• The Solution to Racism is… Separate But Equal?!?

    July 29, 2022

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    Posted in: Democracy

    Schools now have affinity groups, quasi-social/political gatherings which are separated by among other things, race. You have to be black to walk in to some of them. Seems like there’s a history to this.

    “Separate but equal” refers to the Supreme Court 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson claiming separate rail cars for whites and blacks were equal as required by the 14th Amendment. The upshot was constitutional sanction to laws known as Jim Crow (the name comes from a popular blackface stage character of the time) designed to achieve racial segregation by means of separate public facilities and services. This led to the era of the Green Book, which told blacks which hotels would allow them, as well as The Jewish Vacation Guide, which offered the same kind of advice but which we do not like to talk about much anymore. “Victims of Racism” is a pretty segregated category of its own it seems. The Court in Brown v. Board of Education ended separate but equal in that 1954 landmark civil rights case.

    But a new version of separate but equal seems to be back. The goal of many progressives now appears to be more segregated spaces and more segrated paths into academia and jobs. Progressives do not oppose segregation any more, they demand it.

    Jim Crow is being resurrected in schools, this time through euphemisms such as black spaces, affinity circles, affinity dialogue, and community building groups. One of my own kids was confronted as an undergrad with the problem of choosing which affinity group to join, as she fell into several different categories. Should she go with the Asians, or more broadly the POC group? Or female POC? Centennial Elementary School in Denver advertised a “Families of Color Playground Night.” The Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island, hosted a “meet and talk” with an actress from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air  exclusively for its Students of Color affinity group. There are events that squeeze the rules tighter, such as black women feminists only. Of course February is Black History Month in America, though people of all hues are allowed to feel bad for all of February equally. We track obsessively the “First black…” to the point where the NYT felt compelled to single out such accomplishments last year as the first black to be recognized as a pro triathlete, the first black woman to win a gold medal in wrestling, and the first black to be interred at the Panthéon in Paris.

    In explaining the rationale for exclusionary events, one college newspaper wrote “Black students need events in which there are other black men and women as a means to help them feel comfortable…  a safe place for black students to be black without consequence,” which with a few words replaced would be exactly the garbage coming out of the worst cracker’s mouth in 1963 Birmingham, you know, something about how it ain’t right for the races to mix. The KKK are as in favor of more color-designated spaces as BLM.

    And famously we have been taught of all the people wrongly killed or injured by law enforcement, only one color of life matters. When Black Lives Matter as a slogan first began to populate social media, for about a week it was cool to say “All Lives Matter” to show you were an ally, that the cops could not get away with killing anyone yellow or white, either. “All lives” quickly morphed into a racist slogan, segregation mattering even in undeserved deaths.

    The return of separate but equal is most visible today in school admissions (and Supreme Court nominations.) Separate but equal has been reimagined as offering two tracks into select schools — one of merit, usually some sort of exam, and another that tests nothing but skin color, with standards rigged to matriculate the required percentage of blacks. That the latter often results in Asians (the on-again, off-again POC) being red lined out seems to be another thing we don’t like to talk about. The rules may be changing; the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether race-based admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina are lawful.

    The problems with separate but equal are many. A real danger is positioning unprepared students to fail. If you cannot show you know the subject material well enough to engage with it on a high level day one, and if you cannot show you have been willing to forego fun activities to put in the study hours, granting you a seat at some elite school via the back door will not solve anything. Imagine if the SEALS did away with their famous physical and mental tests and just picked commandos by lottery. That is what is happening through separate but equal employment programs, such as one at Morgan Stanley limited to blacks, browns, reds, and gays, or another at my own alma mater of sorts, the U.S. State Department, where I worked for 24 years

    State has had a diversity problem going back to the earliest days of the Republic, when it was said to qualify as a diplomat you needed to be Male, Pale, and Yale. To fix this two centuries later, the Department created two fellowships that have been used as vehicles to recruit people of “diverse backgrounds,” who worked out to be overwhelming black people. In place are the Thomas Pickering Fellowship (run by HBCU Howard University) and the Charles B. Rangel Fellowship. Both claim entrants take the same entrance exams as anyone else, but omit that they do so after two summer internships with the State Department, including time abroad, plus assigned mentors. Fellows are also identified as such to those administering the oral exam required of all prospective diplomats. Having administered the oral exam myself, I knew I would have to justify to my boss’ boss any move to fail a Fellow before being overruled by her anyway. The programs increased the number of unwhite diplomats, as they were intended to do as a separate but equal pathway.

    The problems came down the road, when black diplomats encountered the same promotion and evaluation system their white, green, and blue colleagues did (along with Hispanics and Asians, etc.) Diversity in the senior ranks of the State Department actually regressed over time. In 2008, black diplomats made up about 8.6 percent of the top ranks of the diplomatic corps. By 2020 only 2.8 percent of the same top ranks are black. The answer? It must be more racism (characterized diplomatically as “institutional barriers.”) Suggestions focused on offering blacks more fellowships to create a bigger pool, and creating special opportunities for blacks to snag better assignments (described as “promote diverse officers’ career development.”) That of course simply repeats the original sin of pushing less-prepared people upward to their point of failure. FYI: the State Department classifies most of its gender and race promotion results and does not generally release them to the public. However, data leaked to the NYT shows that only 80 black diplomats and specialists were promoted in the 2019 fiscal year, about one percent.

