The following column originally published on City Journal.
Verizon has launched an internal program teaching that the United States is a fundamentally racist nation and encouraging employees to support a variety of left-wing causes, including “defunding the police.”
According to documents that I have obtained from a whistleblower, Verizon launched the “Race & Social Justice” initiative last year and has created an extensive race reeducation program based on the core tenets of critical race theory, including “systemic racism,” “white fragility,” and “intersectionality.”
In the flagship “Conscious Inclusion & Anti-Racism” training module, Verizon diversity trainers instruct employees to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities and, according to their position on the “privilege” hierarchy, embark on a lifelong “anti-racism journey.”
Employees are asked to list their “race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion, education, profession, and sexual orientation” on an official company worksheet, then consider their status according to the theory of “intersectionality,” a core component of critical race theory that reduces individuals to a network of identity categories, which determine whether they are an “oppressor” or “oppressed.”
In a video presentation featuring a full-screen title card reading “Let’s talk about privilege,” then-Global Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer Ramcess Jean-Louis (who has recently moved to Pfizer in a similar role) says: “As a black man in [America], we are viewed as less than. We are viewed as inferior. We are viewed that our life is not as valuable as anyone else.”
Set to dramatic piano music and intercut with footage of the “Central Park dog walker” Amy Cooper, the video states that “weaponized White privilege” causes grave “danger” to African-Americans.
Jean-Louis, speaking dramatically, to the point of nearly crying, concludes: “If we are not being viewed as humans, if we’re not being viewed as whole people with souls, these things happen and they will continue to happen.”
After establishing the intersectional hierarchy and threat of “weaponized White privilege,” Verizon instructs employees on the firm’s elaborate racial-etiquette system, which provides specific rules for engaging in “conversation about race.”
The diversity trainers explain that employees should not commit “microaggressions” and “microinequities,” defined as “indirect expressions of racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, or another form of prejudice” that are “seemingly innocuous” and often “unconscious or subtle,” but make members of certain racial and sexual classes “feel different, violated, or unsafe.” Members of the privileged classes must instead engage in the “lifelong process” of demonstrating “accountability with marginalized individuals.”
As part of the company’s “antiracism” education series, #Next20, Verizon vice president David Hubbard interviewed Khalil Muhammad, great-grandson of former Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and newly minted professor of race at Harvard.
During his presentation, called American History 101, Muhammad argued that America is fundamentally racist and needs a “new origin story,” replacing the narrative of “American exceptionalism” with the narrative that America was founded on “systems of racism” that remain at the root of our society.
Muhammad argued that the Founding Fathers built a slave economy and that “this early version of global capitalism” produced the “economic incentives” that prevail to this day, with modern corporations “exploiting poor people in low-income communities” in a similar way to the slaveowners of the past.
“This isn’t just Marxist talking points,” Muhammad said. “It’s just the fact.”
Later in the discussion, Muhammad claimed that the current American police force is designed to maintain a “two-tier society,” enforce geographic segregation, and protect the “wealth gap” between white and black Americans.
The raison d'être of policing, Muhammad said, is to “make sure that kids are locked up,” “make sure that people stay in their communities,” and “make sure that they’re criminalizing poverty”—what he called “the bread and butter of systemic racism.”
Black crime statistics showing that black Americans commit crimes disproportionately, Muhammad contended, “are themselves an expression of systemic racism,” used to establish “the collective guilt of black people” and to “[justify] inequality and racism and discrimination.”
What should be done?
In another #Next20 conversation on “criminal justice reform,” Verizon hosted an activist named Adrian Burrell who openly advocated for “defunding the police.”
As Burrell told Verizon employees: “I feel like over policing doesn’t work. And I feel like those same resources that are aimed towards hiring [police officers] with racist biases . . . need to be aimed at bringing more resources to the community at a at a root level, and then you just won’t need so many police.”
Burrell added: “If you want to call that ‘abolishing the police,’ or if you want to call that ‘defunding the police,’ so be it.”
Verizon claims that this conversation, and its broader antiracism program, will “accelerate systemic change.”
In reality, however, the company is promoting the conventional wisdom of the academic Left and the American bureaucracy.
Diversity lecturers such as Muhammad, pretending to bring radical insights, have simply commodified critical race theory and sold it back to Fortune 100 companies—ignoring how fashionable ideas such as “defunding the police” are deeply unpopular with voters, including the majority of African-Americans.
Verizon’s corporate slogan is “Built Right.” If Verizon executives want to live up to it, they should scrap their antiracism program.
Christopher F. Rufo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. Sign up for his newsletter here.
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