When I was a teacher, one of my students mentioned that his geography teacher had told his class that the textbook was wrong about the world being 4.5 billion years old. How could it be that old if the Bible said it was 6 000 years old?
I confronted the teacher, and told him I thought what he did was unethical. At first, he denied saying what I’d be told he’d said, but I pressed him and he admitted it. Why hide the truth from his students? It would be unethical of him not to correct falsehoods when they appeared in the textbook.
Nothing I could have said would have shaken his conviction.
I’m sure that some students in that classroom would have dismissed the teacher’s claims because they understood the difference between faith and fact. But what happens when students are presented with religious beliefs masquerading as facts, and moral facts at that? What happens when they can’t tell the difference?
On another occasion, I met with the head of a school diversity committee to question the school’s official position that ‘saying that you don’t see colour’ is a racist thing to say. We had a lively and enjoyable discussion in which I exhausted the philosophical case for colour-blindness. But the teacher did not budge. I thought I’d try a different tack, and asked whether including such a clause in a school policy might deprive students of having a worthwhile discussion like the one we were having. ‘Aren’t discussions like these good for honing critical thinking skills?’ The teacher dodged the question and played her trump card: ‘But, Caiden, the boys feel that saying you don’t see colour is racist.’ She looked at me as though waiting for me to finally realise that all bachelors are indeed unmarried men.
Leaving aside the fact that feeling a certain way does not make something true a priori, I suspect that the only reason the boys (all one thousand or so of them, apparently?) feel that way is because they have been ideologically groomed to feel that way by adults who have a religious conviction that they should feel that way. That it is moral. That it is the correct thing to feel.
Many have argued, most notably John McWhorter in his book Woke Racism, that anti-racist ideology is a religion. He goes so far as to say:
‘With Third Wave Antiracism we are witnessing the birth of a new religion, just as the Romans witnessed the birth of Christianity.’
Functions like a religion
Whether or not you agree with McWhorter that anti-racism is a religion, as I do, I think one should concede that, at the very least, it functions like religion and when it comes to how this affects students, it is a distinction without a difference.
Something that most religions have in common is an explanation for the origin of evil. Once the source of evil has been identified the goal is quite clear. Rid the world of that evil and restore the world to its original condition.
According to anti-racist theology, the world once existed in a pre-hierarchical and peaceful State of Nature. The Garden of Eden. That is until The Fall.
Following the murder of George Floyd, an American activist called Tamika Mallory made a speech at a Black Lives Matter rally. At one point in her speech, she defends looting by arguing that it is a form of redress for past wrongs inflicted on non-white people by white Americans. She addresses the latter directly:
“Looting is what you do. We [non-whites] learned it from you. We learned violence from you! We learned violence from you! The violence was what we learned from you!”
In 2016, Julius Malema, speaking after the postponement of a court case against him, said the following: ‘… they [Europeans] found peaceful Africans here [South Africa]. They killed them. They slaughtered them like animals.’
Implicit in Mallory’s statement and explicit in Malema’s is the idea that non-white communities enjoyed a peaceful and harmonious existence before whites arrived on their shores. Clearly the idea is factually false. It is something that the author Shelby Steele might call ‘the poetic truth’. A capital ‘T’ Truth that could only be uttered and cheered for in the sense that you believe it on faith.
These two examples call for something extreme (violence) and I am not insinuating that all those who believe in anti-racism ideology would take those measures. But this idea that whites ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and began to use violence, language, and institutions to amass power over other groups and thus deliver oppression unto the world, lies at the heart of anti-racist ideology.
Don’t even know they are doing it
An important part of this story is that even though it might seem that non-white people are no longer oppressed, in reality, whites have just become more adept at hiding it. They have been able to do so using tools like the rule of law; property rights; capitalism; individualism; freedom of speech; logic; and the scientific method. Most of the time they don’t even know they are doing it.
If you are truly anti-racist it is not enough to know these things, you need to feel them. You need to understand that all of those things associated with ‘whiteness’ are necessarily oppressive.
