November 2021 round-up: attacks on academic freedom in Florida and Texas

There’s a lot to include in any wrap-up of the battle going on in the U.S. right now to make colleges and universities nothing more than weapons in the hands of Americans who want to dismantle our democracy. Through sheer chance, we began our coverage of the University of Florida on the first of this month, and that story has continued to evolve throughout November. In our November 1 post, we described how three political science faculty members were refused permission to serve as expert court witnesses during a lawsuit challenging Florida’s new voting restriction law because, as UF president Kent Fuchs put it in a written statement,

It is important to note that the university did not deny the First Amendment rights or academic freedom of professors Dan Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Austin. Rather, the university denied requests of these full-time employees to undertake outside paid work that is adverse to the university’s interests as a state of Florida institution.

That is, UF employees will not testify against a state policy because then the state will cut funding to the university. The idea that state universities will lose funding if their faculty criticize the state is a new one, at least in the U.S., and it makes “the state” sound a lot less like Florida and a lot more like “the State”, as in “state-controlled media” or “state-controlled education”.

Reaction was swift, from inside and outside UF. The next day, higher ed reporters wrote that “Administrators denied requests from a fourth professor who had asked to participate in litigation supporting mask mandates against [the state of] Florida…

The professor, the pediatrician Jeffrey L. Goldhagen, was asked to testify and serve as a declarant in litigation that followed Gov. Ron DeSantis’s executive order that forbade mask mandates in schools as the Delta variant of Covid-19 tore through the state. Goldhagen is chief of the division of community and societal pediatrics at the University of Florida‘s College of Medicine, in Jacksonville, and a professor in pediatric palliative care. Goldhagen said he would have spoken about why masks work and why children need protection from the virus.

…Goldhagen’s case appears to contradict the university’s earlier explanation for why the political-science professors’ testimony was blocked. The campus’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, and provost, Joe Glover, wrote on Monday night that the political-science professors would be “free” to testify “pro bono on their own time without using university resources.” Goldhagen wrote in the disclosure he submitted to the university that he would not be using university resources and indicated, when asked if he would be paid more than $5,000 annually, that he would not. He told The Chronicle that administrators never separately asked him if he would be paid at all.

The very next day–November 3–it was revealed that a faculty member at another state university, Florida International University, who supported the Florida voting restriction law was allowed to testify in its favor by FIU:

Court records show that the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee hired a Florida International University professor, Dario Moreno, as an “expert witness” in League of Women Voters of Florida v. Lee, which challenges the restrictive voting law.

At Florida International, a public university, administrators signed off on Moreno’s outside-employment request with little fanfare. The “Outside Activity/Conflict of Interest Form” includes no comments or feedback to Moreno — just a couple of sign-offs by his superiors. Though the filled-out form does not specify the lawsuit, it names a law firm — Shutts & Bowen — listed on the same court documents that name Moreno as an expert witness for the Republican committees.

…Moreno, who could not be reached for comment, is an associate professor in the politics and international-relations department. He has previously been paid by the Florida Legislature to defend Republican-drawn redistricting maps in court. According to a 2015 article in the Tampa Bay Times, Moreno had been “hired by the Florida Legislature to be an expert witness in defense of every GOP-drawn redistricting map since 1994.”

Uproar over the discrepancy led UF to issue a statement saying their faculty could indeed testify against the voting law, but only if they were not paid. FIU put no such stricture on Moreno as he testified in favor of the law, and he billed for 112 hours’ worth of compensation.

Where does the fault lie–with the State of Florida’s Republican-led government, which may send a message to its colleges and universities that any criticism of the government will be punished? or with those institutions, like UF and FIU, that are all too willing to accept this situation? or with the general public, which includes people who support the situation and people who do not support it, who do nothing?

Silke-Maria Warnock, a faculty member at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, throws down the challenge we are all facing:

It’s rarely a good sign if you find yourself wondering how to translate certain German words: Gleichschaltung,for instance, or vorauseilender Gehorsam. But reading the news out of the University of Florida, where two administrators informed three faculty members that they were not permitted to testify as expert witnesses in a court challenge to Florida’s voter-suppression laws, will send you down that road.

Gleichschaltung is the process by which institutions are brought under the control of totalitarian ideology. It is frequently rendered as “coordination” or “synchronization,” but those terms lack the terrifying connotation of switches flipped, one by one, until the same ideological current flows through every previously independent institution.

