Heather Mac Donald on the Toxic Ideology of Identity Politics

August 8, 2019 Updated: August 8, 2019

“The charge of racism today is basically tantamount to saying: ‘I have nothing. I can’t make an argument.’ It is the all-purpose response to try to shut down evidence that you don’t like,” Heather Mac Donald said in an interview with The Epoch Times for the “American Thought Leaders” program. Mac Donald is a Thomas W. Smith fellow of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at the institute’s City Journal.

Mac Donald said President Donald Trump was “absolutely correct” in claiming Baltimore is a failed city. Trump was recently denounced as racist after he criticized Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and described Cummings’s Baltimore district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” that is a “very dangerous & filthy place.”

But Mac Donald argued the president’s claims were rooted in facts. “The people themselves in Baltimore admit they’ve not been able to get a handle on the crime problem,” she said.

Baltimore has the highest murder rate of any major metropolitan area in the nation, with 56 homicides for every 100,000 people. “You have these insane drive-by shootings. They’re taking lives by the weekend,” Mac Donald said.

“They’re at their highest per capita homicide rate in their history, thanks to something which I’ve called the Ferguson effect. The cops are unwilling to get out of their cars and question somebody hanging out at a known drug corner at 2 a.m. because they’re so fearful of another riot happening if they’re forced to use force to subdue a suspect.

“So they’re de-policing, and crime is through the roof. And the good people in Baltimore, those good, hardworking minority residents that have businesses, they’re all begging for the police to step up to the plate.

“The press doesn’t [care]. The only time the press cares about black lives is if one has been taken by a police officer, which is a minute fraction of the black homicide toll.”

In the United States, black people are 10 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than white people. And black children and teenagers are 14 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than white children and teenagers of the same age, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

“In 2016, in Chicago, there were 4,300 people shot. That’s one person every two hours. Twenty-four children under the age of 12 were shot in Chicago that year. Now, let’s imagine 4,300 white people being shot in Chicago. It is unthinkable. There would be a national revolution,” Mac Donald said.

“It’s completely unacceptable. Nobody knows about this toll in Chicago because the victims were black, and the perpetrators were black. We’re all told that it’s the police who are the biggest threats to black people. That year in Chicago, the police shot 20 people, virtually all armed and dangerous, threatening either the officer or civilians. That’s 0.5 percent of the total.”

While some would argue TV shows and mass media don’t report on black homicides because white viewers in America wouldn’t care, Mac Donald argued that the reality “is that the black leaders don’t care either.”

“They should be screaming bloody murder. But we see what’s happening now with the Trump tweet about Baltimore. Everybody is running in circles frantically to try to deny this reality,” she said.

While liberals will blame many of the issues plaguing black Americans on racism, Mac Donald said, there are cultural and behavioral explanations for the socioeconomic divide and the rampant levels of crime in inner cities.

“The crux of the problem is the breakdown of the traditional family,” she said. “When you have, tragically, an out-of-wedlock birth rate in the black community of 73 percent, that means that 73 percent of black children are being raised by single mothers. That is a social catastrophe of a civilization-crushing magnitude.”

And there are other behavioral choices, she argued, like “not going to school, being truant, not studying, not taking your textbooks home, not paying attention to your teacher, getting involved in gangs—those are vast behavioral disparities.”

Liberals fundamentally reject discussion on individual behavior and responsibility and are only willing to accept structural explanations for disparities, Mac Donald said. In their view, “society is structured in such a way that it is impossible for people in official victim groups to succeed,” she said. Socioeconomic disparities, according to liberals, are “by definition, a result of a panoply of bigotry, the primary one being race-based bigotry.”

But racism isn’t the villain in this story, in Mac Donald’s view. “The answers have got to be in culture change and behavior change. People have to start making different decisions about how they lead their lives.”

The Assault on Meritocracy

In Mac Donald’s view, racism was indeed a brutal, pernicious ideology in America for decades and a glaring, grotesque contradiction to and betrayal of America’s founding principles. But today, the pendulum has shifted.

“As hard as it is to believe, given the deep roots of racism in American society, I think we have done a 180-degree turn,” she said. Now institutions across America are “obsessed with diversity” and focusing on hiring more people of color.

“It’s the most worrisome in the scientific sector where you have Silicon Valley now—every big tech firm, Google, Microsoft, Amazon—they are all obsessed with diversity and identity, focused primarily on females,” Mac Donald said.

