It was one of the first things President Joe Biden did once he assumed office in January 2021. Though it has gotten almost no notice, it is almost certainly one of the most consequential acts of his presidency, and its impact will likely be felt long after he leaves office. But while the administration is boasting of it as proof of their devotion to civil rights and bettering the lot of the disadvantaged, it may do far more damage to American society than anything else that happens during Biden’s time in office. Considering that his first 15 months in the White House have been witness to a series of disasters, both foreign and domestic, that is saying something.
The policy in question was launched by Executive Order 13985, titled “Advancing Equity and Racial Justice Throughout the Government” and signed on Jan. 21, 2021. Biden laid out the point of the order in his statement at the time:
“It is therefore the policy of my administration that the federal government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole government.”
That sounds very high-minded. But the catch is the repeated use of the word “equity” in the statement. By declaring the purpose of government action to be advancing equity, Biden rendered the accompanying promise of promoting justice, civil rights and equal opportunity null and void. In doing so, he set in motion a process that was implemented in every single cabinet department and agency. That will mobilize the enormous power of the federal bureaucracy to undermine those principles in ways that it may take years to fully comprehend.
The notion that our goal should be equity rather than equality of opportunity is a fundamental aspect of critical race theory and the entire mindset of leftist ideology that labels the United States an irredeemably racist nation. That assumption guides every aspect of implementing an equity agenda and leads inevitably to race-based preference policies. In academia, that means affirmative action programs intended to correct past injustices by admissions policies that give advantages to some minorities deemed victims, primarily those who can qualify as “people of color,” regardless of their economic status. It places obstacles in front of others who do not qualify for victim status, regardless of whether they are members of minority groups like Asians and Jews.
The notion that one can get rid of racial discrimination by discriminating by race is as absurd as it is immoral. But while affirmative action in admissions has always been controversial, what the Biden administration has done takes the concept to another level. That can be easily seen in the follow-up statement to the order that was released earlier this month, in which every government department, including 90 federal agencies, issued its plans for implementing equity policies. Race will now officially dominate how agencies view potential applicants for jobs and those seeking to do business with the government.
But the equity mandate goes far beyond mere hiring practices. In what can best be described as a dystopian scenario for reconstructing the entire focus of government work, the CRT agenda will also be used to dictate policies and influence how Washington does just about everything.
To take just one example out of many, it will mean that the U.S. State Department will “apply new equity analyses consisting of quantitative measures and qualitative questions regarding race, ethnicity and other intersections of marginalization. This analytical framework will underscore embedding equity into the State Department’s foreign-affairs work as a strategic National Security imperative.
That line is phrased in a typically inscrutable word salad of bureaucratic jargon. But in practice, it will lead to American diplomats being tasked with reframing the nation’s foreign policy so as to fit into an intersectional agenda in which the high priests of CRT “anti-racism” ideology will determine who are the victims to be embraced and who are the oppressors who must be spurned.
The mantra of diversity, equity and inclusion deems Jews to be beneficiaries of “white privilege” and Israel—despite the fact that a majority of its population is made of people of color who trace their origins to the Middle East and North Africa—to be a white oppressor by definition. Intersectionality is a toxic myth that treats the Palestinian war on Israel as morally equivalent to the struggle for civil rights in the United States. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how this will require the bureaucracy to be hostile to the one Jewish state on the planet and indifferent to anti-Semitic attacks on Jews from Arabs and Muslims, who will be judged as victims in need of support, regardless of whether their problems are caused by their own racism and intolerance.
We have already seen how equity can influence foreign-aid decisions with the Biden administration’s efforts to circumvent restrictions on aid to the Palestinians and by the State Department’s plans to help fund anti-Israel NGOs that target Israel for unfair criticism, and eventual destruction. While the State Department’s traditional Arabist bias has always been a problem, once woke CRT and intersectional ideology is made part of the standard operating procedures of American diplomats, the U.S.-Israel relationship will be placed in doubt.
The Department of Homeland Security’s equity plans are just as troubling. Wokeness is now dictating the way the department thinks about terrorism. Rather than bolstering national defense, DHS’s new agenda is to fight racism as it is defined by equity ideologues. That means focusing primarily on marginal white nationalist groups while treating any emphasis on Islamist threats or those stemming from minority communities as tainted by racism.
In fact, this week, DHS announced that it was setting up a “Disinformation Governance Board.” While supposedly it will deal with “irregular migration and Russia,” the entire idea of a law-enforcement agency deciding what is or isn’t correct information conjures up the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984. Given the department’s equity obsession, that DHS will now wage war on critics of CRT, not on terrorism. Critics of the equity agenda, unfairly smeared as “racists,” may become the main object of DHS scrutiny. Weaving intersectionality in would result in those advocating for defeating rogue states like Iran or Palestinian terror groups and their enablers, rather than terrorists themselves, will be considered racists and placed under suspicion.
That this mixing of equity with foreign and defense policy will produce an America that is both woke and weak is not in doubt. Equally as frightening is a vision of a domestic government bureaucracy that will also, thanks to Biden, now be under the thumb of the sort of extremist racialist thinking that many of us thought was restricted to academia and the fever swamps of the far-left.
Biden won his party’s nomination and then the presidency on the premise that he was a moderate, not an extremist like his Socialist primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the kind of leader who would restore normalcy after the turbulent years of former President Donald Trump. But with a stroke of the pen on his first day in office, Biden empowered the same set of radicals that voters thought they were rejecting. And by turning their ideas into policies that can be implemented by an administrative state that is often impervious to legislative or even judicial oversight, these left-wingers have created a process that will transform the country in ways we are only just now starting to imagine. Even if Biden is defeated by a Republican in 2024, getting rid of these policies will require a massive wholesale purge of both personnel and departmental rules that will take years to accomplish.
It has long been clear that both intersectionality and CRT are permission slips for anti-Semitism. Biden’s executive order about equity is thus the most far-reaching and potentially dangerous development in memory for American Jews. But rather than sounding the alarm about this catastrophe, Jewish groups are silent or complicit, and most Americans are simply unaware of what is going on. Though there are many other reasons to be concerned about the direction the Biden administration is taking the country, its embrace of equity may do more damage to the country and to the Jewish community than anything else it is doing.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.