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A public school in New York City has provoked a firestorm of outrage by asking parents to become “white traitors” and promote “white abolition” in an effort to allegedly fight racism.
The controversial letter was sent by Mark Federman, principal of the East Side Community School in New York City. It included an “ethnography of whiteness” written by Northwestern University associate professor Barnor Hesse who ranks all whites on a color-coded scale of “The 8 White Identities” which range from “White Supremacist” to “White Abolitionist.”
““There is a regime of whiteness, and there are action-oriented white identities. People who identify with whiteness are one of these,’’ Hesse explains in an introduction above the list.
The 8 “White Identities” are then helpfully defined.
A “White Supremacist,” Hesse asserts, believes in a “Clearly marked white society that preserves, names, and values white superiority,” whereas an individual belonging to the category of “White Voyeurism” would not “challenge a White Supremacist” but still “desires non-whiteness because it’s interesting, pleasurable” and has a “fascination with culture (e.g., consuming Black culture without the burden of Blackness”).
At the other end of the spectrum, a “White Traitor” “actively refuses complicity” and their “intention is to subvert white authority and tell the truth at whatever cost.” A “White Abolitionist” goes even further by “changing institutions, dismantling whiteness, and not allowing whiteness to reassert itself.”
Principal Federman included a personal letter to parents in which he denounced conservatives, claiming that “racism and hate is often the underlying cause fueling their beliefs.” He also described former president Donald Trump as a “lying, racist, sexist, classist, hateful, science-denying bully.”
Instead of condemning Federman for his inappropriate partisanship and racism towards whites, a New York City Department of Education spokesman defended the principal’s letter, writing in a statement that “Anti-racism and the celebration of diversity is at the core of our work on behalf of the young people of New York City, and the East Side Community School’s students, parents and staff partner together to advance equity in their community.”
“The document in question was shared with the school by parents as a part of ongoing anti-racist work in the school community and is one of many resources the schools utilizes,” the statement continued.
But parents and others see a much more sinister meaning in the terminology used in the letter.
“The language in Federman’s letter carries disturbing historical echoes,” writes Christopher Rufo, a contributing editor for City Journal who broke the story. “The Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis used the term ‘race traitor’ to describe whites who crossed the color line to work, marry, or associate with nonwhites.”
“The letter’s use of ‘white abolition’ is also troubling,” Rufo continues. “Federman and Hesse claim to want to abolish ‘whiteness’ as a cultural and social construct, but they also use the term to describe an immutable racial essence. As University of New Mexico professor Geoffrey Miller has observed: ‘Applied to any other group, this would sound like a monstrous euphemism for mass extermination and cultural annihilation.’”
Following an intense media backlash, Federman again reached out to parents at the school—but not to apologize. “I want to make it clear that I do not believe I did anything wrong,” he wrote, adding, “Please do not reply to anyone. We do not want to encourage or engage these people.”