King, Kendi, and the Good People of Guilford, Connecticut

Editor’s Note: This essay originally stated that the population of Guilford, Connecticut is “just over 77,000.” The population is, in fact, around 22,000. We have edited the piece accordingly.


Like many readers of Minding the Campus, I am despondent over the corruption of K-12 education in America. It seems to have inherited all that is retrograde in our colleges and universities since the George Floyd Affair triggered a nation-wide paroxysm of self-recrimination, based on the erroneous assumptions that America is “systemically racist” and that our country can be made virtuous, for the first time in its history, only through the expiation of collective guilt.

According to the reigning catechism—derived from a seemingly anodyne academic construct called Critical Race Theory—whites, as a group, are inherently racist, and their racism is apparent even in young children. Forgiveness for their Original Sin can only be achieved through the continued application of racial preferences that are inherently discriminatory and unfair—in a word, “equity.”

There is nothing more dismaying about this view of America than its implication that the original Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s was a failure. To me, it has always seemed a resounding success. Encapsulated in Martin Luther King’s stirring speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, which I watched from a hospital bed in New Rochelle, New York, the movement showed America at its very best. King’s injunction that we judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character became the foundational principle of my politics.

That my roommate in the hospital that late summer day was the leader of the NAACP in New Rochelle seemed symbolic of the interracial harmony exalted in King’s oration.

But, today, at least in academia, that laudable objective lies in ruins. King’s invocation of meritocracy and colorblindness has fallen, among our intellectual elite, largely on deaf ears. In fact, for Ibram Kendi, author of How to be an Antiracist and High Priest of the cult of Systemic Racism, Martin Luther King cannot be anything but a racist. For Kendi and his acolytes, who consider personal behavior reducible entirely to collective genetic inheritance, King’s emphasis on individual moral responsibility is not only socially useless—it is also pernicious and implicitly racist. The solution, according to Kendi, is stark: unless preferences favoring blacks over whites are brought to bear on every aspect of American life in which social and economic benefits cannot be provided to everyone who seeks them, whites will reserve them for themselves. In fact, their racism is so implacable that the racial preferences necessary to counteract it will have to be applied in perpetuity. In Kendi’s formulation, the only remedy for past and present discrimination against blacks is discrimination against whites until blacks are represented in every American institution based on the exact percentage of their portion of the general population. For a variety of reasons having nothing to do with race per se, the likelihood of this ever happening is close to zero. In a Kendian world, amicable relations, much less any sense of common purpose, between me and my hospital roommate would be impossible.

As a university professor surrounded by colleagues for whom Kendi’s prescriptions are uncritically accepted assumptions instead of propositions requiring empirical corroboration, I am reminded of George Orwell’s famous dictum—here slightly modified—that some ideas are so foolish, only college professors could believe them. But this is my occupational reality, and it seemed until recently that there was little I could do to alter it other than by joining organizations like the National Association of Scholars that seek to reverse the ongoing degeneration of American higher education. And with K-12 school systems now incorporating in their curriculum gross distortions like the 1619 Project, which consider America’s history exclusively the history of racism and slavery, this substitution of Kendi for King—of a destructive, divisive, hate-filled view of race relations for a vision of Americans of all races working together for a colorblind society—is likely to be as destructive of the minds of school-age children as the COVID virus has been of human bodies.

Until very recently, it seemed to me that, in practical terms, there was no escaping this dismal prospect. But suddenly, this past summer, there emerged a peaceful but forceful rising up in Guilford, Connecticut, of parents who had had enough of the corruption of their children’s education. The Superintendent of Schools, Paul Freeman, had gone so far as to charge town taxpayers the cost of sending copies of How to be an Antiracist to all teachers in the school system, with instructions to inculcate its contents in their students. Notwithstanding the Guilford Board of Education’s pronouncements on the virtues of “diversity,” Freeman did not include in the mailing any critiques of Kendi’s book, some of the most incisive of which have been produced by black intellectuals such as John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Shelby Steele, and Thomas Sowell. Nor did the superintendent respond to emails I sent him asking why he had failed to do this.

To reclaim their children’s education, Guilford residents established Truth in Education (TIE), an organization that supports candidates in elections to the Guilford Board of Education who are committed to stopping the superintendent from imposing his ideology on students and their unsuspecting parents. Learning of this, I was reminded of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1948, which states that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

I spoke to members of TIE this past June. After hearing their comments and questions, I realized that I was not alone, that however unpopular my views are among my academic colleagues—half of my department denounced me publicly for criticizing the 1619 Project, and my faculty union, for the same “transgression,” condemned me formally as a racist—there are large numbers of people outside academia who agree with me. These are people who have the courage of their convictions, who are willing to wrest their children’s education from a superintendent and a board of education that consider America “systemically racist,” and who reject the idea that white children should be browbeaten into confessing their racism and asking forgiveness for it. As a historian of the Soviet Union, I could not help but think of Stalin’s victims in the Show Trials of the 1930s confessing their non-existent treason and demanding punishment for it.

