How to Refuse an inland Checkpoint


All suspicionless checkpoints 100% illegal. We must refuse them.


Read details about this stop here:….

You can also get some tips for filming police and officials on this post:…


– Relax, sometimes we have to stand up to stay free. Now is the time

– You will be nervous. It takes courage to stand up to bully and it’s not without any risk, but it’s worth it.

– Do not answer citizenship questions. It’s all about making you comply.

– If you wish to speak to them make eye contact and ask “Am I being detained – Am I free to go. You can banter if you want but you don’t need to.

DO NOT pull over to secondary. When you are in the road THEY are under pressure. If you pull over they can just ignore you and make you wait. They win.

Talk to the camera. You can also talk to the camera and pretend they are not there. This throws them off and can also help you stay clear headed.

– You have the right to remain silent.

– Lock the doors, put it in park and wait. Keep the camera rolling.

There is a lie being spread that treating disrespectful behavior with open disdain is to disrespect authority — In truth rebelling against the rule of unjust law in order to oppose tyranny and immorality is by action to show utmost respect for law, order and justice. It is and always has been the epitome of human courage.

Question and challenge government all the time — Otherwise they will trample you every time. The idea that we must me patriotic of the State itself rather than the freedom we hold dear is a lie.

Gavin Seim



We are being stopped at an in inland checkpoint near Alamogordo New Mexico. This is not a border crossing of ANY kind – –

I also posted the video to FB.. and Vimeo… in case it gets removed from here.

I am traveling the US with my family on a three month road trip ( I value your freedom and mine and I’ve had enough of the tyranny – Maybe I’ll run for Congress next year. I’m not joking, I am fed up.

We must stand for freedom, else we WILL lose it. More about this stop on our blog as well as alternate video sources…



United States v. Martinez-Fuerte

Government surfs love to cite this one – In reality the 4th amendment of the US Constitution is supposed to protect us from stops like this. Here is what the court said.

“While the need to make routine checkpoint stops is great, the consequent intrusion on Fourth Amendment interests is quite limited. The stop does intrude to a limited extent on motorists’ right to “free passage without interruption,”While the need to make routine checkpoint stops is great, the consequent intrusion on Fourth Amendment interests is quite limited. The stop does intrude to a limited extent on motorists’ right to “free passage without interruption..” – United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 US 543 – Supreme Court 1976

While the Supreme Court ignored the Constitution in regards to these checkpoints that does not mean we have to comply and certainly does not mean they can detain us without cause. In my option is was tant amount to treason as they admitted that this was a violation bit allowed it anyways.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” – Benjamin Franklin.

Free nations don’t have arbitrary check points.




