“Apply for our annual Latino scholarship!” ... “Enter our Hispanic essay contest!” ... “Now hiring minorities!”
Growing up Mexican American in Portland, Ore., I was frequently reminded that, despite my middle-class upbringing, I was a victim of “systemic racism” that could only be remedied by massive redistribution programs. However, a series of encounters led me to reject this race-based narrative because it advances social and political agendas that ultimately hurt minorities.
My skepticism of systemic racism began with some eye-opening conversations I had with several of my non-Latino friends. When scholarships were restricted to Latinos, my lower-income white friends lamented that they were not “diverse enough” to matter. I vividly recall the distress in my girlfriend’s voice when seemingly every Ivy League research assistantship came with the disclaimer “preference to people of diverse backgrounds.”
Recently, a friend of mine was fired from a minority-owned restaurant for not “embodying diversity enough.” These discussions aroused my suspicion of affirmative action’s effectiveness, particularly in light of polls showing how race relations have only worsened over the past decade.
The failure of these pro-diversity initiatives led me to question the claim that systemic racism exists in modern America. Indeed, the data suggests something very different.
We see the financial success of Asian Americans, the prominence of Nigerian Americans in higher education and the fact that the median income of white Americans is surpassed by the children of immigrants from dozens of non-Western countries, including India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Colombia, Argentina, Egypt, Syria and Ghana (as U.S. Census data indicates). Where, then, did the notion of systemic racism come from, and why have many minority groups subscribed to it?
My investigation of systemic racism led me to two of its most prominent claimants, Black Lives Matter and critical race theory, which share a disturbing common denominator: Founders of both movements embraced Marxist theories about class welfare and the historical oppression of vulnerable populations.
According to Marxism, it is the destiny of the oppressed to subdue their oppressors and build a communist society of equal outcomes, in which all people, regardless of their ability or merit, attain the same socioeconomic status. Marxist equality, therefore, demands the overthrow of supposedly oppressive institutions.
These include the traditional family, which expects children to submit to their parents; Christianity, which regards humility as a virtue; and capitalism, which produces economic disparities. But Americans would never abandon these pillars of their society unless they suspected that something was inherently wrong with their way of life: something systemic.
Racism, one of the ugliest scars on American history, offered a worthy culprit to initiate the class warfare that would bring about Marxist equality. Spearheaded by coalitions like the Marxist Frankfurt School, which laid the groundwork for critical race theory in Ivy League colleges, the left began branding these pillars of American culture as racist and oppressive.
Their remedies include welfare programs exclusively for minorities, the designation of traditional marriage and sexuality as a white construct, and the elimination of “racist” accelerated programs in schools. All of these policies are promoted under the banner of combating racism.
Latino culture, however, is fundamentally at odds with Marxism’s agenda. According to Pew Research, 77% of Hispanic Americans believe in the American dream, which is far greater than the national average of 62%. That same source reveals that we also attend Church more often and consider religion more important than most other ethnicities do. Finally, we treasure the traditional family. Why, then, have Latinos embraced the policies of the left?
My research took me to the 2020 election results, which reminded me of a segment of the Latino population that votes conservative: Cubans, whose relatives continue to fight communism. Their situation is unique among Latinos; most of us never experienced the horrors of a communist state. We do not understand that its obsession with equal outcomes fails to reward people for their work and penalizes innovation. We cannot imagine the assault on basic human rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. And we often fail to appreciate how familial stability is the best predictor of a person’s success, especially for minorities.
Latinos should listen to those who escaped from communism: We must realize that as long as we see ourselves as oppressed, we will become players in a plot that betrays our values.
As a Mexican American, I cannot help but feel used. For decades, leftists have branded themselves as defenders of my culture, yet their policies contradict our values. My mother did not come to this country so that her faith, family and economic freedoms could be assaulted and dismantled.
It is time to for my fellow Latinos to recognize that allegations of systemic racism are a clever form of gaslighting, convincing us of problems that do not exist to justify a nefarious “solution,” manipulating us into becoming pawns of the left.
Will Deatherage is a researcher in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, heritage.org.