The results of their efforts, in the GOP Primary Election on September 14, 2021, are astonishing. The five TIE candidates vying for four contested seats on the Board of Education—Nick Cusano, Danielle Scarpellino, William Maisano, Timothy Chamberlain, and Aly Passarelli—defeated five competitors, all of whom had pledged to continue the Kendian Orthodoxy in the school system, by margins of nearly 3-1. Three of the latter were incumbents. Each of the TIE candidates received just under 1,200 votes; none of their opponents garnered more than 500. According to the Registrar of Voters, turnout of eligible voters was 47%, nearly double that in a primary election five years earlier. Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the election is that both the turnout and the results were driven by a single issue; for both the victors and the losers, their opinion of Kendi’s contentions, and of the propriety of their inclusion in the school curriculum, was determinative of success or failure.

The results of the election have national implications. If Americans not deluded by the malicious certitudes of left-wing academic ideology can make their voices heard in one town in Connecticut, with a population just over 22,000, there is no reason that what happened there cannot be replicated elsewhere. In their courage, integrity, and stubborn adherence to principle—in their refusing to be intimidated by opponents like the Hartford Courant, which in a scurrilous editorial smeared them as latter-day Klansmen, the TIE candidates and their supporters are reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement, which stirred the conscience of an entire country. While none were in danger of losing their lives, as did Michael Schwerner, Andrew Chaney, and James Goodman in Mississippi in 1964, they all risked, and in some cases have had to endure, the termination of friendships lasting decades. Public defamation on election day also exacted a toll. “Nazi” was just one of many indecent epithets hurled at supporters of the TIE candidates by voters who did not share their opinions.

What this shows is that the incivility and intolerance of dissent that permeate academia today have metastasized into American society as a whole.

But by voting as they did, the good people of Guilford showed that America, for all its failings, is still better than that. Happily, there are Americans like David Holman, Julie Cusano, Mary Beeman, Patricia Todd, Susan Weber, and the other Guilford residents who exercised their rights as citizens, who wish only the best for their country and are attempting to rescue it from elites that, until recently, seemed on a glide-path to destroying it. And if what happened in Guilford happens everywhere in America, King’s vision of Americans of all races recognizing their common humanity and their worth as God’s creation will retake its rightful place at the apex of America’s guiding principles.


Image: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Jay Bergman

Jay Bergman is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and serves on the National Association of Scholars' Board of Directors.

13 thoughts on “King, Kendi, and the Good People of Guilford, Connecticut

  1. This conversation should focus on equality rather than race. Who among us can claim superiority? I have worked with many ethnic groups and I respected them all. Let’s stop this nonsense.

  2. Critical Race Theory is corruption.

    It is not only historically warped….what it preaches in strident insistence is evil. The End can never justify the Means. Two wrongs do not make a right. And the way to stop unjust discrimination is NOT to amplify and expand that same kind of unjust discrimination.

    This is so plainly true and yet it must be shouted….because …. standing in stark & tidal opposition to this clear Truth is the Big Lie that life outcome imbalance (disparate impact) can only exist if racism is the endemic / systemic / bloodborne spoor of Western Civilization, especially as achieved in the American Founding.

    The Critical Race Theorists (and Kendi stands foremost among its acolytes) believe absolutely that the ONLY reason any given White man’s achievement exceeds the achievement of a Black man is because that White man cheated (or the “System” (the institutions & practices which comprise American society) cheated for him. They believe that the genetic fact of Whiteness carries with it – generation after generation, a perpetual & ineradicable Guilt tied to perpetual oppression. The cold, reality of any demographic imbalance, be it grade point averages, graduation rates, murder rates, unemployment rates, poverty rates, obesity rates, dropout rates….every single imbalance in any life performance category….becomes the proof that Whiteness is, by definition, Systemically Racist…as are the nations and institutions founded by White Supremacists.

    “How to be an Anti-Racist”, Kendi’s NYTimes Bestseller is this generation’s version of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and equally filled with the same kind of ethnic hatred.

    Tragically, like other hate-filled bigots before him, Kendi is embraced by those many broken souls who believe they deserve the Guilt, deserve the ritualistic humiliation, deserve the re-education camps, and who continually yearn for the relief provided by endless, whimpering confession (‘Shame me Kendi, for I have sinned….well, not me exactly, but someone in the long ago, now long dead, who looked vaguely like me sinned … but never mind all that…. PLEASE punish me MORE.)

    This kind of race-hatred is also embraced by those who crave the crooked crown of Perpetual Victimhood….who believe that THEY ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for the condition and shape of their own lives…. and who now, inter-generationally, look to Others to rescue them and make them whole. The professional Victim swallows entire the inhumane notion that they are but will-less objects, moved hither and yon by the racist whims of systemic skin-color discrimination.

