“This spring, a high school English teacher in Missouri lost her job following parents’ complaints that one of her assignments taught critical race theory.
The teacher had assigned a worksheet titled “How Racially Privileged Are You?” as prep material for reading the school-approved book “Dear Martin,” a novel about a Black high school student who is physically assaulted by a white police officer. But despite the teacher’s insistence that she wasn’t teaching her students critical race theory, an academic legal framework that asserts that racism is systemic and embedded in many American institutions, the local school board disagreed and determined that the material was objectionable.
The Missouri incident wasn’t an anomaly. In Tennessee, a teacher was reprimanded — and later fired — after telling his class that white privilege is a “fact” and assigning a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay that argued that white racial resentment was responsible for the rise of former President Donald Trump. Meanwhile in Texas, a principal was suspended after parents accused him of promoting critical race theory based on a letter he had written more than a year earlier, calling for the community to come together and defeat systemic racism in the days following the murder of George Floyd. His contract was subsequently not renewed.
In none of these schools was critical race theory actually being taught, but that is largely beside the point. Rather, these fights make up the latest chapter in the GOP-initiated culture war and are more broadly about how teachers should — and shouldn’t — talk about race and racism in America.
Since January 2021, Republican state legislators have introduced nearly 200 anti-critical race theory bills in 40 states “
“The Office of the New York City Comptroller was created in 1801 to be the chief auditor of local government and all its various financial activities. The comptroller’s top responsibilities, as bullet-pointed on the office’s website, are “conducting performance and financial audits of all City agencies,” “serving as a fiduciary to the City’s five public pension funds,” “providing comprehensive oversight of the City’s budget and fiscal condition,” “reviewing City contracts for integrity, accountability and fiscal compliance,” and “resolving claims both on behalf of and against the City.”
Or, you know, pressuring private companies to do race and gender checks.
On Thursday, New York Comptroller Brad Lander proudly announced that the city’s pension funds, with their estimated $263 billion under management, had successfully pressured four huge Wall Street firms (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and BlackRock), plus Ford Motor Company, to publicly disclose a “Board Matrix” containing the “self-identified gender, race and/or ethnicity of individual directors.””
“What Lander and the pension funds are explicitly saying is that not knowing the racial and gender self-identification of a company’s board candidate hinders the decision-making process on how to vote. All things else being equal, if Terry Smith self-identifies as a white male instead of a Latinx female, the diversity-valuing city of New York is assumed to be more likely to vote “no” on his candidacy. (One can only imagine where voters’ preferences would lie if the nominee refused to self-identify with either a gender or a race.)
There is something both farcical and creepy about this obsession with tracking other people’s (mostly) immutable characteristics and using the power of government to compel disclosure thereof. “Race and/or ethnicity” is a tautologically unscientific classification, not improved upon by the city’s suggested “best practices” categories of African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, white/Caucasian, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American. What box should Tiger Woods check? Why are we asking individuals to join a group? What on earth does any of this have to do with providing an auditing function on a city government with a $100 billion budget and the highest taxes in the country?
Gotham is hardly alone in conducting race/gender checks on big business. Illinois since last year has required publicly traded companies based in the state to not only provide a board diversity report, but also a “description of the corporation’s policies and practices for promoting diversity, equity and inclusion among its board of directors and executive officers,” and “whether and how demographic diversity is considered” in senior hiring. A newer law imposes further diversity reporting requirements on any private company with more than 100 employees.
Maryland in 2019 passed a Gender Diversity in the Board Room law requiring publicly traded companies with sales higher than $5 million and nonprofits with budgets higher than $5 million to submit the gender information of their boards.
And just last month, a Superior Court judge struck down as unconstitutional a 2020 California law requiring publicly traded companies in the state to have on their boards at least one member who self-identifies as “Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or…as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”
The Nasdaq, meanwhile, has imposed board-composition requirements of its own (approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission) that could get noncompliant companies delisted as soon as 2023.”
“Over 1 million Americans have now died from Covid-19. It isn’t a random group of people: one preprint paper found that working-class Americans were five times more likely to die from Covid-19 than college-educated Americans. Working-class Hispanic men had a mortality rate 27 times higher than white college-educated women. Another study analyzed Covid-19 mortality rates in over 219 million American adults and found that if racial and ethnic minorities between 25 to 64 years old had faced the same mortality rate as college-educated white Americans, there would have been 89 percent fewer deaths.”
“In the new book There Are No Accidents, author Jessie Singer argues that basically everything we consider to be an “accident” — be it car accidents or fatal fires or workplace injuries — are in fact not accidents at all. Humans, Singer writes, make mistakes all the time, but it’s the dangerous conditions in our built environments that result in fatal consequences. Larger systemic forces, shaped by corporations and governments, intersect to create vulnerabilities that we don’t all share equally. Anticipating and reducing those opportunities for human error is the key to preventing needless death.”
