Prevalent in education – brainchild of radical Students for a Democratic Society
CHICAGO – Sometimes, in the back of our minds, we wonder about the origins of nutty leftist academic theories, such as “white privilege.”
Approximately 2,000 educators attended the most recent “White Privilege Conference,” while more than 200 Wisconsin teachers and administrators lapped up the same theories in a taxpayer-funded program called “CREATE Wisconsin,” organized by the state Department of Public Instruction.
It has become the mainstream view of America’s education establishment.
But where does it come from?
According to a recent article on SocialistWorker.org, the originally named “white skin privilege,” was first floated ina pamphlet produced by the radical group Students for a Democratic Society in 1967.
That’s right – SDS is the same group that gave us Bill Ayers and a lot of other college malcontents running around bombing buildings while trying to overthrow our government and financial structures. They were largely and rightfully dismissed as being part of the lunatic fringe in the 1960s, but somehow their theories have become widely accepted by today’s educators.
“Fundamentally, the idea is that racism is inevitable under capitalism because all whites, no matter their class, benefit from the unequal distribution of social resources along racial lines. Because all whites gain from this arrangement, most are loathe to fight against it,” Bill Mullen writes at Socialist Worker.
The “’white skin privilege’ theory, as (Noel Ignatiev and Theodore Allen) developed it, argues that white radicals and activists did not put enough emphasis on racism in either assessing U.S. history or developing tactics to build revolutionary movements in the here and now,” Mullen states.
The original pamphlet was penned by a 27-year old Ignatiev, a former member of the Communist Party USA and proponent of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.
“Communists (individually this is the task primarily of white communists, although collectively it is the responsibility of the whole party) must go to the white workers and say frankly: you must renounce the privileges you now hold, must join the Negro, Puerto Rican and other colored workers in fighting white supremacy, must make this the first, immediate and most urgent task of the entire working class. … ” Ignatiev wrote in “White Blindspot,” the SDS pamphlet.
At that time, there was undoubtedly something to the theory. The civil rights movement was still struggling to gain a foothold and institutional racism was embedded in our economic system.
But time has proven that we don’t have to throw away the most successful economic system in the history of the world to combat racism. Over time more and more people of color have been successful within the system.
But modern radicals don’t want to consider that reality. They are stuck in the 1960s mindset that capitalism and racism go hand-in-hand, and you can’t have one without the other. The scary part is that they’re teaching this theory to our children every day in classrooms throughout the nation.
As Mullen writes, “Capitalism has had devastating effects on people of color in the U.S. in recent years.” He goes on make the argument “white privilege” is born of capitalism and thus the system must be destroyed in order to have true equality.
“… The popularity of the ‘white skin privilege’ theory also speaks to capitalism’s capacity to obliterate histories of real interracial struggle that challenged racist ‘hegemonic structures, practices and ideologies,’” he says.
‘White privilege’ theorist today: ‘Abolish prisons’
In 2002, Ignatiev penned a controversial book in which he suggests the “white race” should be “abolished.”
According to Harvard Magazine, he wrote, “The goal of abolishing the white race is on its face so desirable that some may find it hard to believe that it could incur any opposition other than from committed white supremacists.”
Are we talking about genocide here? Does he really believe white Americans should volunteer for mass extermination?
“Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity” was his website’s motto, according to the Washington Times.
More recently, appearing at an Occupy Boston protest, Ignatiev proposed abolishing all prisons.
He also agreed with the concept of prisoners being unionized.
Addressing Ignatiev, one attendee said, “One of the things right now with people in prison, now should get represented by a union, or some kind of organization and so they can make enough money and have enough money put away so when they get out of prison, they can start a new life.”
“I’m in favor of that,” Ignatiev responded. But he reiterated that his “maximum program” would be to “abolish prisons.”
In government, theory now as mainstream as baseball and apple pie
Ignatiev’s theory has taken on a life of its own, particularly in government circles. But how pervasive is it? We know the schools are implementing the theory in teacher training and the curriculum. But its tentacles are now reaching beyond that.
Richard Gelb of the King County (Seattle) Department of Natural Resources and Parks recently gave a presentationin which he explained how his department is embracing the county’s new “equity and social justice” ordinance.
Gelb explained one area of interest for the county is on the societal level and he likened it to being the furthest upstream. That is to say, the societal level affects the community level, down to the individual and family level.
So the county, including his department, are analyzing ways to impact everything from the individual family all the way to the entire society.
“Even further upstream is harder to affect change but is part of this effort, which is to affect things that bear unevenly from a societal perspective. And so these are the degree that there is structural racism, or white privilege that then bears on institutional practices and make the unfairness or opportunity more variable or differential,” Gelb said.
“So while it’s important to address problems at the downstream end, we don’t want to only do that and miss those opportunities to affect the regional and societal level dynamics that lead to unevenness in the need for services.”
What exactly does any of this have to do with natural resources and parks?
Just as the 9/11 terrorists never envisioned the Twin Towers actually collapsing, the radical students of SDS likely never envisioned their nutty theories would have such a fundamental impact on America.
It’s truly frightening that they are.