Most certainly, this is an example of what Shelby Steele, author of “A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America,” calls “redemptive liberalism”:
According to the Star Tribune, Hopkins High School, like many second-ring suburban schools, has experienced an increase in the number of low-income and minority students busing to school. At Hopkins High, students dropped off by parents or driving their own cars entered the building through the school’s main doors; students riding the bus entered through a rather unattractive side door.
To make things right, the school spent $25,000 in landscaping and construction work to create a more aesthetically pleasing side entrance.
What was the motivation?
“I don’t want to over-generalize because we have a lot of white students who ride the bus, but typically you saw a sea of white students coming in the front door and a much more diverse group coming in the side entrance,” Hopkins teacher Patrick Duffy told the Star Tribune. “It contributed to the way students congregated.”
Which brings us back to “redemptive liberalism.”
Steele’s phrase is meant to convey the notion that liberalism and racial policies have more to do with redemption of the moral authority that white America feels it lost on the race issue than they do with actually benefiting black Americans. Steele, who is black, contends that redemptive liberalism has encouraged black dependence — black Americans are conditioned to accept that their fate is contingent upon white attitudes and white institutions.
Back to Hopkins High. A faculty member of the school’s Equity Team, which pushed for cosmetic changes to the bus entrance, is quoted by the Strib, “To me this feels like an important gesture on the school district’s part to acknowledge the importance of all of our students.”
What’s important was the gesture, that the school district acknowledge the importance of all students. And the kids seem to like it.
But in fact, a facelift for the bus entrance has not materially changed things for those students that still ride the bus, still enter through a side door and, as teacher Duffy observed, still “congregate” in the same ways. But still, the landscaping looks really nice.
Craig Westover is a contributing columnist to the St. Paul Pioneer Press Opinion page and a senior policy fellow at the Minnesota Free Market Institute.