Last week, I wrote that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell angered Lodi Unified School District teachers with his unsubstantiated charge that their inherent racism is a leading cause in the scholastic achievement gap between white students and their black and Latino peers.
Teachers, according to O'Connell, are less responsive to the needs of minority students than they are to those of whites.
I received dozens of unsolicited e-mails from teachers—one from Australia—objecting to O'Connell's theory. Some suggested that O'Connell's perspective is, in and of itself, racist.
Many instructors reminded me that they have taught dozens of years in low-income, Title One schools giving equal effort to all their students regardless of their skin color.
O'Connell's allegations came shortly after a viewing by many school district and other California teachers of a video that strongly infers that teachers' racism is destroying not only our schools but also our nation.
Titled Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, the DVD promotes itself as challenging "notions of racism and white supremacy in the U.S."
Summarizing the film, to be white is—by definition—to be racist.
In the unlikely case that the so-called documentary's title doesn't make its agenda clear enough for you, the video is divided into sub-chapters such as "1,000 Little Cuts" and "The Sickness Within"
Among the first words spoken by the narrator are these: "To be white mandates denial of racism."
So that's it—whites are guilty; case closed!
"Mirrors of Privilege" follows the well-established pattern in these accusatory films. To give the air of credibility and fairness, dozens of white subjects are interviewed, each recalling an isolated incident from their distant past that is supposed to serve as the basis for intelligent discussion about social issues in America today.
If the subjects don't have personal stories to share, they retell events from a century and a half ago claiming, many of them through tears, to be filled with guilt and shame.
Most historical recollections involve the Civil War or Chinese railroad laborers from the mid-19th Century.
The video does heavy-handed preaching. One chapter discusses the "pathology of white people."
And in another segment, an interviewee said that when a white person smiles at a black, that innocent and friendly gesture indicates an attempt to cover up white guilt.
After watching the fifty-minute video, I came away numb from the incessant pounding—"white folks," as we were occasionally referred to, are clueless. Diversity, on the other hand, is wonderful.
Some might argue that the "Mirrors of Privilege" producers Shakti Butler [Email] and the World Trust Educational Services are working for a better America.
But a look at its website shows that those associated with the project—most importantly, those who funded it—have a left-leaning agenda that encourages socialism.
And it is equally important to note that promoting diversity is a huge, moneymaking business. Toyota Motors, to name just one example, has committed $8 billion over the next decade for diversity training. [Toyota Earmarks $8 billion for Diversification Efforts, By David Barboza, New York Times, August 1, 2001]
All those people hosting seminars and publishing books, pamphlets, videos and offering mentoring sessions are beating a path to their banks to deposit the huge fees that they collect in the name of diversity.
When a public institution pays those fees, that's your tax money going into someone else's pocket.
Despite all the hoopla about diversity, little tangible evidence exists that it's productive.
In his recent study The Effects of Diversity on Business Performance, [PDF] Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management Professor Thomas A. Kochan found that repeated diversity-training sessions do nothing to improve performance or to create a more harmonious work force. (Also check out Diversity's Business Case Doesn't Add Up.)
Mandatory diversity training sessions, according to Professor Kochan, may even create a bias where none existed before.
Diversity is controversial, especially when it is presented as the Holy Grail, and should be a subject for intelligent debate. But opposing views are often suppressed and rarely encouraged. One LUSD teacher told me that at his middle school, the principal told his staff to watch to video without comment.
What my teaching colleagues most objected to is that "Mirrors of Privilege" wasted 55 minutes out of their busy day.
That valuable time, they said, could have been used toward educating your child.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.