I cannot believe, that they told you you’re being detained because of the US Constitution. How ridiculous is that!!!!
The way the officials acted PROVES 100% that they KNOW that these checkpoints are unlawful. Period. Because, if the reverse was true, he would have been FORCED to stop, even if guns were needed.
I liked how you were talking to the camera, explaining the situation before ever saying a word to the border agents. Making sure they knew they were being videoed, and that they heard that you knew this checkpoint was constitutionally illegal. 👍🇺🇸 outstanding
Wow. I’m an Arizona resident and have been through many of these. Things have changed a LOT in 8 years and I commend auditors like you who have the guts to exercise your rights. Thank you. I’ll admit that I don’t have the willingness to do what you do, but people like you help the US not slide too fast (it’s inevitable that it is coming) into a police state.
You got lucky man.. I 100% agree what you’re doing and I thank you for standing up. But they are cracking down on stuff like this.. my father and I spent a week in jail and thousands of dollars for doing the same thing (exercising our rights).
Every time law enforcement realize they are not in control… Their heads literally explode.
Thank You! You have no idea how helpful and informative your videos are to ppl who are unaware of our constitutional rights such as myself so i Thank You for broadening my knowledge on these sad but true facts we are currently now living through in this corrupt “justice” system! I wish i would have recorded a few months ago i was tazzed for no reason at all but if i had the knowledge i now have of my rights thanks to your videos i would have been able to take matter into my own hands in a very different way and that officer would have payed for his violent act on me for using exessive force for no reason. Ga police is beyond RASISCT and CORRUPT!
the look on that border agent’s face as soon as the driver started talking haha
As a black man….I’d be scared as hell to try this.
Just to let you know, you do NOT have to tell them you’re even a US citizen. I am not a US Citizen but am legally in the US on a green card, I’d never let them hassle me like that. Not without probable cause, which is not driving on the road.
They ran his license plate to find if he is not on the homeland security list. When you buy or lease a new vehicle the dealerships have to report it to homeland security and check with them to see if you are allowed to purchase the vehicle.
I commend you for doing this. My children are TERRIFIED of law enforcement, and my pregnant girlfriend, was (just this week) arrested on a clerical error, on our sheriff departments’ side.
They ran your plates .. they knew you were an American, I don’t think DHS is as egregious as PD’s .. everyone who is tasked with dealing with ‘criminals’ or ‘illegals’ or whatever, is trained to be ready for action and belligerent attitudes trigger hostile reactions … I completely agree with auditing, and impolite and belligerent police deserve to be punished just like the people they impose their over reaching behavior on would be punished .. cops are not above the law, in fact, they should be held to a higher standard .. the days of cops beating people just because they are a-holes is fast fading … But picking a fight with DHS is dumb, the agent who said you were being detained because of the Constitution was obviously thinking as a DHS (immigration) agent, not a local cop , they aren’t local cops or state troopers, and they’re trying to deal with a problem that is way out of hand .. so I think your video in this case was you being stupid, and I’d rather have that agent have my 6 than some armchair protester who’s just trying to be a sensationalist and make a couple of bucks on YouTube, without any real analysis… or concern for anything except their ‘mantra’… go after the dirty cops and leave DHS and INS alone unless they are dirty too… they are trying to interdict problems, not bully you.. as soon as they ran your plates they let you go, they don’t want to deal with your juvenile attitude..
Btw, I don’t think you were being “pushy” at all in this one. The problem lies in the fact that those ‘enforcers’ are so used to imposing bullying tactics upon people and getting away with it that it has become acceptable in their eyes, as well as the general population who encounter them.
I believe you were subjected to a search that you were unaware of. These days there are technological means of searching your vehicle without the need for you to leave it. So your rights may have been violated unknowingly.
Interesting read from an interior border check point wiki: Constitutionality Internal checkpoints have also been criticized for violating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures”, although The United States v. Martinez-Fuerte has affirmed their constitutionality. The U.S. Border Patrol has stated: “Although motorists are not legally required to answer the questions ‘Are you a U.S. citizen, and where are you headed?’ they will not be allowed to proceed until the inspecting agent is satisfied that the occupants of vehicles traveling through the checkpoint are legally present in the U.S.”[17]
I live in Washington state, it’s shocking to see this (among other things) happening here, thank you for your work and efforts.
Coming back from Nevada I refused to let an idiot and angry border patrol guy board my #VanLife van. He told me they would detain me all day. I told the dude I wasn’t on a schedule, lol, and turned off the ignition. After 15 minutes, they told me they must board to see the contents of my refrigerator. I told them no, again. But I told them I would happily pull out both baskets contained on both sides of my fridge, and put it on the floor so they can see. They told me to do so, and as soon as I opened the top-loading fridge and pulled out the first basket, the guy told me to forget it and slammed my slider shut. Then he yelled through my open driver’s window to hurry up (putting the basket back in the fridge) or he would arrest me for trespassing. When I was done and got back up front and buckled up, he told me they called the State Troopers and I would be pulled over and arrested within the next few minutes. I told him I would just pull up, into the inspection area and wait for them and talk with them when they arrived. Then I told him I knew he did not call the State/Highway Patrol. Then he says “Just get the f*ck out of here, *sshole.” I let him know my DashCam had filmed all of this. I laughed at him, told him to be nicer to everyone, and to have a nice day. I did not get pulled over of course. #ScareTactics PS: You also don’t have to show any employee or security guard your receipt when leaving a store (WalMart, Costco). Just politely say “No, thank you.” and exit the store with your purchases.
So… seeing the kids in the back and not wanting to traumatize them, the BP simply ran your plate, Identified you against the DL photo of the cars registered owner.  Confirmed you were at such and such check point at such and such time with their video camera. Confirmed you’re a citizen, then let you go. Not sure what you think you accomplished, they got everything they were looking for.       Now what I’d like to know is, are you now on a no fly list? BTW Random border check points are allowed 100 miles from the border.   
I’ve never lived in the US, but I can piece together that the border agency has the authority to establish inland check points and detain people until they establish the person’s citizenship. However, the person does not have a duty to answer questions about their citizenship. The irony is not lost on me, that this whole check point process is designed to lead to a Mexican standoff.
In Canada they’re allowed to go against the Charter according to the supreme court as long as they follow a set of rules. So unfortunately on my end I have to comply and show them my information for NO REASON. To actually be allowed to breach the Charter makes no sense to me. I hardly ever see them where I live at least luckily.
I see what your getting at but that going at your own pace at the end just wasn’t necessary man. You had got your point across, got out of there without answering questions and made them look like idiots so to go at a crawl at the end just pisses people off even someone like me who can’t stand authority or police, that last little bit was a dick move. You would get alot more support if you didn’t try make every stop an argument. You start off fine then if your not getting the reaction you want you start acting like a child. I realise views = $ but if you do these things with a bit more tact and class you could actually really achieve something very positive and powerful!
These guys are just following orders, if they where a family of color they would of pulled them over. You’re not supposed to racially profile but they do it. And yes if the tires are flatten, he will pay for them thru taxes he’s putting in anyways. I’ve driven thru this check point 100s of times, These BP agents are actually nice guys. This guy is just an instigator. He proved nothing. Once these guys see you’re a regular , they tend to not bother with the question. I had a friend not answer once, they pulled him over and took plenty of time checking vehicle and back ground just to irritate him at another check point. Im sure they’re trained to look for certain “things” like accents, crappy vehicles, attitude etc.