    The fact that there are no laws which are race-centric….no institutions or corporations who hire, fire, or promote on the basis of race (and let us ignore Affirmative Action for awhile)….no banks which loan or reject loans because of skin color….no venues which refuse admission as a function of melanin…..no schools which make their admissions decisions based on race (and let us keep forgetting AAction!)….no media which filters by color… The fact that none of these things is happening or has happened for at least three generations… The fact that the American public, as a whole despises Racism…. None of these facts matter. And they don’t matter because Critical Race Theory preaches that any non-demographically balanced outcome in anything is Proof Absolute.

    “How else,” they ask, “can Racial Outcome Imbalance be explained?”

    Glenn Loury’s answer is succinct: “The 21st-century failures of too many African-Americans to take advantage of the opportunities created by the civil rights revolution are palpable, yet they are denied at every turn. This position is untenable. The end of Jim Crow segregation and the advent of equal rights for blacks were game changers. A half-century later, the deep disparities that remain are shameful and are due in large part to the behaviors of black people”

    But that is a very bitter pill to swallow.

  3. For the past three years, while following Australian politics, I’ve been waiting for something like this to crop up. Concerned parents pushing back against immovable school administrations by performing an end-run around stuck in the mud boulders – utilizing a political system that allows them to select candidates who promise to support their issues.
    Should this move across the land as described, it should stop the corrosion of parent and family-centered values promoted by ‘progressive’ political concerns. How could it help but do exactly that? It represents an incredibly vast majority, after all. One that permeates just about every cultural specific observable in the national demographic spread.

    1. An interesting approach out of Iowa that would work elsewhere: State aid to school districts is based on enrollment as of a specific date, usually Oct 1st.

      Some states average this with April 1st — and next years aid is based on this number. In Iowa I believe it is 18,000 dollars per child so this starts adding up fast.

      Well, upset parents were threatening to withdraw their children on Sept 30th and then re-enroll them again next week. This was a fight over mask mandates, but it would work with CRT as well.

      It is hardball politics with real consequenses — but if all else fails…….

      Well, what

  4. Thank you for such a thoughtful post, Professor Bergman. It gives me hope that perhaps those outside academia can defeat CRT.

  5. Prof Bergman has written a lucid and compelling exposure of the racist absurdities of critical race theory with its poisonous impact on all levels of education. His cogent essay should be required reading for all teachers. The ad hominem attacks and personal slurs from defenders of CRT will confirm the accuracy of Bergman’s critique.

  6. Shame on the department, and especially the union for slandering Professor Bergman as a racist. Whatever the merits or not of 1619 Project — I happen to think it is horrible — one should not be treated like this for criticizing it.

  7. Great article about an encouraging local election result.

    However, please correct the population figure. Guilford has only about 20,000 residents.

    Also, unfortunately, it was a GOP primary, so although the energy is clearly there to resist left wing indoctrination in public schools, it probably won’t be enough in the general election in a town that Biden, Clinton and Obama carried by huge margins. We’ll see.

    1. Hello,

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have just corrected the population figure, with an editor’s note at the beginning of the article noting the change.

      Best,
      David Acevedo
      Managing Editor, MTC

  8. The trouble with Right-wing praise of “Dr. King’s Dream” is that even as King was speaking, Black Americans were being beaten and murdered across the South. Churches bombed, killing children…voting rights workers kidnapped and assassinated…teenaged protesters firehosed…mobs of angry whites blocking Black kids from schools. There is no way to teach mid-20th century US history without these facts of American life then. Go backward in time and it just gets worse. You can “ban CRT” — whatever that means. But then what will you teach about slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the 100-year bloody battle for civil rights? Facts are facts, with or without “CRT” unless you expect a return to Lost Cause nonsense — in deep Yankee Connecticut, no less.

    1. Certainly we can teach about slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and the rest of it without CRT. The facts largely speak for themselves; CRT forces those facts into a very specific framework which–as Professor Bergman points out–demands that racism continue and increase.

      The battle for civil rights can be taught without CRT as surely as the Great Depression can be taught without Marxist economics.

  9. The thing to be remembered is that all of this started 40 years ago with the radical feminists and The War on Boys.

    Everything we are seeing now — the collective guilt, the segregation, the indoctrination, and the harassment — was on a female/male axis.

    K-12 was worse because most of the younger teachers were female. In Massachusetts, circa 1992, it was 80 percent of those under age 40 and 90 percent of those under age 30.

    One also needs to remember that by 1985, bright women in colleges were going into fields like law, medicine, & business — teaching was no longer the only profession open to them. Hence the 90 percent needs to be viewed in the context of women able to choose — choosing to do something else.

    Hence K-12 was a fertile field for Critical GENDER Studies — still is — and that is why CRT was so quickly adopted without fuss. It’s all about hating White males, and these teachers were all into that…..

    Besides, the majority of the people in BLM are White females.

  10. I enjoyed reading this essay so much that I am going to contribute $50 to the cause. The bumper stickers on my car state “Truth: It’s the New Hate Speech” and “Colleges Murder Viewpoint Diversity.” It is a sickening commentary on the degree to which the cancer of political correctness has metastasized that it is to risk one’s career in academia to challenge the Woke narrative. Our country’s greatest scholar, Thomas Sowell, nailed it when he stated: “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today.”

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