remediated on another, transcendental one. Progressives want to get it correct in the here-and-now, a sentiment which is characterized by non-progressives as the sin of Utopianism; b) embracing the sacrifices that acting with compassion demands (Western culture defines achievement as acquisition rather than unattachment); and c) navigating the contradictions of an ideology that is part Judeo-Christian and part Dharmic. They are gung-ho about the compassionate elements, but less comfortable with the other aspects/demands of Dharmic thinking/living which make compassionate acts possible.

Put another way: having partially relinquished Western Judeo-Christian ideology, progressives have been able to see certain Buddhist truths. The problem is that they then try to act on these truths via the Western paths/mindsets they have been socialized in (thus riling up non-progressives who remain faithful to Western ideology).

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Just wonderful. Thank you Batya Ungar-Sargon.

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TY (thank You). PERFECTO! Couldn't be said better. Saw https://nypost.com/2021/03/04/ny-times-slammed-for-seeking-opinion-editor-with-spine-of-steel/

Keep the faith Ms Ungar-Sargon!

But fear it's even worse than You thought: https://freeblackthought.substack.com/p/why-did-critical-race-theory-emerge

TYTY again!

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How do you claim to be against "classing people by group, by race, by ethnicity" while making excuses for a country which tells us straight out that treating its people equally regardless of ethnicity ( even something as democracy-minimal as "a state of all it's citizens") would destroy it? Talk about a double standard.

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From what I gather, CRT is based on the idea that whitness is the cause of racial hierarchies and repression in America, from slavery to current inequities in wealth and criminal justice. It's naive. Racism rose in the South to justify slavery as an economic system, not the other way around. To me, CRT promoters deflate the fundamentals driving racism in seeing it as a cultural or psychological deviation instead of a decades-long economic imperative. Are 1960’s-type corporate ‘consciousness raising’ classes the vanguard of anti-racism? Hardly.

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While this essay appears to be discussing “equality” it limits the definition to equality before God and equality before the law. Sociologist identify three elements of equality, or rather inequality, found in all modern democracies (Weber). First there is economic inequality meaning the command over resources over time (Titmuss). Second is status inequality that refers to respect, dignity and equal treatment before the law. The third is the inequality of power; here there is an inevitable inequality although in democracies it is to be mitigated, at minimum, by the right to vote. The United States is more unequal in comparison to all other Western European democracies (and Canada) on all of these dimensions. The economists measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient, is the highest in the US. But this does not measure command over resources over time which has to take into account the ability of a family to access a job; this access is limited, for example, by our health care system and our educational system. Status inequality is rampant in our legal system where lack of money limits the ability of many to protect themselves. In addition, the status of those who must take jobs at the lower end of the occupational ladder is limited. These jobs do not even provide the dignity afforded by unions. And the inequality of power is greater in the US because of the efforts to suppress the vote. For example we are the only western democracy with elections on a workday. All other western democracies have elections on a Sunday when the vast majority can vote easily throughout the day thus avoiding long lines before or after work. It is easy to see how race fits into this picture.

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