It takes special insight into the workings of the world to know when these aspects of ‘whiteness’ appear. Apparently, diversity trainers have that insight. They have a ‘critical consciousness’ and they are hell-bent on teaching schoolchildren to become pawns in their fantasy, their little army of acolytes, and get paid handsomely to do it.
All of a sudden, we find ourselves in a situation where school documents are redefining racism and affirming the idea that the world is in a dualistic struggle between oppressed and oppressor, not on some heavenly stage but right there on the playground and at the sandwich table in the quad.
This is the situation many high school students are facing when it comes to social justice. They are learning the tenets of a new religion and being told to act on them for the good of mankind. They are being rewarded for their compliance. They are being told that if they believe and do certain things they will be on the right side of history or that they are good ancestors.
High school is a weird time in many ways. Your hormones are raging, you are forming an identity, seeking affirmation, dealing with peer pressure and building a worldview. Teenagers are sitting ducks for indoctrination, especially when you consider the power dynamics at play between students and teachers. Most of the time, students just accept what they are told. For a teacher or diversity consultant to teach the tenets of anti-racism ideology as factually true and morally imperative to act upon is unethical and they should know better. But they don’t, because they have a religious conviction. They are hacking through the wilderness believing they are forging a path to the Garden of Eden. They will get lost because there is no such place.
The theology of social justice of which anti-racism is a part, has been refined through thinkers like Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx to the Frankfurt School, thereafter gaining momentum with the French postmodernists who emphasised the link between power and language, and then finally onto the American critical theorists where it was crystalised using identity markers like race, gender and sexuality as they relate to the broader issue of social inequity.
But students do not know this. They are being presented with a watered-down version that looks like this: ‘To love capitalism is to end up loving racism. To love racism is to end up loving capitalism.’
So says Ibram X. Kendi in How to Be an Antiracist – a standard social justice resource in schools.
It is not an anomaly that in the minutes of a Transformation, Diversity, and Inclusivity Task Team committee meeting, the deputy head girl of a KZN school stated that ‘colour-blindness as a notion is not helpful. It promotes individualism and meritocracy’.
This student would seem to prefer collectivism and socialism. She does not understand what she is talking about. The idea has been planted in her head by diversity consultants and activist teachers, and it is completely in line with anti-racist theology.
Most destructive, in my opinion, is that students are being taught to engage emotional reasoning when it comes to social justice. This is a recipe for disaster. If crying racism gets you the attention, sympathy and acclaim that it currently seems to do, a good adaptive strategy would be to lean into it (if you’re lucky, the EFF might pitch up at your school and your struggle might be on tomorrow’s News24 page)
Take the Bishops’ matric class of 2020. They demanded that their school create ‘safe spaces’ and ‘forums’ for vulnerable and minority groups to ‘seek refuge from the harms Bishops confronts them with’ and categorically stated that ‘Under no circumstances should white people enter POC [people of colour] safe spaces, and non-LGBTQI+ people should not be allowed in queer safe spaces [sic].’
The idea that walking around a school like Bishops as a non-white person is to be harmed is quite ridiculous. But if thinking it places you on the right side of history and makes you seem like a freedom fighter trying to dismantle oppression, it won’t be long before you really do feel harmed and if you feel harmed, according to the logic of modern social justice, you are harmed. To deny this is to deny lived experience of oppression. To deny this is blasphemy.
This way of thinking is antithetical to human flourishing yet this higher reasoning is filtering down from the universities and being preached from pulpits at school conferences and packaged as ‘best practice’ by, perhaps not quite high priests of anti-racism, but deacons in the church at the very least.
John McWhorter sums up the worldview:
“Battling power relations and their discriminatory effects must be the central focus of all human endeavor, be it intellectual, moral, civic, or artistic. Those who resist this focus, or even evidence insufficient adherence to it, must be sharply condemned, deprived of influence, and ostracised.”
We are told that believing this means that you are against racism. But it is so obviously more than that.
We shouldn’t underestimate the fervency of the belief that the origin of racial injustice can be laid solely at the feet of those who ate the fruit in some mythic past and the lengths one might go to to see it regurgitated.
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