This year, the new segregation has extended itself into new domains: public education and public-health policy. In Denver, Centennial Elementary School launched a racially exclusive “Families of Color Playground Night” as part of its racial equity programming. In Chicago, Downers Grove South High School held a racially exclusive “Students of Color Field Trip” as part of its own equity initiatives. In the words of Denver Public Schools officials, the administrators implemented the segregated program to “create a space of belonging,” which, they said, without a hint of irony, is “about uniting us, not dividing us.”
The new segregation has also been implemented in public health-care systems, with state and federal agencies denying Covid vaccines and treatment to individuals based on race. This trend began last year, when Vermont provided the vaccine to all members of racial minorities over age 16 but denied it for whites without specific age or health conditions. Later, New York State, Minnesota, Utah, and the federal government adopted health policies that explicitly discriminate against whites, rationing Covid treatments based on race. (After public outcry, Minnesota recently backtracked on this policy, and Utah announced that it is “reevaluating” its policy, but both Utah’s and New York’s arrangements remain in place as of this writing.)
The most common justification for the new segregation is that racial minorities suffer disparities that must be rectified through “positive” discrimination, which is presented as a solution for America’s historical racism. In practice, however, these policies often descend into illogic, cruelty, and malice. Minnesota’s recently rescinded criteria, for example, would have prioritized Covid treatment for a healthy 18-year-old black female over a 64-year-old white male with hypertension, who, given the totality of circumstances, faces a much greater risk of serious illness and death. The new politics of race supplants the old science of medicine, with potentially catastrophic consequences for disfavored racial groups.