What Is White Privilege, Really?

Today, white privilege is often described through the lens of Peggy McIntosh’s groundbreaking essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Originally published in 1988, the essay helps readers recognize white privilege by making its effects personal and tangible. For many, white privilege was an invisible force that white people needed to recognize. It was being able to walk into a store and find that the main displays of shampoo and panty hose were catered toward your hair type and skin tone. It was being able to turn on the television and see people of your race widely represented. It was being able to move through life without being racially profiled or unfairly stereotyped. All true.

This idea of white privilege as unseen, unconscious advantages took hold. It became easy for people to interpret McIntosh’s version of white privilege—fairly or not—as mostly a matter of cosmetics and inconvenience.

Those interpretations overshadow the origins of white privilege, as well as its present-day ability to influence systemic decisions. They overshadow the fact that white privilege is both a legacy and a cause of racism. And they overshadow the words of many people of color, who for decades recognized white privilege as the result of conscious acts and refused to separate it from historic inequities.

In short, we’ve forgotten what white privilege really means—which is all of this, all at once. And if we stand behind the belief that recognizing white privilege is integral to the anti-bias work of white educators, we must offer a broader recognition.

A recognition that does not silence the voices of those most affected by white privilege; a recognition that does not ignore where it comes from and why it has staying power.


Racism vs. White Privilege

Having white privilege and recognizing it is not racist. But white privilege exists because of historic, enduring racism and biases. Therefore, defining white privilege also requires finding working definitions of racism and bias.

So, what is racism? One helpful definition comes from Matthew Clair and Jeffrey S. Denis’s “Sociology on Racism.” They define racism as “individual- and group-level processes and structures that are implicated in the reproduction of racial inequality.” Systemic racism happens when these structures or processes are carried out by groups with power, such as governments, businesses or schools. Racism differs from bias, which is a conscious or unconscious prejudice against an individual or group based on their identity.

Basically, racial bias is a belief. Racism is what happens when that belief translates into action. For example, a person might unconsciously or consciously believe that people of color are more likely to commit crime or be dangerous. That’s a bias. A person might become anxious if they perceive a Black person is angry. That stems from a bias. These biases can become racism through a number of actions ranging in severity, and ranging from individual- to group-level responses:

  • A person crosses the street to avoid walking next to a group of young Black men.
  • A person calls 911 to report the presence of a person of color who is otherwise behaving lawfully.
  • A police officer shoots an unarmed person of color because he “feared for his life.”
  • A jury finds a person of color guilty of a violent crime despite scant evidence.
  • A federal intelligence agency prioritizes investigating Black and Latino activists rather than investigate white supremacist activity. 

