Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Welcome to Year Zero

By Wesley Yang

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of America announced last year that it would set diversity quotas for any film eligible to win a best picture award. In order to enforce these targets, there will be regular surprise inspections into the racial origins and gender identity of cast and crew.

At the time of this announcement, I joked on Twitter that such inspections would be ideal work—cushy, low-risk—for former police officers from soon to be abolished, defunded, and/or “reimagined” departments: “Defund police in order to fund racism police.”

Last year’s joke is this year’s policy.

The Small Business Administration prioritized emergency Covid grants to restaurants by race. The Department of Agriculture prioritized funding to black farmers. The state of Vermont allowed BIPOC residents early access to the vaccine. The state of California mandates diverse representation on corporate boards. San Francisco introduced a pilot public/private partnership program offering monthly cash payments reserved exclusively for black and Pacific Islander women.

Uber Eats offered free delivery from black-owned restaurants . NASDAQ has proposed mandating diversity on the boards of the companies seeking to list on it.

None of these are “excesses” of the anti-racist movement. They are the practical application of the principles laid out by the anti-racist texts that became required reading across corporate America during the racial reckoning of 2020. In the words of one of the two most required authors, Ibram X. Kendi, “the only remedy of past discrimination is present discrimination.”

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