Early this month, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber went through the woke “anti-racist” rite of confession: he published a letter confessing the ongoing racism at his university under his leadership. Such confessions serve to prop up the ridiculous claim that any racial disparities are ipso facto proof of “institutional racism.” Claims like Eisgruber’s are less a confession of actual fact and more a rhetorical weapon to push Marxist critical race theory.
Yet the Department of Education (DOE) decided to call Princeton’s bluff. According to a letter obtained by The Washington Examiner, the DOE launched an investigation into the Ivy League university. Princeton, like other schools that receive federal funding, pledges to abide by certain federal laws in order to receive federal funding.
Since Eisgruber became president in 2013, Princeton has received more than $75 million in federal Title IV taxpayer funds and the school “has repeatedly represented and warranted to the U.S. Department of Education Princeton’s compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the letter reads. “Title VI provides no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
“On September 2, 2020, you admitted Princeton’s educational program is and for decades has been racist,” the letter notes. “Among other things, you said ‘[r]acism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton …’ and ‘[r]acist assumptions…remain embedded in structures of the University itself.'”
“Because of racism, you announced race-based ‘diversity’ measures for hiring, procurement, teaching, fellowship, and research funding,” the letter adds.
“Based on its admitted racism, the U.S. Department of Education ic concerned Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity assurances in its Program Participation Agreements from at least 2013 to the present may have been false,” the letter explains. “Finally, the Department is further concerned Princeton’s many nondiscrimination and equal opportunity claims to students, parents, and consumers in the market for education certificates may have been false, misleading, and actionable substantial misrepresentations in violation of” U.S. law.
Therefore, the DOE is opening an investigation into Princeton and may end up removing funds from the university — and demanding Princeton pay back taxpayer funds it should not have received. “Based on the facts, the Secretary of Education may consider measures against Princeton for false Program Participation Agreement nondiscrimination assurances, including an action to recover funds.”
The Princeton president’s statement
Taken at face value, Eisgruber’s statement does justify a DOE investigation. The university president did indeed confess to propping up “anti-Black racism,” but he clearly did so as a rhetorical weapon. By confessing to institutional racism at Princeton, Eisgruber can then claim that American society as a whole is institutionally racist.
Referring to the perceived police abuse of force in the cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and Jacob Blake, the Princeton president wrote, “This outrageous and awful violence has revealed yet again, and with searing intensity, the long, painful, and ongoing existence of anti-Black racism in America. Racial justice demands the scholarly and practical attention of this University.”
“We must ask how Princeton can address systemic racism in the world, and we must also ask how to address it within our own community,” Eisgruber wrote. “That is true even though, for at least the past fifty years, this University has committed itself to becoming more inclusive. At a University that, for most of its history, intentionally and systematically excluded people of color, women, Jews, and other minorities, Princetonians— from the oldest alumni to the newest undergraduates — now take pride in the diversity of our community.”
“Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society, sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies. Race-based inequities in America’s health care, policing, education, and employment systems affect profoundly the lives of our staff, students, and faculty of color,” the president argued.
“Racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself,” he confessed. “For example, Princeton inherits from earlier generations at least nine departments and programs organized around European languages and culture, but only a single, relatively small program in African studies.”
Eisgruber seized on a supposed racial inequality in Princeton’s departments, overlooking the history of the Western heritage and the basic fact that so many aspects of modern human flourishing — science, free markets, limited government, and universities themselves — did develop in European societies. This is not to say institutions like Princeton should not study African, Asian, North and South American, and other cultures, as well. But Eisgruber engaged in needless self-flagellation, suggesting that studying Western heritage more than other cultures is somehow racist.
Yet this kind of thinking falls in line with the “anti-racist” movement. In his book Stamped From the Beginning, scholar Ibram X. Kendi explains the basic logic of “anti-racism”: People of all races are inherently equal, but some races have more money/prominence than others, therefore the society must be racist.
Kendi attacks two different groups of people: outright racists and “assimilationists.” He argues that most Americans still harbor racist ideas, and he claims that any explanation for racial disparities besides “structural racism” is inherently racist because it blames the victim.
America’s long and successful struggle to ban outright racial discrimination in the law does not matter to the “anti-racist” movement. It does not matter that black people tend to dominate sports like basketball and football due to their individual training and success. It does not matter that a wide variety of factors explains why police tend to regard young black men with more suspicion, most notably crime rates.
Black people are more likely to face stigma and they are more likely to be seen as representatives of the black community, rather than being seen as individuals. This is a double-edged sword: it means black people are unjustly regarded with suspicion but it also means that there is a bias in favor of black people in some schools, jobs, and professions.
Yet reformers have worked hard to excise racial discrimination from American law. Attorney General Bill Barr recently explained why he believes there is no such thing as “systemic racism.”
“To me the word ‘systemic’ means that it’s built into the institution and I don’t think that’s true,” the AG said. “I think our institutions have been reformed in the past 60 years, and if anything is built-in, it’s a bias to nondiscrimination and safeguards against [racism.]”
Eisgruber did not intend to confess to violating federal discrimination law. He meant to signal his virtue and convince people that America is institutionally racist in order to further his own political and ideological goals. That makes the Department of Education’s response brilliant — perhaps even hilarious.
Accusations and confessions of racism are serious, or at least, they used to be. Thanks to the logic of “anti-racism,” a completely colorblind policy — one that judges people not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words — would still be considered “racist” because the free actions of free individuals result in racially disproportionate outcomes.
Federal law rightly prohibits many kinds of racial discrimination, but it prohibits discrimination on an individual level. Federal law does not require schools like Princeton to admit exactly 73.09 percent white students, 16.42 Asian students, and 5.78 percent black students, so that the student body represents the population of Princeton, N.J. In fact, by these measures, Princeton University is “racist” in favor of black people (9 percent of the undergraduate population) and Asians (25 percent of undergraduates, even higher percentages in post-grad classes).
The “anti-racist” measurement is actually more racist. The government arguably has a role in preventing racial discrimination when it comes to opportunities, but it has no business ensuring exact racial representation in outcomes. That would be absurd.
If America adopts the “anti-racist” definition of “racism,” the government cannot prevent racial discrimination when it comes to opportunities and individuals. At that point, preventing racial discrimination must mean achieving proportionate outcomes.
This broader definition of racism justifies both brainwashing and an unguided, destructive revolution. Riots across America have arguably oppressed black people far more than the U.S. supposedly does. The riots have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 26 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
The Department of Education was right to call Princeton’s bluff here. Words have meaning, and the “anti-racist” revolution must be stopped.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.