Vorauseilender Gehorsam means “obedience ahead of the command.” The Yale historian Timothy Snyder translates it as “anticipatory obedience,” and that is close enough, but it doesn’t quite capture the scurrying servility implied in “vorauseilen,” to hurry ahead.

We don’t know on whose orders David E. Richardson, dean of the university’s college of arts and sciences, rejected the request of Daniel A. Smith, chair of its political-science department, to testify as an expert witness in the voting-rights case; or on whose orders Gary Wimsett, UF’s assistant vice president for conflicts of interest, rejected the requests of Michael McDonald, who studies national elections, and Sharon Wright Austin, who studies the political behavior of African Americans, to do the same. All three faculty members had previously testified as expert witnesses against the state in other cases, and the university had never declared them to be subject to conflicts of interest.

Unless we want to believe that two different administrators independently invented the same policy from scratch and presented it in near-identical terms, we have to conclude that Richardson and Wimsett acted on orders from above. The notion that they simply anticipated such orders is, in some regards, even worse… Whether they got their orders from the trustees, the president, the provost, or from Gov. Ron DeSantis or one of his minions will emerge in due course. But no matter where the directive originated, both men should have refused to carry it out. They should instead have offered their resignations. You do not obey such commands, you do not hurry ahead to destroy your university’s reputation at the bidding of an authoritarian regime.

…The implications of the assertion that the faculty must not act in a manner adverse to the regime’s interest — “activities that may pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the state of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida” — are staggering. If you are not allowed to bear witness against voter suppression in court, why would you be allowed to study the effects of voter suppression in the first place, or to teach your students about them? Such research and such teaching are not in Ron DeSantis’s interest, either, and by the logic of Richardson’s denial, any activity that is not in Ron DeSantis’s interest is not in the interest of the University of Florida.

…the university’s decision to declare itself an arm of DeSantis’s government rather than an independent institution beholden to the production and dissemination of knowledge and expertise represents an instance of Gleichschaltung that will be more difficult to reverse. It will only get worse. That it is the democratic franchise itself that is at stake in the court case in question only highlights how deep the threat is. Access to the vote is to democracy as freedom of speech is to the university: fundamental, constitutive. Democracies go bankrupt the same way everybody else does: very slowly, then all of a sudden. We are still at “slowly.” All of a sudden is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2022. If Florida’s administrators have ever asked themselves how they would have acted in 1932, now they know.

The date of November 8, 2022 refers to the next election day, when Governor DeSantis is up for re-election.

Of course, it’s not just Florida. If our CRT page has taught us anything, it’s that democracy is under attack in all 50 states, and that higher ed is a much-hated target. Most recently, the University of Texas at Austin has halted a research study “on the effectiveness of antiracism training for white children”–the original “critical race theory” topic that began our own coverage of CRT.

The name of the university is different, but the attack is the same:

This follows a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that the project is racially discriminatory, among other criticism. his follows a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that the project is racially discriminatory, among other criticism.

–It’s astounding and depressing that a single, horrible argument has gained so much credibility: that teaching about racism is racist. Our first CRT page post, Truth v. Myth: Trump’s Executive Order on Diversity Education, thoroughly explores this double-speak. Teaching Americans that racism existed in the past and still exists in the present, and takes the form of white racism against non-white people in our laws (institutional racism), is, the argument goes, racist because it makes white people feel bad by assuming that they are racist until they prove themselves non-racist. It is imperative, in this argument, that no white person ever feel bad or consider whether they participate in or benefit from racism, institutional and otherwise, and the deeper, much more screwed-up message is that non-white people are racist. Non-white people assume that white people are racist, which is racist.

To be brief, in a society where racism against non-white people is deeply embedded in law and social more, every white person does indeed have to make an effort to change this situation, and remove racist laws and representations from our nation.

To return to this particular UTA story, it seems logical that if CRT is “new” and suspect, it should be objectively, scientifically tested through studies of its impact. That’s what was happening at UTA. But its opponents could not take the chance that the study might prove that white children were not damaged by learning about racism, and so have shut it down, with the university’s meek acquiesence–or its gleichschaltung:

Numerous professors are asking the university to allow the research to proceed during the internal and external reviews, arguing that UT Austin’s institutional review board previously approved the project, as did peer reviewers during a competitive internal funding process.