Both racism and bias rely on what sociologists call racialization. This is the grouping of people based on perceived physical differences, such as skin tone. This arbitrary grouping of people, historically, fueled biases and became a tool for justifying the cruel treatment and discrimination of non-white people. Colonialism, slavery and Jim Crow laws were all sold with junk science and propaganda that claimed people of a certain “race” were fundamentally different from those of another—and they should be treated accordingly. And while not all white people participated directly in this mistreatment, their learned biases and their safety from such treatment led many to commit one of those most powerful actions: silence.

And just like that, the trauma, displacement, cruel treatment and discrimination of people of color, inevitably, gave birth to white privilege.


So, What Is White Privilege?

White privilege is—perhaps most notably in this era of uncivil discourse—a concept that has fallen victim to its own connotations. The two-word term packs a double whammy that inspires pushback. 1) The word white creates discomfort among those who are not used to being defined or described by their race. And 2) the word privilege, especially for poor and rural white people, sounds like a word that doesn’t belong to them—like a word that suggests they have never struggled.

This defensiveness derails the conversation, which means, unfortunately, that defining white privilege must often begin with defining what it’s not. Otherwise, only the choir listens; the people you actually want to reach check out. White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled. Many white people do not enjoy the privileges that come with relative affluence, such as food security. Many do not experience the privileges that come with access, such as nearby hospitals.

And white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there. Instead, white privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.

Francis E. Kendall, author of Diversity in the Classroom and Understanding White Privilege: Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships Across Racecomes close to giving us an encompassing definition: “having greater access to power and resources than people of color [in the same situation] do.” But in order to grasp what this means, it’s also important to consider how the definition of white privilege has changed over time.


White Privilege Through the Years

In a thorough article, education researcher Jacob Bennett tracked the history of the term. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “white privilege” was less commonly used but generally referred to legal and systemic advantages given to white people by the United States, such as citizenship, the right to vote or the right to buy a house in the neighborhood of their choice.

It was only after discrimination persisted for years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that people like Peggy McIntosh began to view white privilege as being more psychological—a subconscious prejudice perpetuated by white people’s lack of awareness that they held this power. White privilege could be found in day-to-day transactions and in white people’s ability to move through the professional and personal worlds with relative ease.

But some people of color continued to insist that an element of white privilege included the aftereffects of conscious choices. For example, if white business leaders didn’t hire many people of color, white people had more economic opportunities. Having the ability to maintain that power dynamic, in itself, was a white privilege, and it endures. Legislative bodies, corporate leaders and educators are still disproportionately white and often make conscious choices (laws, hiring practices, discipline procedures) that keep this cycle on repeat.

The more complicated truth: White privilege is both unconsciously enjoyed and consciously perpetuated. It is both on the surface and deeply embedded into American life. It is a weightless knapsack—and a weapon.

It depends on who’s carrying it.


White Privilege as the “Power of Normal”

Sometimes the examples used to make white privilege visible to those who have it are also the examples least damaging to people who lack it. But that does not mean these examples do not matter or that they do no damage at all.

These subtle versions of white privilege are often used as a comfortable, easy entry point for people who might push back against the concept. That is why they remain so popular. These are simple, everyday things, conveniences white people aren’t forced to think about.

These often-used examples include:

  • The first-aid kit having “flesh-colored” Band-Aids that only match the skin tone of white people.
  • The products white people need for their hair being in the aisle labeled “hair care” rather than in a smaller, separate section of “ethnic hair products.”
  • The grocery store stocking a variety of food options that reflect the cultural traditions of most white people.

But the root of these problems is often ignored. These types of examples can be dismissed by white people who might say, “My hair is curly and requires special product,” or “My family is from Poland, and it’s hard to find traditional Polish food at the grocery store.”

