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Op-ed: An Orwellian View of Systemic Racism


President David Wippman co-authored an opinion piece published by Inside Higher Ed on Oct. 12 titled The Education Department’s Race to the Bottom. Written with Cornell Professor of American Studies Glenn Altschuler, the essay addresses the U.S. Department of Education’s declaration that Princeton’s announcement of steps the university would take to combat systemic racism was “a ‘serious, even shocking’ admission, which ‘compel[led] the Department to move with all appropriate speed’ to investigate the institution for possible violations of federal antidiscrimination law.”

The co-authors contend that, “The department’s Orwellian reading of [Princeton President] Eisgruber’s statement is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to flip the national dialogue on race, history, and education.” They argue that, “The department appears to believe that discrimination on college campuses was legislated out of existence in 1964, and that any acknowledgment of its continued impact or the adoption of 'race-based diversity measures' amounts to an admission of discrimination.” Later they observe that, “…candid discussions of those issues, and reasonable steps to grapple with them, do not imply discrimination in violation of federal law. Until now, neither the courts nor the government have suggested that they do.”

In conclusion, the authors write, “Every country, of course, has its founding myths. But ignoring the sins of the past will not, as President Trump has implied, strengthen ‘the civic bonds that tie us together.’ To the contrary, imposition of a sanitized, some would say whitewashed, history will, we fear, tear us apart.”

 

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