These professors warn that halting research due to outside complaints threatens the integrity of the study at hand and, more generally, chills free inquiry into timely subjects such as antiracism.

UT Austin “leadership’s decision to pause elements of the study based on the mere filing of a complaint, and before any assessment of whether the complaint poses a credible claim, compromises the integrity of the research and the academic freedom to conduct research and draw conclusions rooted in evidence,” 18 UT Austin education professors said this week in a letter to President Jay Hartzell and Provost Sharon Wood.

…“The leadership’s decision to pause any aspects of the study has the effect of legitimizing actions that, however unfounded, seek to suppress scholarly pursuit of truth and the advancement of scientific knowledge.”

The purpose of the study, according to a recruitment flier, is to explore “overall engagement with the GoKAR! program, as well as the potential for the program to reduce bias and increase awareness of racism.”

The study hit a speed bump after Mark Perry, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Michigan and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, filed a complaint with the Dallas OCR office alleging violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.

UT Austin “blatantly violates Title VI by illegally engaging in racial discrimination on the basis of skin color by promoting, sponsoring, offering, and marketing a discriminatory program that engages in racial segregation,” Perry wrote to the OCR. “In violation of Title VI, the University’s GoKAR! Program operates illegally and exclusively for caregivers and their 4-5 year old children who both must identify as white and illegally excludes and discriminates against and excludes non-white caregivers and their 4-5 year old children on the basis of their race and skin color.”

…Victor Saenz, chair of educational leadership and policy at UT Austin and the first of the 18 education professors to sign the letter of concern, said via email that he wanted “to clarify that we’ve been in constant communication with all levels of UT leadership throughout this review process.” The university is “working expeditiously to help resolve this matter to ensure our faculty are being fully supported.”

Saenz’s letter to Wood and Hartzell tells something of a different story: “We are deeply concerned by the request to pause any aspect of the research. The university’s actions raise serious concerns regarding the differential treatment of research based on subject matter and viewpoint. In our experience, and in consulting with individuals who have extensive experience interacting with the [OCR] and/or expertise in academic freedom and civil rights, this is an atypical and unprecedented response from a university.”

…Referencing several critical blog posts and news articles about the study, some of which suggest that the project amounts to training, not research, [a letter from UTA faculty] says that “to succumb to political coercion, especially as it relates to scholarship that confronts anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and any other forms of oppression, compromises the central function of a public university. The university’s actions send a message that risks censoring and chilling professor speech based on viewpoint, running afoul of central tenets of the First Amendment.”

Yes, Perry is saying that a study of white children’s responses to educational materials that will help change racist attitudes about non-white people is racist because it doesn’t allow non-white children to participate–it’s segregation. Perry is deeply concerned that non-white children are not being given the chance to learn how not to be racist, perhaps against other non-white children, but given everything we have learned about this topic, it seems safer to bet that Perry wants non-white children to learn not to be racist against white children.

If only this type of university-supported attack on science, the objectivity of higher ed, and our national commitment to liberty and justice for all were truly “atypical and unprecedented”. This snowball is quickly growing and the hill it rolls down becomes steeper and steeper.

We’ll end as we always do–everyone must do their part to stop this takeover and dismantling of our democracy. Get involved in whatever legal and non-violent ways that you can, where you are, locally and nationally. Stop the gleichschaltung before it becomes a way of life.

Idaho bans diversity training, or, Trump is not gone

Here we are once again, forced to return to our short series examining the Biden Administration’s January 20, 2021 Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which you can find here on the official White House site.

On March 18 we wrote about the Iowa state legislature working to incorporate the anti-justice language and intent of the Trump Executive Order 13950 of September 22, 2020 (Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping), which we spilled so much ink on late last year. The University of Iowa is being pressured by the state legislature to end diversity education for students and staff.

Then on March 23 we posted about the Idaho state legislature attempting to do the same. Now, less than 2 months later, comes the terrible update: they did.

The Idaho House on Thursday approved legislation aimed at preventing public and charter schools and universities from teaching critical race theory, which examines the ways in which race and racism influence American politics, culture and the law.