“We’re putting our competitive edge at risk by this wholesale attack on meritocracy. I don’t care what the race and gender is of the lab that’s going to discover Alzheimer’s [cure]. If they’re all female, fine, as long as they are the best scientists out there … the only thing that should matter is their scientific expertise.”

Mac Donald pointed to Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, as an excellent test of the narrative about sexism. Wikipedia has no barriers to participation. “Anybody can write and edit, and it’s anonymous, and it’s blind,” she said. But, shockingly, “90 percent of all entries on Wikipedia are written by males.”

“There are differences between males and females on average. I’m not talking about anybody’s daughter out there. I’m not saying your daughter’s not going to win a Nobel Prize in physics. I’m talking about distributions and averages, which is what James Damore was trying to talk about in Google before he was fired. On average, males are more driven to this competitive, fact-based obsession, whether it’s sports or keeping track of every last voting district,” she said.

In 2017, James Damore wrote a memo arguing there may be other factors besides sexism that might explain the gender disproportionality at Google and other big tech firms. He was fired as a result.

In Mac Donald’s view, identity today has become a source of power. “The identity politics victimology says just by virtue of checking off various boxes of victimhood,” she said. “You get power, you get to silence your opponents and without using arguments.

“By virtue of being a female, I have more power than you do. And if I were a black female, I’d have twice, three times as much power as you do. But again, these are not based on anything that I’ve accomplished, but just based on my status.

“This is a very dangerous place to be in our society. It means that you no longer have a single standard of justice, of competence, of merit, but inevitably have at least two standards—if not many more, given the rapid fissuring of the various identity categories that go into this ruthlessly competitive totem pole of intersectional victimhood.”

Higher Education: Engines of Victimology

“The thing that I’m most upset about is what’s happening with the universities. It is absolute educational malpractice for the college administrators—whether it’s the presidents or these massive diversity bureaucracies—to tell students that they’re victims,” Mac Donald said.

To the contrary, Mac Donald argued, “every library, every classroom, every chemistry lab, it’s all open. And if those students are being so lied to that they think of themselves as oppressed on a college campus … they are going to carry that chip on their shoulder that prevents them from seizing opportunities because they are angry, sullen, defensive all the time out in the real world.”

Mac Donald has been a vocal critic of affirmative action and what she sees as the corruption of the education system. Her newest book is “The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture.”

College, in Mac Donald’s view, was once the land of lofty ideals, tasked with “passing on the inheritance of Western civilization” and endowing younger generations with “the privilege to study beauty and greatness and sublimity.”

“I aspired to become an academic. I can think of nothing more enriching and important in one’s life than to be in a university properly defined,” Mac Donald said. She graduated summa cum laude from Yale University and received her juris doctor from Stanford University Law School.

But now, she said, “we’re in a race against time.” Universities, once the vanguards of Western civilization, have become “the engines of this toxic victimology and identity politics.”

“Students and faculty should be down on their knees in gratitude for the opportunity to read the Greek tragedians, to read Aeschylus, to read Milton, to read Mark Twain, to read George Eliot. This is the greatest privilege one can have,” Mac Donald said. “And we’re betraying it by teaching students to hate—to hate the greatest products of civilization and, frankly, to hate each other.

“It is the thing that breaks my heart the most. It’s why I write out of sorrow and anger that we are destroying this institution that developed over centuries in the West that should be the repository for passing on an inheritance.

“You have a culture now that has decided to be so against itself, to hate its own accomplishments. The only analogy I can think of is the Chinese Cultural Revolution.” During this decade-long period, the Chinese communist regime ravaged Chinese society, overthrowing traditional ideas, morals, and spiritual beliefs with the argument that they were all backward and oppressive.

Such pernicious damage to education, in Mac Donald’s eyes, is occurring not just in higher education, but in K-12 as well. “It’s just absolutely heartbreaking and tragic that the left-wing, identity-based, hating mob has taken over K-12 education and is already telling students to think of themselves as either victims or oppressed, is celebrating various forms of dysfunction,” she said.

“I don’t know any civilization that can go forward without giving its members a sense of pride.”

But instead of studying the best aspects of Western civilization, “now education is all about rubbing kids’ nose in dysfunction and premature sexuality awareness,” she said.

As an antidote, she encourages parents to homeschool their children. “I would say, teach your kids to love greatness. Give them the great books, read them the children’s classics, develop in them an ear for language. Give them respect for beauty, for music, for Mozart, for Chopin, for Schubert to inoculate them against this hatred and self-loathing,” she said.

American Thought Leaders is an Epoch Times show available on Facebook and YouTube.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Follow Jan on Twitter: @JanJekielek