“When we talk about accidental death, what we’re talking about is unintended, injury-related death, not violence and not disease. There is a huge swath of ways that people die, from choking, to falls, to drowning, to traffic crashes, to fires, to poisoning, to drug overdoses. It is a massive category that includes much more obscure and unlikely ways to die, like freezing to death or starving to death, which of course still do happen.
These are all considered accidents. But there are racialized and economic differences in some accidental deaths — they’re not universal. Indigenous people are more than twice as likely as white people to be killed by a car crossing the street, and Black people are more than twice as likely to die in an accidental house fire than white people. There’s quite a bit of conditional exposure in whether or not a house fire is deadly, whether or not a traffic crash is deadly. It has to do with different layers of exposure, and that layered causality is really important.
If you’re driving an old car, you’re more likely to die in a traffic crash. If someone is driving a much bigger car than you or if you live in a low-income neighborhood where they’re not repairing the roads, you’re also more likely to die. And if you’re in a scenario where all three of those factors are interacting and maybe there are other factors too, like your local hospital recently closed, which means you’re farther away from emergency medical services — all of these layers contribute to whether or not we survive our mistakes. Certain people have less opportunities to survive their mistakes.”
“We should also be advocating on the federal level to rebuild the social safety net so people don’t have to make bad decisions. Pay people money to protect themselves, to drive a safer car, to not take the most dangerous job or live in the least-safe place. There’s also so much you can do locally. There are a million ways to prevent accidental death. In your neighborhood, you can advocate for traffic calming and public transit expansions, because if you don’t have to drive a car, you are much safer. If you’re able to take a bus or a train, that makes you more likely to survive your trip from point A to point B.
You can advocate for safe injection sites, and the free distribution of Naloxone and syringes. Simply making them accessible without stigma will not only prevent accidental overdose, but will prevent the accidental transmission of diseases. You can fight for in-your-home and in-your-office ADA accessibility, like ramps and grab bars, so an accidental fall is less likely to end in death.
This even extends to much less-common causes of accidental death, like fighting for fire safety requirements like sprinklers and self-closing doors in apartment buildings in the city you live in. It means that when someone makes the mistake of lighting something on fire, it’s less likely to kill people. As long as we can stop focusing on the last person who made a mistake, as long as we can accept that mistakes are inevitable but premature death is not, we can do so much to protect each other.”
“the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that it would reinstate its SAT/ACT test requirement for applicants. In a departure from the trends set by other elite universities, MIT rolled back its admissions policy, implemented in the 2020–2021 admissions cycle, which made standardized test scores optional. Administrators cited key issues with “holistic” admissions standards, an increasingly popular method of equitably distributing open spots to students regardless of how well they perform on standardized tests.
In a statement explaining the decision, MIT Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services Stu Schmill noted that MIT’s “research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT.”
Without an objective measure like a standardized test, low-income students—who may not have equal access to other pieces of the holistic pie, such as a plethora of Advanced Placement (A.P.) classes or numerous extracurriculars—have a harder time proving that they are academically prepared for an MIT education. A move that was intended to increase diversity and help low-income students, as it turns out, mostly helps low-scoring wealthy students—and makes it harder to identify talented yet underprivileged applicants.
MIT now distinguishes itself from other elite universities, a spate of which have removed their SAT and ACT requirements in recent years, primarily citing COVID-19 and diversity-related justifications for the policy change.
The original logic of such policies is based on the idea that SAT and ACT scores correlate strongly with income, which suggests that students from poorer households are denied admission to competitive schools solely because they can’t afford to ace the SATs.
However, omitting standardized test scores makes all applicants reliant on application materials that correlate even more highly with income, such as admissions essays. A 2021 Stanford study found that essays are actually more strongly correlated with household income than SAT scores. Thus, by omitting one income-correlated metric, one that is even more closely related to income takes prominence.
While wealthy parents can pay for test prep, they can’t take a standardized test for their children (well, almost never). However, with essay coaches and college counselors at their disposal, many wealthy students’ college essays can be manicured to fit exactly what schools are looking for.”
“According to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center, for example, only 17 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning Americans said there is “a lot” of discrimination against Black people in today’s society. That number rose to 26 percent when Republicans were asked whether they believed white people faced “a lot” of discrimination. And intense white racial resentment remains present both among Trump’s base and in our politics today. Case in point: Trump, who’s a (very, very early) favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is still hitting that same drum; during a recent political event, the former president went so far as to falsely claim that white people were currently being discriminated against and sent to the “back of the line” when it came to receiving COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.”
“Trump is not the first white person to feel like a victim of discrimination or to make claims in that spirit. This phenomenon started long before him. But in the U.S., if we look at things like the racial wealth gap, mortgage denial rates, COVID-19 vaccination and illness rates, police violence rates or myriad other data sets, we quickly see plenty of systemic biases against Black Americans and other minority groups (such as increasing hate crimes against Asian Americans). You can’t, however, find such widespread evidence for anti-white discrimination. So why have many white Americans started to see themselves as the victims of racial discrimination?”