    Then there’s this: a former diplomat described her Rangel fellowship in 2010 as “more of a stigma than an honor” as white diplomats routinely assumed Fellows qualified for the real job only because of the fellowship. Some minorities at State feel compelled to share that they are not Pickering or Rangel Fellows to avoid the fall out over separate but equal. Can it be it is all just more racism all the way down?

    When I did not get into the State Department my first try, it never occurred to me the written test, which was mostly history, geography, and economics, was set up to block me because of how I looked instead of whether I knew enough about history, geography, and economics. After more education I passed essentially the same test. It never occurred to me some special channel should have been set up to advance me. It becomes kind of a mindset, almost a philosophy, that anything that doesn’t work out percentage wise must by definition be racism and can only be rectified by some kind of separate but equal track.

    Separate but equal in academia and employment, as well as in black spaces and all the rest, produces nothing more than cosmetic diversity. You want XX percent of students or diplomats to be black? Fine, we’ll gerrymander the system to produce that. But given the broader lack of societal progress from affirmative admissions and actions over some decades, it just might be easier to hire actors so the group photos look “right” and let decisions be less separate and more equal. Otherwise, what message are we sending to people of one color that their accomplishments have to be set aside so a person of another color can have their place, and what message are we sending to people of all colors the only way one group can succeed is with some special track? In the end aren’t those messages just a twisted version of what separate but equal originally meant, judgment based on race?

    At some point if we are committed to ending discrimination by race we need to end discrimination by race.

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  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      Should super black tinted auto glass be offered as a free option for any POC who shows up at a dealership as an enhanced “safe black space” on wheels entitlement? In theory it should end “driving while black” stops for non moving violations since no cop can possibly tell who is at the wheel. Right? But the super dark glass tips off any cop to which racial group has preferred to remain “anonymous” while at the wheel of an automobile thus defeating the entire purpose of the entitlement.

      07/30/22 12:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Charles D said...


      I was a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company in the mid 70s and learned that you could not make affirmative action progress unless you found qualified candidates of color. Even then, there were qualified candidates available.

      That may no longer be the case. Universities are increasingly focused on equal treatment of students who have been educationally disadvantaged rather than providing remedial education and requiring successful completion. When students of all races graduate without an ability to do critical analysis and write persuasively, why should the State Department or anyone else hire them?

      The ridiculously incompetent diplomatic corps in this country needs to be drastically improved because we are entering a period in which we will actually have to negotiate and carry out our treaty obligations. The days of unipolarity are over.

      07/31/22 11:42 AM | Comment Link

    • jpb said...


      Science says that race is a social construction. Malcolm X thought he could never look a white man in the eye with equal respect until he went to Mecca as a Muslim and found his brothers from all different races, including whites, there. In the Muslim Middle East and North Africa there are people of all shades and hues but it’s no big deal; what matters is religion.

      The scientific deconstruction of race in America felt like it was underway until recent decades when the race lens became very fashionable, especially for people whose greatest analytical prowess is the ability to sort jellybeans (somehow they were mistaken for intellectuals).

      Our society’s progress in the elimination of race was lost somewhere between MLK Jr who asked for African Americans to be judged by the content of their character (not much of a stretch to extend this to a meritocratic job market/school admissions) and the present. Its timeline’s benchmarks include NAFTA, China joining the WTO, and the Democratic Party needing a cause and deciding to embrace the race class at the expense of the working class.

      Maybe the good news is that aside from the enlightened media and our nation’s public and private sector leaders who excel in sorting jellybeans, Joe/Jose/Yusef the Plumber doesn’t buy this crap.

      Right now it feels like the jellybellies’ cultural pendulum is headed back in the other direction. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

      There are perfectly fair counterpoints that race is still relevant in many ways in our society. But segregation bad. Amending the constitution to make race-based discrimination legal: bad.

      At some point if we’re committed to eliminating racism then we need to eliminate race.

      As always, thanks for the inciteful article

      07/31/22 3:06 PM | Comment Link

    • ChiefIlliniwek said...


      Coddling black people is a white liberal thing. Lipton Matthews wrote a piece about how American blacks will fare if or when white liberals are no longer the ruling class in the US. The endless sob stories about slavery, Selma, Bull Connor, etc mean nothing to someone from India or Latin America.

      But yeah, if a black person can’t pass the written test, then he doesn’t have any business being in the Foreign Service.

      08/3/22 1:29 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Yes, the State Department needs significant change in its hiring practice— to weed out the shitbags who kiss up and shit down.

      The Foreign Service motto: If you Want to get ahead, then give head. And you have to sell out your principles…if you have any.

      08/6/22 9:23 AM | Comment Link

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