This may be true. But the reason even these simple white privileges need to be recognized is that the damage goes beyond the inconvenience of shopping for goods and services. These privileges are symbolic of what we might call “the power of normal.” If public spaces and goods seem catered to one race and segregate the needs of people of other races into special sections, that indicates something beneath the surface.

White people become more likely to move through the world with an expectation that their needs be readily met. People of color move through the world knowing their needs are on the margins. Recognizing this means recognizing where gaps exist.


White Privilege as the “Power of the Benefit of the Doubt”

The “power of normal” goes beyond the local CVS. White people are also more likely to see positive portrayals of people who look like them on the news, on TV shows and in movies. They are more likely to be treated as individuals, rather than as representatives of (or exceptions to) a stereotyped racial identity. In other words, they are more often humanized and granted the benefit of the doubt. They are more likely to receive compassion, to be granted individual potential, to survive mistakes.

This has negative effects for people of color, who, without this privilege, face the consequences of racial profiling, stereotypes and lack of compassion for their struggles.

In these scenarios, white privilege includes the facts that:

  • White people are less likely to be followed, interrogated or searched by law enforcement because they look “suspicious.”
  •  White people’s skin tone will not be a reason people hesitate to trust their credit or financial responsibility.
  •  If white people are accused of a crime, they are less likely to be presumed guilty, less likely to be sentenced to death and more likely to be portrayed in a fair, nuanced manner by media outlets (see the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown campaign).
  •  The personal faults or missteps of white people will likely not be used to later deny opportunities or compassion to people who share their racial identity.

This privilege is invisible to many white people because it seems reasonable that a person should be extended compassion as they move through the world. It seems logical that a person should have the chance to prove themselves individually before they are judged. It’s supposedly an American ideal.

But it’s a privilege often not granted to people of color—with dire consequences.

For example, programs like New York City’s now-abandoned “Stop and Frisk” policy target a disproportionate number of Black and Latinx people. People of color are more likely to be arrested for drug offenses despite using at a similar rate to white people. Some people do not survive these stereotypes. In 2017, people of color who were unarmed and not attacking anyone were more likely to be killed by police.

Those who survive instances of racial profiling—be they subtle or violent—do not escape unaffected. They often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and this trauma in turn affects their friends, families and immediate communities, who are exposed to their own vulnerability as a result.

study conducted in Australia (which has its own hard history of subjugating Black and Indigenous people) perfectly illustrates how white privilege can manifest in day-to-day interactions—daily reminders that one is not worthy of the same benefit of the doubt given to another. In the experiment, people of different racial and ethnic identities tried to board public buses, telling the driver they didn’t have enough money to pay for the ride. Researchers documented more than 1,500 attempts. The results: 72 percent of white people were allowed to stay on the bus. Only 36 percent of Black people were extended the same kindness.

Just as people of color did nothing to deserve this unequal treatment, white people did not “earn” disproportionate access to compassion and fairness. They receive it as the byproduct of systemic racism and bias.

And even if they are not aware of it in their daily lives as they walk along the streets, this privilege is the result of conscious choices made long ago and choices still being made today.


White Privilege as the “Power of Accumulated Power”

Perhaps the most important lesson about white privilege is the one that’s taught the least.

The “power of normal” and the “power of the benefit of the doubt” are not just subconscious byproducts of past discrimination. They are the purposeful results of racism—an ouroboros of sorts—that allow for the constant re-creation of inequality. 

These powers would not exist if systemic racism hadn’t come first. And systemic racism cannot endure unless those powers still hold sway.

You can imagine it as something of a whiteness water cycle, wherein racism is the rain. That rain populates the earth, giving some areas more access to life and resources than others. The evaporation is white privilege—an invisible phenomenon that is both a result of the rain and the reason it keeps going.

McIntosh asked herself an important question that inspired her famous essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”: “On a daily basis, what do I have that I didn’t earn?” Our work should include asking the two looming follow-up questions: Who built that system? Who keeps it going?

The answers to those questions could fill several books. But they produce examples of white privilege that you won’t find in many broad explainer pieces.

