The suicide of former Toronto school principle Richard Bilkszto, 60, was one that many of his associates believe was prompted, at least in part, by vicious attacks from an “anti-racism” instructor. After he differed on her assessment of pervasive structural racism, she held up his comments as an example of “white supremacy.” In the progressive-dominated education bureaucracy, this stands as among the worst of sins.
Bilkszto ran into the buzz saw of an ever expanding “diversity-industrial complex” that, though it harasses some, also provides high wage employment to a generation of college graduates. These same people reacted vehemently against the recent United States Supreme Court ruling against racial quotas, which all too often allowed minority students to qualify for the most elite colleges, even if they had inferior grades and test scores. Some schools’ large diversity departments are already looking at how to get around the law; while corporations, ever vigilant to please the chattering classes, look for ways to continue quotas and race preferences, despite the court’s decision.
The new racialist movement rests its case on a particular take on history. The argument is that since white Europeans exploited non-whites on a global scale, their descendants must pay for past wrongs. The fact that non-white empires — the Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian, Aztec, African — were at least equally as brutal seems to have little purchase. Also down the memory hole lies the benefits the West has bequeathed in terms of technology, medical advances and the introduction of democratic legal systems.
The New York Times’ 1619 Project epitomizes this distorted view of history. The report insists that the American Revolution was conducted largely to preserve a slave economy that was its alleged economic core. The study largely dismisses such things as the role of mostly slave-free New England as the instigator of the rebellion, along with the role of the abolitionist movement and the Civil War, the most devastating war in history to end slavery, largely fought by white northerners. Many seem to have forgotten Marx’s insight that the South would lose because the slave economy was no match for the North’s industrial and agricultural prowess.
The 1619 thesis has been widely rejected by historians both left and right, but still won a Pulitzer and its primary author, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has become an iconic figure on college campuses, earning over US$500,000 (C$672,000) in speaking fees over the past few years. More importantly, this sloppy historical effort has what in show business they call “legs,” with an estimated 4,500 classrooms teaching it as a factual text of the country’s origins.
Canada, as the Bilkzto case reveals, is stepping into a similar morass. To be sure, any decent version of Canadian history addresses the ill-treatment of First Nations people. But what may well be sometimes exaggerated accounts should not supplant a basically proud history — one, critically, that’s largely free of the horrors of slavery.
Read the rest of this piece at National Post.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.
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