In a recent NBC Think article, author Noah Berlatsky reflected on Mississippi State University (MSU) Assistant Professor Margaret Hagerman’s new book “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America.” Berlatsky opens with the conflicting pride he felt when his child lobbied his private secondary school to recognize Columbus Day as Native People’s Day because the school should not celebrate “white imperialism.” (His son’s effort was successful.)
Ignore for a moment that Columbus Day is a celebration of human achievement, global trade, and multiculturalism that has been celebrated for more than a century, including in multiple Latin American, non-white countries. Ignore also that instead of educating the student on the rich tradition of this holiday, the school wasted time accommodating an uninformed child’s protest about a holiday he clearly doesn’t understand.
Held up to any scrutiny, this situation is absurd, but not more absurd than Berlatsky’s reflections on it. Berlatsky is conflicted because, while he is proud of his child’s “anti-racist activism,” he feels shame for his white privilege affording his child an education at an expensive private school where school administrators take such activism seriously. In his view, this exemplifies the much larger problem of structural racism. He then explores the MSU professor’s book.
One of the many lazy assertions in this book is that even anti-racist white parents “actively reproduce inequality” by not spending enough time discussing racism with their children and by giving their children books whose characters happen to be white. There is no end to the left’s shaming of people who have done nothing more than teach their kids to be good people to the best of their ability.
Berlatsky has done nothing wrong, and unlike Hagerman suggests, Noah has not actively reproduced racism. On the contrary, his son obviously demonstrated his awareness and opposition of racism at a young age. In an attempt to appease his ideological possession, Noah brainstorms over possible lifestyles choices that might mitigate his child’s privilege footprint.
He pulls from Hagerman’s book: “Everyone is trying to do the best for their kid,” she says. “But I actually think that there are times when maybe the best interest of your own kid isn’t actually the best choice. Ultimately, being a good citizen sometimes conflicts with being good parents. And sometimes maybe parents should decide to be good citizens over being good parents.”
Berlatsky mulls over a few examples of this. “That could mean voting to raise taxes so to better fund public schools. Maybe in our case it should have meant choosing a public school rather than a private one.”
It’s incoherent, at best, to imply that worse parents make better citizens. While white liberals ponder the various ways they should have neglected their kids to appease “oppressed groups,” I and many other millennials reject this ideological disease.
I am a young, half-white mother and wife who has seen the expansion of the radical left politically correct culture since I was in elementary school. When Gillette is lecturing you about how to behave, you know things have gone too far. The only result of this decades-long Marxist campaign is more outrage at good people.
According to many on the left, I am supposed to teach my son of the repressive nature of his existence as he develops. I am to tell him at every turn to sacrifice himself to others for the transgression of being himself. This thinking is not only intellectually pitiful, but also profoundly evil.
The smallest minority is the individual. I reject the notion that my son’s value is determined by his skin color, sex, or life circumstance. I look forward to teaching my son about self-discovery. I want to see him develop his talents and learn to appreciate the talents of his peers. I want him to feel the joy of hard work and achievement, and to admire the qualities of others in a society that appreciates individuals.
If we raise our children to appreciate individualism, then we will end all the various flavors of collectivism, from racism to white privilege. Teaching our children about the horrors of imperialism, slavery, and racism is critical. However, there is no greater good to be gained by sacrificing the quality of my child’s education or economic circumstance.
To maximize the quality of each child’s path to quality education, economic prosperity, and social well-being, I propose a few different policy points. School choice, not mandated-by-ZIP code education, will give children the propensity to thrive. Rather than blame individuals who move to a highly rated school district or make them feel guilty for choosing to send their child to a private school, open the door to more students to do the same.
Eliminating barriers to economic progress, such as excessive licensing, will create a world of jobs for entrepreneurs, especially low-income entrepreneurs. While licensing was once limited to areas that most believe deserve licensing, such as medical professionals, lawyers, and teachers, this practice has greatly expanded over the past five decades.
In my home state of Mississippi, approximately 19 percent of workers need a license to earn a living. This includes everything from a shampooer, who must receive 1,500 clock hours of education, to a fire alarm installer, who must pay more than $1,000 in fees to become licensed. In total, there are 66 low- to middle-income occupations that are licensed in Mississippi. Similar stories exist is every state, yet the outcomes are the same: higher cost for consumers and less opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Finally, promoting, or at the very least not discouraging, marriage will lead to more intact families and the benefits that surround it. The success sequence––graduate from high school, obtain employment, and get married before having children––has long been debated, but it is undeniable from numerous points of view that following these (not so simple) steps will put an individual, and a family, on the path to prosperity.
This, of course, will require a cultural response, similar to anti-smoking campaigns, as much as a government response. Unfortunately, too few people seem interested in taking up the cause of marriage, despite it being the leading cause of inequality in American children’s lives.
I want what is best for my son, and I will do what it takes to make that happen, no matter the political trends. And that is the best thing we can do for a better society.
This column appeared in The Federalist on January 30, 2019.