For example, the ability to accumulate wealth has long been a white privilege—a privilege created by overt, systemic racism in both the public and private sectors. In 2014, the Pew Research Center released a report that revealed the median net worth of a white household was $141,900; for Black and Hispanic households, that dropped to $11,000 and $13,700, respectively. The gap is huge, and the great “equalizers” don’t narrow it. Research from Brandeis University and Demos found that the racial wealth gap is not closed when people of color attend college (the median white person who went to college has 7.2 times more wealth than the median Black person who went to college, and 3.9 times more than the median Latino person who went to college). Nor do they close the gap when they work full time, or when they spend less and save more.

The gap, instead, relies largely on inheritance—wealth passed from one generation to the next. And that wealth often comes in the form of inherited homes with value. When white families are able to accumulate wealth because of their earning power or home value, they are more likely to support their children into early adulthood, helping with expenses such as college education, first cars and first homes. The cycle continues.

This is a privilege denied to many families of color, a denial that started with the work of public leaders and property managers. After World War II, when the G.I. Bill provided white veterans with “a magic carpet to the middle class,” racist zoning laws segregated towns and cities with sizable populations of people of color—from Baltimore to Birmingham, from New York to St. Louis, from Louisville to Oklahoma City, to Chicago, to Austin, and in cities beyond and in between.

These exclusionary zoning practices evolved from city ordinances to redlining by the Federal Housing Administration (which wouldn’t back loans to Black people or those who lived close to Black people), to more insidious techniques written into building codes. The result: People of color weren’t allowed to raise their children and invest their money in neighborhoods with “high home values.” The cycle continues today. Before the 2008 crash, people of color were disproportionately targeted for subprime mortgages. And neighborhood diversity continues to correlate with low property values across the United States. According to the Century Foundation, one-fourth of Black Americans living in poverty live in high-poverty neighborhoods; only 1 in 13 impoverished white Americans lives in a high-poverty neighborhood.

The inequities compound. To this day, more than 80 percent of poor Black students attend a high-poverty school, where suspension rates are often higher and resources often more limited. Once out of school, obstacles remain. Economic forgiveness and trust still has racial divides. In a University of Wisconsin study, 17 percent of white job applicants with a criminal history got a call back from an employer; only five percent of Black applicants with a criminal history got call backs. And according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Black Americans are 105 percent more likely than white people to receive a high-cost mortgage, with Latino Americans 78 percent more likely. This is after controlling for variables such as credit score and debt-to-income ratios.

Why mention these issues in an article defining white privilege? Because the past and present context of wealth inequality serves as a perfect example of white privilege.

If privilege, from the Latin roots of the term, refers to laws that have an impact on individuals, then what is more effective than a history of laws that explicitly targeted racial minorities to keep them out of neighborhoods and deny them access to wealth and services?

If white privilege is “having greater access to power and resources than people of color [in the same situation] do,” then what is more exemplary than the access to wealth, the access to neighborhoods and the access to the power to segregate cities, deny loans and perpetuate these systems?

This example of white privilege also illustrates how systemic inequities trickle down to less harmful versions of white privilege. Wealth inequity contributes to the “power of the benefit of the doubt” every time a white person is given a lower mortgage rate than a person of color with the same credit credentials. Wealth inequity reinforces the “power of normal” every time businesses assume their most profitable consumer base is the white base and adjust their products accordingly.

And this example of white privilege serves an important purpose: It re-centers the power of conscious choices in the conversation about what white privilege is.

People can be ignorant about these inequities, of course. According to the Pew Research Center, only 46 percent of white people say that they benefit “a great deal” or “a fair amount” from advantages that society does not offer to Black people. But conscious choices were and are made to uphold these privileges. And this goes beyond loan officers and lawmakers. Multiple surveys have shown that many white people support the idea of racial equality but are less supportive of policies that could make it more possible, such as reparations, affirmative action or law enforcement reform.

In that way, white privilege is not just the power to find what you need in a convenience store or to move through the world without your race defining your interactions. It’s not just the subconscious comfort of seeing a world that serves you as normal. It’s also the power to remain silent in the face of racial inequity. It’s the power to weigh the need for protest or confrontation against the discomfort or inconvenience of speaking up. It’s getting to choose when and where you want to take a stand. It’s knowing that you and your humanity are safe.

And what a privilege that is.

