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“Class Not Race” Analysis is Inherently Racist


This story about Richard Kahlenberg, who was once a very good scholar, is just depressing but it also shows the extremely dark paths a “class not race” analysis will take you. There’s a good bit of the white left and even part of the Black left that someone wants to push this kind of analysis, as you saw when the World Socialist Web Site took the lead in attacking the 1619 Project from the left, making an alliance from hell with more traditional historians such as Gordon Wood and Sean Wilentz to attack it.

There is certainly a strain of Marxist thought that claims that racism is something created by capitalists to divide the working class. The problem with this is that it is outright nonsense and simply does not hold up in the historical record. Yes, capitalists certainly manipulated the racism, but white workers (whatever white meant at a given time) did not need help in discriminating against others. It wasn’t capital that convinced white gold miners in California to murder Chinese competition, even before the railroads showed up and hired Chinese labor, just to use one example.

But if you are committed to these ideas, you are likely an ideologue and that brings us to Kahlenberg, who is so opposed to race-based college admissions that he is in an open alliance with far right organizations on the issue.

In books, ‌articles and academic papers, Mr. Kahlenberg has spent decades‌ ‌arguing for a different vision of diversity, one based in his 1960s idealism. He believes that had they lived, Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have pursued a multiracial coalition of poor and working class people, a Poor People’s ‌Campaign that worked together toward the same goal of economic advancement in education, employment and housing. ‌ ‌

Race-conscious affirmative action, while it may be well intentioned,‌ ‌does just the opposite, he says — aligning with the interests of wealthy students‌ and creating racial ‌animosity.

With class-conscious affirmative action, “Will there be people in Scarsdale who are annoyed that working-class people are getting a break? Probably,” he said in an interview. “But the vast majority of Americans support the idea, and you see it across the political spectrum.”

His advocacy has brought him to an uncomfortable place. The Supreme Court is widely expected to strike down race-conscious affirmative action this year in cases against Harvard and the University of North Carolina. He has joined forces with the plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions, run by a conservative activist; the group has paid him as an expert witness and relied on his research to support the idea that there is a constitutional “race-neutral alternative” to the status quo.

Critics‌ ‌dispute everything from his statistics to his rosy outlook on politics. They say that the concept of race-neutral diversity underestimates how racism is embedded in American life. They say that class‌-conscious affirmative action will bring its own set of problems as universities try to maintain high academic standards. ‌

And they argue that his class-based solution could backfire.

“It may well be where we wake up,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia who has been involved in litigation on the side of universities. “But if you get rid of affirmative action, then you create racial hostility in the other direction.”

Mr. Kahlenberg is unfazed.

“I think people will have to come around,” he said, “because class will be the only game in town.”

Ha ha ha ha ha, now that’s an ideologue! Give me a break. The actual answer is that it is going to help rich people up and down the university system. There is a chance, but color me skeptical, that this leads to a broader end to legacy admissions, which would be a good thing, but the kid who was going legacy to Yale is still going to get into Duke or Wellesley or Bennington or whatever because the parents can pay full freight.

I also love the ideas of old whites who deify the Kennedys based on what they wish they were rather than their actual record. 1963 and 1968 broke a lot of white people’s brains and they are mostly still with us.

And then there’s the great irony that Kahlenberg himself was a rich kid who got into Harvard on a legacy, which he reaaalllly does not want to talk about.

But let’s also be clear about the massive damage Kahlenberg is causing here:

There are those who think that Mr. Kahlenberg is being used by Mr. Blum, who has made a specialty of challenging laws that he believes confer advantages or disadvantages by race. He  orchestrated a lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court gutting a key section of the Voting Rights Act, and was responsible for litigation against the University of Texas, charging discrimination against a white applicant, which failed.

Dr. Laycock, of the University of Virginia, expects that once the Supreme Court rules, conservative groups that are now promoting race-neutral alternatives will claim they are racial proxies and turn against them. “Everybody knows that’s why it’s being used,” he said. (Mr. Blum said his group will not, though other conservative groups could do so.)

In other words, that Kennedy- and King-style multiracial coalition may not come easily.

I’m going to unite the races around class by personally uniting with right-wing extremists! That’s some galaxy brained thinking right there. And it shows what happens when you dismiss race as a central organizing factor in our society.

As always, “class not race” analysis is inherently racist because we live in a racist society and your actions in promoting this agenda means you are helping keep it that way.

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