When Republican lawmakers want to blow that racist dog whistle, all they have to do is use the word “woke.” Their supporters know what they mean: It’s the wink-wink, nudge-nudge of the far-right for liberal ideas, laws, and policies, and it’s frankly downright infuriating.
The latest case involves an investigation recently opened in Fairfax County, Virginia, by Attorney General Jason S. Miyares. The probe is investigating whether three high school principals intentionally failed to notify students of their National Merit Scholarship awards based on race or to promote “equity,” Miyares and other Republicans say.
Miyares is turning what could have made been a simple (albeit careless and unfortunate) clerical mistake into an issue of what he deems “reverse racism.”
The attorney general made a recent appearance on Fox & Friends and when asked about the issue, immediately jumped on Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle C. Reid, who recently hired an equity consultant. And, of course, that’s where Miyares starts to go down the dark and predictable path.
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“One of the recommendations is that you are to demand equal outcomes, even if it means treating students unequally,” Miyares said. He’s referring to Mutiu Fagbayi, a contractor with Performance Fact Inc., based in Oakland, California. Fagbayi was paid $455,000 for equity training with the goal of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.”
Reid sent a letter Monday to families confirming that the three schools, Thomas Jefferson, Westfield, and Langley, had been late in sending notifications to the awarded students and that staff was connecting with college admissions counselors. She added that there was an internal investigation and apologized for the “error.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin told The Washington Post’s editorial board Monday, “We have three principals who said that they’ve done this. […] And this is not just wrong; it may be a violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act. So, I mean, this is a real issue.”
“The equity imperative is to give each student what they need to meet equal outcomes. The goal is not equitable outcomes,” Fagbayi said during a meeting with Princeton Public Schools in April 2022.
Miyares told the Fox & Friends host that the investigation is to determine if students at the three high schools weren't notified of their National Merit Scholarship awards because there was a “practice of possible discrimination against Asian American students.”
But Miyares is also going after new admissions systems at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In 2020, the school changed its admissions practices to include socioeconomic status, the Post reports. The new process, which removed the $100 application fee and a difficult entrance exam, has increased the school’s previously underrepresented demographics (Black and brown students) and dropped the number of enrolled Asian students by 20%, according to the Post.
“At the end of the day, we want our students not to have this war on merit, and what we have seen, unfortunately, in some areas of the country, is what I call ‘woke racism,’ which is reverse discrimination against the wrong groups in those individual’s minds,” Miyares blathered.
At one point in his interview, Miyares compared the alleged treatment of Asian American students to the 1920s, when Ivy League universities imposed quotas on admissions of Jewish students. This is one of the latest arguments from conservatives, but comparing the exclusionary tactics by elite universities in the 1920s and 1930s doesn’t add up. Affirmative action and efforts to diversify don’t exclude Asian students but instead open doors of inclusion to underrepresented students, aka Black, Latino, and Indigenous students.
“We want to make sure that in this country, everyone has an even playing field and everybody can achieve their dreams, and we certainly don’t want anybody to be held back because of who they are or their ethnic background,” Miyares said.
According to an Equitable Growth Profile of Fairfax County by Policy Link:
“Across a host of indicators, including employment, wages, poverty, working poor rates, and access to ‘high-opportunity’ occupations, people of color fare worse in the Fairfax labor market than their white counterparts. These racial, and economic gaps remain even after controlling for education, which reveals the persistence of racial barriers to economic opportunity – including overt discrimination as well as more subtle forms of exclusion that are embedded into institutions and systems.”
Miyares may need to look in his own backyard before casting the first stone.