Is Liberal Racism a Horse of a Different Color?

Bigotry is bigotry, whether systemic, as at Harvard, or idiosyncratic, like Sarah Jeong’s Twitter feed.

 
 

One of the gates to Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Mass., June 18
One of the gates to Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Mass., June 18 PHOTO: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS
 

Be honest. Are you really surprised that the New York Times has stood by its decision to hire Sarah Jeong as an editorial board member even after it was revealed she spent years on social media making openly racist and sexist remarks about white men? You may be outraged, sure. But surprised?

To paraphrase a well-known political figure, Ms. Jeong could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot a white person without losing the support of liberals. It’s a safe bet she was tapped by the Times because of these racial prejudices, not despite them. Editorial board members are hired to help formulate and express the official position of a newspaper. Ms. Jeong is being hired to speak for the Times, and they like where she’s coming from.

The Grey Lady attacks President Trump as a racist and sexist on a near-daily basis, and columnists like Charles Blow write about little else. So is it hypocritical for the paper to hire and defend a new editorial board member who has made no secret of her own biases? Of course it is, but that’s considered beside the point by people who share Ms. Jeong’s worldview.

The liberals who control most major media outlets specialize in applying different standards to different groups. Like the Times, Twitter had no problem with Ms. Jeong’s repugnant observations. Scores of tweets that included offensive phrases—“#cancelwhitepeople”; “are White people genetically disposed to burn faster in the sun?”; “White people have stopped breeding. you’ll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along”—didn’t faze Jack Dorsey’s content monitors. But when conservative activist Candace Owens decided last weekend to reproduce Ms. Jeong’s posts and replace “white” with “black” or “Jewish,” Twitter temporarily suspended her account. Following a backlash, Twitter restored the account and claimed that “we made an error.”

Of course, the Times can hire whomever it pleases. But if it’s going to give the likes of Ms. Jeong a pass while lecturing us about growing intolerance on the political right, how seriously should readers take the paper’s nonstop Trump-is-a-bigot coverage? The president’s attacks on the media are often misguided and overstated—his daughter Ivanka is right; we’re not the enemy of the people—but major news outlets are doing plenty to erode public confidence in the news without any help from Mr. Trump.

Welcome to another example of the left’s inconsistency on race. If the goal is a postracial America, why does racial identity continue to be liberalism’s overriding obsession? Why is racism viewed as something to redirect rather than end outright? If you’re situated on the progressive left, racist views are OK to harbor so long as they’re targeted at the right groups for the proper reasons?

At Harvard, Asian students are currently out of favor among administrators for the sin of taking up too many slots in the freshman class. America’s most prestigious university, a bastion of liberal thinking, is being sued by Asian students for discrimination. Harvard wants a certain racial balance on campus, and Asians are getting in the way by academically outperforming applicants from other groups. The nerve.

Harvard can no longer credibly deny that it’s engaging in systematic racial discrimination. Internal documents that the school has been forced to disclose to fight the litigation suggest that Harvard is doing what has long been rumored. Nonetheless, school officials justify these racially biased practices. They insist, like Ms. Jeong and her defenders, that such bigotry is in the service of a noble cause. Unlike you or me, Harvard knows how to discriminate the “right” way.

Prior to World War II, and long before Harvard and other Ivy League schools had an “Asian problem,” the concern was too many Jews on the quad. The parallels are instructive. “Jewish students outperformed their Gentile classmates by a considerable margin,” writes Jerome Karabel in his 2005 book, “The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.”

Then as now, the schools came up with ways to overcome that reality by de-emphasizing objective admissions criteria. Jews were less likely to participate in athletics or belong to social clubs other than Jewish fraternities, both of which were deemed “character” flaws for the purpose of bringing the “Jewish invasion” under control. These days, Asian applicants to Harvard receive consistently low “personal” ratings, which are then used to undercut their academic achievements under Harvard’s “holistic” assessment of their worthiness.

So long as the goal is not to level the playing field but to tilt it in a different direction, expect history to continue repeating itself.

Appeared in the August 8, 2018, print edition.

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