The Biden administration’s abdication of equal protection is why legislation known as “critical race theory bans” are necessary. Passed in a number of states, these bills do not, by and large, directly target curricula. Rather, they tend to prohibit CRT-inspired pedagogy that creates what should be universally recognizable as a racially hostile learning environment: promotion of ideas that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously,” as well as “ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.”
Last week, a teacher in Evanston, Illinois, filed a landmark civil rights lawsuit against her school district. Her complaint: the district segregated staff by race for professional development, subjected students to race-shaming “privilege walks,” instructed teachers to take race into account in student discipline, and taught students that treating people equally “helps racism.”
Such practices are, unfortunately, no longer shocking. But even if the public has become inured to such stories of state-sponsored racism, policymakers have yet to grapple fully with the significance of why this lawsuit had to be filed: the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has given up on traditional civil rights enforcement.
The facts of the case are not much in dispute. They were investigated by OCR, which, in January, under the Trump administration, found that “the District engaged in intentional race discrimination by coordinating and conducting racially exclusive affinity groups,” that “the District appears to have deliberately singled out students and other individuals by their race, in order to reduce them to a set of racial stereotypes,” that “the District’s Policy to apparently impose racial discrimination in discipline has no part in federally funded education programs or activities,” and that the district’s “privilege” activities “may have created a racially hostile environment.”
But following President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity, OCR took the perhaps historically unprecedented step of suspending its own decision. It’s hard to imagine that the Biden administration would have walked back the office’s decision if nonwhite students were being victimized. And it’s equally hard to evade the conclusion that the administration has all but formally decided that the anti-discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act do not apply to white students or teachers.