The Political Unfolding of California’s Racial Reckoning: From Affirmative Action to Critical Race Theory

In August 1996, at the height of a 6-million-dollar campaign coalition to preserve race-based affirmative action over against Proposition 209, Dr. Shirley Weber spoke at the Million Man March statewide conference organized by Dr. Manulana Karenga for a revolutionary agenda of black empowerment. At the time, Dr. Weber was a member of the San Diego School Board and Professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University, while Dr. Karenga was recognized as the creator of the African-American ideal of “Kwanzaa” based on a then-fringe intellectual paradigm of social collectivism. The conference championed local organizing for diversity, a joint alliance to defeat Prop 209, and reforms to improve outcomes for underrepresented groups.

The key message of both the “No on Prop 209” coalition and the Million Man March conference centered on preserving government-sanctioned preferences to combat discrimination against minorities and women. But Prop. 209 was approved by nearly 55% of Californian voters and amended the state constitution to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Fast forward to November 2020, Prop. 209 has withstood various challenges, with the latest attempt to overturn it, Proposition 16, failing miserably at the polls: over 57% of the California electorate rejected a return to preferential treatment.

Even with California’s continuous repudiation of race preferences, the political capital behind the paradigm has mutated into a stronger industrial complex, weaponized with financial support from Corporate America and complete with a renewed ideology crystalized into the temple of critical race theory. While “old-fashioned” proponents of race-based affirmative action still pay lip service to principles of unity and equality, the new generation of “racial reckoning” foot soldiers are most interested in demolishing all Western institutions and rebuilding America on a bifurcated vision of oppressors vs. victims. From mandatory “white privilege” training for educators in San Diego to classes of intersectional social identities targeting 3rd graders in San Jose, supporters of critical race theory have effectively institutionalized public education into a political arena of  “wokeism,” dogmatic struggle sessions, and engineered societal divisions. E pluribus unum, America’s national motto and long-standing political tradition, is now incompatible with a radical vision predicated on revolutionary class and race struggles against objectivity, reason, capitalism, and Christianity.

Powerful unions and Sacramento’s politicians line up to salute this re-imagination of our nation’s premises and future. Companies are co-opted into complicity in order to maintain their social license to operate. Notably, the failed Prop 16 campaign amassed a fortune of over 27 million dollars from billionaire philanthropists, publicly traded companies, associations of teachers, civic employees, and Democratic politicians, in addition to high-profile endorsements from city councils, University of California campuses, school districts, and all major media outlets across the Golden State. More recently, the telecommunication giant Comcast has committed to launching a 100-million-dollar initiative called RISE (representation, investment, strength, and empowerment) to “raise awareness and combat inequities in race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation in the ability to thrive and excel in the business realm”.

The same bandwagon led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Teachers Association, the University of California system, and the California Democratic Party is now in full force to endorse the introduction of an ethnic studies curriculum rooted in critical race theory into the state’s K-12 classrooms. The California State Board of Education recently released its third and final field review draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, with heavy doses of verbiage against white racism, colonialism, and other racially rooted forms of privilege. The curriculum will be adopted by the state and paraded as a national blueprint by March 2021.

The private sector seizes upon this market opportunity to monetize the new paradigm of critical race theory: countless consulting companies have now sprung up to offer lavish anti-racism training, book groups, racial healing seminars, and white privilege sessions to corporate clients, school districts, and public agencies. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) industry has now been upgraded into a multi-billion-dollar empire profiting from hyped racial divisions and lies of utopian social engineering. But a lie is still a lie: while critical race theory pundits romanticize an anti-capitalist economic system, the anti-racism consulting business thrives in a capitalist structure, on the principle of free market competition. The cronyism of private and public interests in this ideological revamping can be demonstrated in a recent “race meltdown” at an elite prep school in New York City, where dozens of progressive teachers signed an eight-page “anti-racist manifesto” demanding the school provide additional critical race theory trainings. This private school charges $54,180 in annual tuition.

Both race-based affirmative action and critical race theory propose that fighting discrimination requires discrimination. However, the former still clings to a quasi-liberal school of thought by envisioning equality of outcomes and prescribing reformist remedies within the system. With intellectual and political heritage from postmodernism, French neo-Marxism, and critical legal studies, the latter seeks a total break-away from the past, a regime change based on the assumption that the current system is irredeemably racist. The only way out is to de-construct the system into rival ethnic/racial tribes and re-construct our very social fiber from one rooted in individual liberty to one steeped in collectivist grievances. The end game, whether the pundits realize it or not, is a disastrous racial nirvana in which young children are constantly indoctrinated to see the world through a racial prism and determine good and bad in literal black-and-white terms.

The timely reunion of Weber and Karenga in October 2020 symbolized a high point in critical race theory’s expropriation of American public and political spaces. Weber was invited by Karenga to speak at the Nguzo Saba 2020 conference to commemorate 55 years of “unbudging blackness.” Both have advanced a great deal in their collective pursuit of “a radically transformative agenda” and have become “mainstream influencers” for critical race theory. Now State Assemblywoman Weber has become a pivotal legislative proponent of bills such as ACA-5 (reintroducing government preferences), AB-3121 (reparations for descendants of slavery), AB-2016 (ethnic studies curriculum development),  AB-979 (racial quotas on corporate boards), and AB-101 (ethnic studies for high school graduation). Karenga is now Chair of the Africana Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach and is named on the list of 100 Greatest African Americans. In his CSU capacity, Karenga coined the “seven-fold path of blackness”: to “think black, talk black, act black, create black, buy black, vote black and live black.” Undoubtedly, this spiritual principle explains Assemblywoman Weber’s recent failed campaign to pressure Governor Newsom to name a black woman for VP-elect Kamala Harris’s senate seat.

The temple of critical race theory is now post-construction.


Image: Andre m, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, cropped.

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Wenyuan Wu

Wenyuan Wu is executive director at Californians for Equal Rights. Twitter: @wu_wenyuan

2 thoughts on “The Political Unfolding of California’s Racial Reckoning: From Affirmative Action to Critical Race Theory

  1. Your Complicity—Aiding and abetting the old guard is fascinating to me. Denying that structures built on privilege doesn’t exist and that exposure of the truths of which this nation has built and perpetuated in terms of intentionally denying opportunities to people of color to maintain a certain order and way of life is somehow threatening is troubling to me as a fellow Asian American. Oh my sister what have you done.

  2. Very well thought-out treatise by Wenyuan Wu, on the opportunistic rise of the most divisive program of indoctrination since Marxism in the old Soviet Union.
    – Arthur P. Duffy, PE

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