Teachers unions are systemically racist.
Don’t get mad at me for saying it; I don’t make the rules of woke terminology. But under the sweeping definition of “systemic racism” the liberal Left has embraced, teachers unions’ incessant fight to keep schools closed most certainly qualifies.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson defines systemic racism as “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African Americans.” A writer at liberal news outlet Vox said systemic racism is a term “used to talk about all of the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions that harm certain racial groups and help others.”
More broadly, professor Ibram X. Kendi, a celebrated left-wing thinker, argued that racism exists wherever racial disparities do: “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.”
Conservatives don’t and shouldn’t necessarily accept this definition. But it’s entirely fair to hold liberal groups — teachers unions donate huge sums almost exclusively to Democrats — to their own standards. So, let’s apply this definition of “systemic racism” to the teachers unions’ fight to avoid opening schools and maintain failed “distance learning” schemes.
First and foremost, let’s be clear that there’s no scientific or safety-based justification for keeping schools closed. Some countries, such as Denmark, never closed their schools, and the fearmongers’ predicted COVID-19 hot spots never materialized.
And even the liberal-leaning Washington Post reported that “in-person schooling has not been associated with substantial transmission in the wider community. Multiple studies found transmission rates inside schools are similar to, or lower than, levels in the community when mitigation steps are in place.”
International research and domestic real-world studies have similarly shown that there’s no special COVID-19 risk associated with in-person schooling. If anything, it’s far safer than many forms of “essential” in-person gathering we have allowed to take place.
The teachers unions are simply fighting to not have to do their job. Why? Frankly, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they have political and selfish motives.
A major Los Angeles teachers union demanded socialist healthcare, defunding the police, a wealth tax, and a ban on charter schools that compete with traditional public education before they would return to work. A North Carolina teachers union also demanded “Medicare for all” and more welfare for illegal immigrants before reopening schools. And a San Francisco teachers union even demanded the installation of new toilet lids before returning to work. (This demand had no basis in recommendations from public health authorities.)
These are just a few examples, but there’s concrete evidence proving that politics, not science, is what’s behind school closures. A comprehensive data analysis found that school closures correlated strongly with union strength, but not with actual COVID-19 prevalence and death statistics.
Suffice it to say the teachers unions’ push to keep schools closed is fundamentally unjustified. And it’s wreaking havoc on an entire generation of students, and especially minority students.
It’s easy to see why.
A significant racial wealth gap persists in this country, and white families are more likely to have parents with white-collar, remote jobs or parents who can afford child care and assistance with their child’s remote schooling. This has meant more minority children slipping through the cracks during the “distance learning” experiment teachers unions have forced us into.
The Census Bureau said that nearly twice as many black and Hispanic students have had no access to live teaching as white students. And a McKinsey analysis found that due to the losses from school closures, “Students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students.” McKinsey also estimated that white students will, on average, earn $1,348 less annually over their lifetimes due to school closures, but for black students, it will be $2,186 a year.
The data are overwhelmingly clear on this front: School closures have hit minority students and families disproportionately hard. And schools have only remained closed because of the pernicious influence of teachers unions prioritizing their own interests over those of students.
Using liberal definitions, it’s entirely fair to say that teachers unions are perpetuating systemic racism, making them systemically racist organizations. No, this doesn’t mean individual teachers or individual union members are bigoted. It doesn’t even necessitate any actual racist intent on the teachers unions’ behalf.
But it’s indisputable that teachers unions’ obstinate fight to keep schools closed is hurting minority students at a widely disproportionate rate. And by the Left’s own terms, there’s only one word for that: racism.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.