Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Racist Riverdale

By Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

Writing in the Wall Street Journal (paywalled), Bion Bartning talks about when wokeness invaded his children’s posh New York City private school, Riverdale, which costs $58,000 per year to attend. Last fall, the school began to focus on privilege and white fragility. The school began teaching the children to monitor each other for “allyship” and deviation from woke orthodoxy. It began dividing parents up into “affinity groups” by race. Bartning writes:

At this point in the story, perhaps “lived experiences” become relevant. I am half Mexican and Yaqui, an indigenous tribe native to the U.S.-Mexico border region, and half Jewish. I spent the first year of my life on a commune in Berkeley, Calif. Growing up, I was aware that I had darker skin than my mother and my classmates, but I was never taught to define my identity by the color of my skin. My mixed background and ancestry made me feel like nothing more than a typical American.

My wife came to the U.S. as a refugee from the former Soviet Union. She spent the first five years of her life in an intolerant society where her “group identity” as a Jew was stamped in her passport. In school she was taught to keep tabs on friends and family, and after one particularly effective lesson, she was inspired to turn in her own father to the local police for “crimes against the state.” Fortunately, no harm came of it. But suffice it to say we are both allergic to forced conformity, especially when young, impressionable children are trained to obsess over “racial differences” and be on the lookout for deviations from orthodoxy.

We started to ask questions. I have always felt a strong connection with Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of an America where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I advocate genuine antiracism, rooted in dignity and humanity. But the ideology underlying the “racial literacy” guide distributed by the school wasn’t like that. Instead of emphasizing our common humanity, it lumps people into simplistic racial groupings. It teaches that each person’s identity and status is based largely on skin color, and leaves no place for people like me, who are of mixed race or don’t place race at the heart of their identity.


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