…The measure, which passed with a 57-12 vote and no Democratic support, would prevent educators from making students “affirm, adopt or adhere to” belief systems claiming individuals of any race, sex, ethnicity, religion or national origin are responsible for past actions done by members of the same group. It also would prohibit teachers from forcing students onto belief systems that claim a group of people as defined by sex, race, ethnicity or religion are inferior or superior to another.

Republican Idaho lawmakers are concerned federal authorities could force belief systems on Idaho students through school curricula — calling the ideas often found in critical race theory “contrary to the unity of the nation and the well-being” of the state.

Backers said the bill is an anti-discrimination measure intended to spell out expectations for Idaho schools and universities following an executive order by President Joe Biden issued in January titled Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities.

–We’ve written a lot already, in the posts linked above, about this abuse of language that calls a law designed to prevent people from talking about and acknowledging racism an “anti-discrimination” law. By locating racism or other prejudice safely and firmly in the past (people today are not “responsible for past actions done by members of [their] group”), the law makes discrimination against non-white Americans seem dead, a relic of the past, and something people today would only bring up in order to hurt innocent Americans, make the U.S. “seem” racist, and destroy the nation.

To say that addressing our problems is “contrary to the unity of the nation and the well-being of the state” is openly weird. The “well-being of the state”? This sounds more like language from the Soviet Union, Animal Farm, or some Unabomber-type manifesto than language from a U.S. legislature.

The nation’s well-being springs from… actually being well. The U.S. is strong when we live up to the principle of liberty and justice for all. The U.S. is weak, and in danger, when we don’t. Dictating that the health of the nation is something floating in the ether that exists separately from our daily lives on the ground, what we do and say, how we treat everyone in our nation, the laws we pass and the people we elect, is contrary to the well-being of our state.

This quote from one Idaho lawmaker is frighteningly transparent about the real goals of this bill and its supporters:

Republican Rep. Lance Clow, chairman of the House Education Committee, supported the measure. …“I’m sure,” he continued, “minorities were feeling compelled to take certain beliefs and certain directions that now, on the flip side of that, you know, this white Anglo Saxon Christian feels like, well, maybe the tables have turned, and maybe we should have recognized there were problems in the past, and maybe we didn’t.”

…hearing this white man say he’s “sure” about what “minorities” have gone through, their being forced to “take” “certain” beliefs and “directions” is already bad. When he goes on to say that the “flip side” of this is “white Anglo Saxon Christians” “turning the tables” on other people–we presume “minorities”–it gets a lot worse.

Stay with us here, because the “logic” of the last part of his sentence is tortured: if we recognize that racism and other prejudice against non-“Anglo Saxon Christians” happened in the past, and we realize that was wrong, then we don’t want to make the mistake of allowing the prejudice that is taking place against “Anglo Saxon Christians” right now in the present go on any longer, lest we fail to learn from our past experience.

Anglo Saxon?? It’s astonishing and infuriating to see constant reminders that white supremacy has taken deep root in every part of our nation. What will these white supremacists do when, relatively soon, demographic trends will result in an America where white people are the “minorities”? We need only to look as far as the racial oligarchy in South Africa under apartheid for an answer.

As recently as 30 years ago, people who tried to bring up “reverse racism”–the allegedly widespread racism against white people that was robbing them of opportunity–would be laughed out of the room. Times have changed, and that 30-year timing is relevant, as it was the Reagan administration in the 1980s that began the drastic backlash against civil rights that resulted in, among other things, the growth of the religious political right and anti-democratic hate masquerading as protecting “real” Americans and the “real” America–with “real”, of course, meaning “white”. It used to be that people had to say “real” as a code for “white” because they would get in trouble if they paraded their racism. Again, times have changed, to the point where this legislator can openly refer to “Anglo Saxons”.

The 2020 Census data is being parsed right now, and it is, as predicted, being used to re-apportion and shift political representation in Congress. It’s no secret that these anti-American, racist bills are being written and passed by Republican-majority legislatures. There’s a long road ahead of every American who believes in democracy to fight and overturn these laws, before standing up for democracy is “controversial”:

Democratic Rep. Steve Berch said the legislation would have the opposite effect. “What this bill winds up doing in practical terms is intimidation,” he said. “This bill, not necessarily intended, but for sure there are people who will use this bill to intimidate teachers, school administrators, school clerks to make sure they don’t do anything that might in any way be considered controversial.”

