Police State/Civil Liberties

The New Gatekeepers How the major institutions of American society all came to sing in the woke chorus, and what can be done about it

By Michael Lind, Tablet

“On or around December 1910, human character changed,” wrote Virginia Woolf. Between 2010 and 2012, American culture changed. Within a few years, what had been obscure concepts in politicized university departments like gender studies and ethnic studies became orthodoxy not only in the academy, media, and the nonprofit sector, but also in the boardrooms of national and global corporations, banks, and in professional associations like the American Bar and Medical associations.

In 2010, if you had said that unisex bathrooms in public schools were necessary to accommodate nonbinary students, hardly anyone, even among progressives, would have known what you were talking about. Then in 2016 the Obama Education Department suddenly threatened to cut off federal funding to K-12 schools that did not allow students suffering from gender dysphoria to use bathrooms reserved for the opposite sex. The Obama Justice Department threatened to sue North Carolina for passing a law requiring people to use bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. By the time it rescinded the law, HB 2, in 2017, the state of North Carolina had lost billions of dollars thanks to simultaneous boycotts by the National Basketball Association, the National College Athletic Association, Deutsche Bank, PayPal, and other corporations and financial institutions.

In isolation, the transgender controversy might have been viewed as a strange aftershock of the gay rights movement, which achieved its much more moderate goals of civil and marriage equality for gay men and lesbian women by the first decade of the 21st century. But the imposition of transgender ideology through economic compulsion by the federal government and major private sector institutions was only the beginning. It was followed by the march through the institutions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) based on “critical race theory” (CRT), a sectarian ideology that holds that all whites and “white-adjacent” Asian Americans, no matter how poor and powerless, are “privileged,” while all Black and Hispanic Americans, no matter how rich and powerful, are “marginalized” members of “underserved communities.”

By the 2020s, at one university after another, applicants for faculty positions were required to submit “DEI statements,” listing the ways that they would personally advance this particular ideology through their work as teachers and researchers. Campus commissars were appointed to ensure that faculty reading lists and guest speaker panels had the appropriate race and gender makeup. In corporations, banks, universities, and government agencies, the relatively anodyne “diversity training” of the late 20th century, designed to minimize the possibility of racial or sexual discrimination lawsuits, gave way to DEI trainings. The goal of such exercises was not to promulgate knowledge of specific anti-discrimination rules and procedures, but to engage staff in Maoist-style struggle sessions designed to break down the personalities and identities of non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian Americans through confession of “microaggressions” and “racial privilege.”

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