The Debasement of Seattle

“‘Individualism’, ‘perfectionism’, ‘intellectualization’, and ‘objectivity’ are all vestiges of this internalized racial oppression and must be abandoned in favor of social-justice principles… White employees must abandon their ‘white normative behavior’ and learn to let go of their ‘comfort’, ‘physical safety’, ‘social status’, and ‘relationships with some other white people….’”

Interrupting Internalized Racial Superiority and Whiteness,” a training course for white employees of Seattle

Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights in June “invited” (read: required) only white city employees to attend a training session on “Interrupting Internalized Racial Superiority and Whiteness,” a program designed to help white workers to examine their “complicity in the system of white supremacy” and to “interrupt racism in ways that are accountable to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.”

This is a government initiative applicable only to employees of a selected race. “Liberal” Seattle government is using its coercive power in a manner directly embodying fascist principles. The course, which included ritual screaming at the attendees, at the same time paid homage to Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese cultural revolution of the 1960s and ’70s.

What has our country come to, when one of its prominent cities adopts some of the worst philosophical aspects of both fascism and Communism?

Although the slippery slope metaphor is often abused, Seattle shows its applicability. The city has long been a bastion of liberalism, but it has slid so far down the slope of progressive thinking that much of what it is now doing is illiberal

Individualism, free speech and thought, the importance of reason, and the ability to aspire are not only the primary principles of liberalism, but they are also enshrined in our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and traditions.

Our society is now gripped by an inclination to grease many of those metaphorical slippery slopes. The sight of citizens kneeling, bowing, and even kissing the feet of Black Lives Matter advocates is now commonplace, though it amounts to an act of apology for one’s genetic code and a childhood environment over which they had no control. 

Nobody—absolutely nobody—should have to apologize for his genes or upbringing; this is the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility in favor of victimhood. Demanding that people apologize for their innate nature, by definition, is racist, sexist, or whatever applies. Would Seattle ever tolerate white employees “training” black employees in the manner described above? 

Acquiescence to this extreme, perverse version of social justice is sympathy and empathy run amok. People do not need to surrender their identities, much less debase themselves, to empathize with and help those who are less fortunate. To disown one’s identity is an act of stark appeasement, and history tells us that appeasement leads to more oppression, demands, and debasement.

I have been especially dismayed (probably too weak a word) at seeing my college alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, swept into this deluge of appeasement. 

MIT is the very epitome of an institution that has been based, and has thrived, on identity-blind raw merit and achievement. It maintains an exceedingly rigorous and diverse academic and research environment because it seeks out and attracts those with the best and brightest minds who can meet its challenges. Gender, race, and ethnicity are irrelevant to its mission, which is to bring ever greater scientific and engineering knowledge to the world.

Yet even this world-class institution is being tugged and roiled by well-meaning but misguided social justice warriors. It is diverting resources to embrace wokeness and has thus begun a drift away from its mission. To follow Seattle’s example by shedding “vestiges” of “internalized racial oppression” like perfectionism, intellectualization, and objectivity would dilute and compromise MIT’s exceptionalism and transform the institution into a run-of-the-mill technical school unable to attract the talent it has in the past. And MIT lags other universities in this self-inflicted diminution of educational purpose.

Would not the resources diverted from MIT’s mission be better spent by sponsoring and mentoring charter schools akin to New York City’s Bronx School of Science, thus increasing the number of underprivileged youths able to compete to attend MIT? Is this opportunity to better direct resources devoted to internal wokeness not also relevant by analogy to other universities?

MIT’s misguided policies and Seattle’s identity-driven politics are counterproductive because they stress equal outcomes at the expense of opportunity. 

It is fanciful, and patently false, to think that there is universal equality in one’s genes, parents, and developmental environment. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek the opportunity that best fits one’s innate abilities. An individual with a tin ear will never play for the Boston Symphony any more than a person of small stature and limited athletic ability will ever play in the NBA. The only way to assure equal outcomes is to reduce the requirements of a profession or pursuit to the lowest common level. This is certainly not a worthy social goal.

Seattle’s city leaders seem determined to pursue this reductive course and, in the process, to ignore the basic principles that have underpinned America since its founding. Their “training” course literally screams this perspective. The city government’s appeasement of its enraged, over-empathetic, over-pampered citizens may reflect democratic will (though I doubt that), but the very purpose of having constitutional principles with their checks and balances is to provide guardrails against the tyranny of the majority or powerful. 

Sadly, Seattle has lost sight of this, and they are setting a terrible example for other local governments.

About Andrew I. Fillat

Andrew I. Fillat spent his career in technology venture capital and information technology companies. He is also the co-inventor of relational databases.

Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

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