Truth v Myth: Trump Executive Order defines fighting racism as racist

Welcome to part 2 of our series on the Trump Administration’s September 22, 2020 Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. You can find the official White House version of this executive order here. Today, we move on to the Order’s misrepresentation of anti-racism as a “destructive ideology.”

This destructive ideology is grounded in misrepresentations of our country’s history and its role in the world. Although presented as new and revolutionary, they resurrect the discredited notions of the nineteenth century’s apologists for slavery who, like President Lincoln’s rival Stephen A. Douglas, maintained that our government “was made on the white basis” “by white men, for the benefit of white men.” Our Founding documents rejected these racialized views of America, which were soundly defeated on the blood-stained battlefields of the Civil War. Yet they are now being repackaged and sold as cutting-edge insights. They are designed to divide us and to prevent us from uniting as one people in pursuit of one common destiny for our great country.

–The duplicity here makes one want to cry out. Here is the pretzel: acknowledging racism at work in America today is actually racist. To bring up race is, somehow, to have a “racialized view” of America, and, beyond that, to bring up racism is to be an apologist for slavery.

Where to begin? Well, perhaps with the common knowledge that fighting racism and working for civil rights is hardly represented as new, revolutionary, or cutting-edge. We’ve been doing this work in this country since 1787, at least, and the association of “civil rights” with “fighting racism against black Americans” has been very much a part of our life as a nation since 1865. Perhaps the author(s) of this order remember the NAACP, SNCC, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Shirley Chisholm, John Lewis, the NACW, and, greatest of them all, Mrs. Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Maybe they can recall the desegregation of Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas. The March on Washington. Brown v. Board of Education. The Great Society. All of these movements, organizations, events, and people of the past 160 years that we all read about at every grade level in our textbooks.

Fighting racism and working for civil rights is also not racist. To claim that fighting racism forces people to think about race, and only race, and therefore is racist, can only be the product of a deep stupidity or a deep evil. It’s very hard to say which would be worse.

Unfortunately, this malign ideology is now migrating from the fringes of American society and threatens to infect core institutions of our country. Instructors and materials teaching that men and members of certain races, as well as our most venerable institutions, are inherently sexist and racist are appearing in workplace diversity trainings across the country, even in components of the Federal Government and among Federal contractors. For example, the Department of the Treasury recently held a seminar that promoted arguments that “virtually all White people, regardless of how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism,” and that instructed small group leaders to encourage employees to avoid “narratives” that Americans should “be more color-blind” or “let people’s skills and personalities be what differentiates them.”

–This is more of the same idea that acknowledging race and racism is racist. We should all be allowed to be “color-blind”. This phrase, as used in this Order, represents a false assumption, which is that America, or at least most Americans, are not racist and do not ever made judgments about people based on their race. Therefore, being told to think about race is ruining this paradise by introducing race-based thinking, and therefore, racism.

It’s hard to imagine that many Americans would claim that they are “color-blind.” They might say they themselves are not racist, or that they try not to be. But they wouldn’t claim that they never think about race unless forced to do so by a workplace diversity training. In reality, all people–whatever their race–have racist thoughts and feelings. Most of them know that, and work to fight that human tendency. Some of them know that and don’t care, and some of them know that and deny it. While one might find fault with a diversity training program that singles out white people as racist, when we know that it’s a part of human nature the world over, we are talking about the U.S., where centuries of institutional racism have worked to promote the interests and well-being of white Americans at the expense of black, Latinx, Asian, and Native Americans. So in a U.S. diversity training, the focus will indeed be on how white people can renounce the privileges racism offers them. If white Americans don’t do that, they cannot “let people’s skills and personalities be what differentiates them.”

Training materials from Argonne National Laboratories, a Federal entity, stated that racism “is interwoven into every fabric of America” and described statements like “color blindness” and the “meritocracy” as “actions of bias.”

–Again, the first statement is very familiar to Americans. We spent the last 70 years learning again and again how racism distorts housing, employment, incarceration, health care, and education. You either oppose or support this, but you can’t prove a case for denying it. That’s why pushing “color blindness” and “meritocracy” are indeed tools of racism: they ask people to assume a level playing field that does not exist. Meritocracy means “we all start with the same opportunities, and those who take advantage of them and work hard will succeed.” But we don’t all start with the same opportunities, the same equality of opportunity, as the Founders put it, and therefore meritocracy is not truly possible.