Collins is the senior writer for Teaching Tolerance.

The Excesses of Antiracist Education

In my last column I tried to describe part of the current controversy over race and K-12 education — the part that turns on whether it’s possible to tell a fuller historical story about slavery and segregation while also retaining a broadly patriotic understanding of America’s founding and development.


In this column I will try to describe the part of the controversy that concerns how we teach about racism today. It’s probably the more intense debate, driving both progressive zeal and conservative backlash.

Again, I want to start with what the new progressivism is interested in changing. One change involves increasingly familiar terms like “structural” and “systemic” racism, and the attempt to teach about race in a way that emphasizes not just explicitly racist laws and attitudes, but also how America’s racist past still influences inequalities today.

In theory, this shift is supposed to enable debates that avoid using “racist” as a personal accusation — since the point is that a culture can sustain persistent racial inequalities even if most white people aren’t bigoted or biased.

Still, this kind of vision would, on its own, face inevitable conservative resistance on several grounds: that it overstates the challenges facing minorities in America today; that it seems to de-emphasize personal responsibility; that it implies policy responses (racial quotas, reparations) that are racially discriminatory, arguably unconstitutional and definitely threatening to the white middle class.

But the basic claim that structural racism exists has strong evidence behind it, and the idea that schools should teach about it in some way is probably a winning argument for progressives. (Almost half of college Republicans, in a recent poll, supported teaching about how “patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other institutions.”) Especially since not every application of the structural-racist diagnosis implies left-wing policy conclusions: The pro-life and school choice movements, for instance, regularly invoke the impact of past progressive racism on disproportionately high African-American abortion rates and underperforming public schools.

What’s really inflaming today’s fights, though, is that the structural-racist diagnosis isn’t being offered on its own. Instead it’s yoked to two sweeping theories about how to fight the problem it describes.

First, there is a novel theory of moral education, according to which the best way to deal with systemic inequality is to confront its white beneficiaries with their privileges and encourage them to wrestle with their sins.

Second, there is a Manichaean vision of public policy, in which all policymaking is either racist or antiracist, all racial disparities are the result of racism — and the measurement of any outcome short of perfect “equity” may be a form of structural racism itself.

The first idea is associated with Robin DiAngelo, the second with Ibram X. Kendi, and they converge in places like the work of Tema Okun, whose presentations train educators to see “white-supremacy culture” at work in traditional measures of academic attainment.

The impulses these ideas encourage take different forms in different institutions, but they usually circle around to similar goals. First, the attempt to use racial-education programs to construct a stronger sense of shared white identity, on the apparent theory that making Americans of European ancestry think of themselves as defined by a toxic “whiteness” will lead to its purgation. Second, the deconstruction of standards that manifest racial disparities, on the apparent theory that if we stop using gifted courses or standardized tests, the inequities they reveal will cease to matter.

These goals, it should be stressed, don’t follow necessarily from the theory of structural racism. The first idea arguably betrays the theory’s key insight, that you can have “racism without racists,” by deliberately trying to increase individual racial guilt. The second extends structural analysis beyond what it can reasonably bear, into territory where white supremacy supposedly explains Asian American success on the SAT.

But precisely because they don’t follow from modest and defensible conceptions of systemic racism, smart progressives in the media often retreat to those modest conceptions when challenged by conservatives — without acknowledging that the dubious conceptions are a big part of what’s been amplifying controversy, and conjuring up dubious Republican legislation in response.

Here one could say that figures like Kendi and DiAngelo, and the complex of foundations and bureaucracies that have embraced the new antiracism, increasingly play a similar role to talk radio in the Republican coalition. They represent an ideological extremism that embarrasses clever liberals, as the spirit of Limbaugh often embarrassed right-wing intellectuals. But this embarrassment encourages a pretense that their influence is modest, their excesses forgivable, and the real problem is always the evils of the other side.

That pretense worked out badly for the right, whose intelligentsia awoke in 2016 to discover that they no longer recognized their own coalition. It would be helpful if liberals currently dismissing anxiety over Kendian or DiAngelan ideas as just a “moral panic” experienced a similar awakening now — before progressivism simply becomes its excesses, and the way back to sanity is closed.