Materials from Sandia National Laboratories, also a Federal entity, for non-minority males stated that an emphasis on “rationality over emotionality” was a characteristic of “white male[s],” and asked those present to “acknowledge” their “privilege” to each other.

–Here the author(s) play into people’s willingness to roll their eyes at “political correctness”. They pull very small quotes from some larger document to prove that Sandia is denigrating white men, representing them in a negative way and, therefore, engaging in what white racists traditionally call “reverse discrimination.” See? they say; Sandia is encouraging racism against white men! Shouldn’t every individual be judged on their actions, not their race? This is pretty unforgivably deceitful. If one group have worked to institutionalize racism, then yes, they participate in racism and benefit from it, even if they’re not fully aware of the full extent of that participation and benefit. It become so normalized that it’s just the fabric of life. Sexism works the same way. Making people aware of the benefit, or privilege, they experience is a first step in teaching the basic lesson that discrimination must be actively opposed, and that can’t happen until it is personally acknowledged. The work doesn’t stop there. Acknowledging one’s own participation in discrimination is just the first step to fighting it, and being part of the solution.

A Smithsonian Institution museum graphic recently claimed that concepts like “[o]bjective, rational linear thinking,” “[h]ard work” being “the key to success,” the “nuclear family,” and belief in a single god are not values that unite Americans of all races but are instead “aspects and assumptions of whiteness.” The museum also stated that “[f]acing your whiteness is hard and can result in feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion, defensiveness, or fear.”

–One of the concepts we learn as we move into adulthood is that words can have many meanings. We learn about codes, and code-switching. We find through personal experience that potentially explosive messages cannot be bluntly stated, but have to be filtered. It’s what we call a “dog whistle” – most people hear nothing, but those who are in the know hear the message.

Well-known examples include “the right kind of people” and “our kind of people”. In the U.S., the words and phrases “patriot,” “real Americans,” “honest, hardworking Americans,” and “middle-class” have been turned into dog-whistles for racism since the 1970s, when the conservative backlash against the civil rights movement and gains of the 1950s and 60s began, and were fully gelled by the Reagan Administration in the 1980s. All of these have become code expressions for “white”, and it was a horribly effective mis-use of meritocracy: start with the false assumption that everyone had the same starting point and resources, and then when racism ensures that people who aren’t white don’t succeed, the only way to explain it is by blaming the non-white people for being lazy, dishonest, and treacherous. If only white Americans succeed, it must be because only whites are hard-working, honest, and patriotic.

And so when the Order complains that the Smithsonian claimed that the phrases “[h]ard work” being “the key to success,” the “nuclear family,” and belief in a single god are not values that unite Americans of all races but are instead “aspects and assumptions of whiteness,” it is pretending that these have not become thoroughly encoded dog-whistles.

We would criticize the Smithsonian–if it is being quoted correctly–for saying that only white people value the nuclear family. Black American families in particular have been targeted for destruction by policies that keep black Americans poor, physically unhealthy, exposed to drug use, and more likely to be sent to prison, all of which prevent nuclear families from forming and/or persisting.

All of this is contrary to the fundamental premises underpinning our Republic: that all individuals are created equal and should be allowed an equal opportunity under the law to pursue happiness and prosper based on individual merit.

–The horrible irony of this statement is clear: acknowledging and fighting the racism that prevents equal opportunity under the law is racist. All anti-racism is anti-American and is itself what is preventing equality for all Americans. And, before we close, let’s all remember that the Declaration of Independence that the Order purports to quote here by using the phrase “pursue happiness” says NOTHING about individual merit:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

How does America achieve happiness for all? Is it through assuming a meritocracy? No: Americans achieve this by forming a government that supports happiness for all (“these ends”). And if that government “becomes destructive of these ends,” we the People must alter or abolish it to create a new government built on “such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”.

That’s how we create and maintain and safeguard happiness in this country. Through the hard work of creating a system of government that does not allow systemic, institutionalized discrimination, and through the hard work of monitoring that government and correcting it if it goes wrong. The Founders knew how hard it would be to keep the government fair and to keep it dedicated to preserving our natural rights. They did not recommend or describe a fantasy about everyone having all the resources and opportunities they needed, like magic, and just taking advantage of them, easy as pie. It’s about rights, not magic.

Next time: define merit