Getting right with Stephen Douglas

The Star Tribune has reformatted its Web site to make it more reader friendly, but you still have to dig for Katherine Kersten’s biweekly op-ed column in order to find it. Today Kathy reports that, even though Minnesota is experiencing budgetary strains comparable to those of other states, there is “always room in the budget for white guilt.” How so? Let’s see:

These are tough times for Minnesota schools. In Lakeville, for example, the school board recently announced wrenching cuts of almost $7 million. Ninety-four teachers will lose their jobs, arts programs will suffer and a school will be closed. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the board set its jaw: There’s not a dime for anything extra.
Unless you’ve got an ax to grind with white folks. Then the money spigots open. The Lakeville schools are sending a delegation of teachers to the 12th annual “White Privilege Conference” at the Bloomington Sheraton from April 13-16. The district is shelling out $160 a pop — plus $125 a day for teacher subs — for this “white guilt” festival.
Organizers say they expect attendees from a number of other Minnesota districts.
The conference is “built on the premise that the U.S. was started by white people, for white people,” according to conference materials. Its mission is to get participants to confront their biases in a “journey in understanding white supremacy, whiteness, privilege, power and oppression,” and to “agree to take action in [their] own circle of power.”

Hmmm. That bit about the United States having been started by white people, for white people, rings a bell. Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah, that was Stephen Douglas’s point of contention with Abraham Lincoln in 1858.
Douglas was countering Lincoln’s condemnation of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision — a condemnation that was the centerpiece of Lincoln’s famous “house divided” speech at the Republican state convention that named Lincoln its candidate against Douglas the previous month. “I am free to say to you,” Douglas responded to Lincoln, “that in my opinion this government of ours is founded on the white basis. It was made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered by white men, in such manner as they should determine.”
It might be funny that Minnesota’s supposedly progressive educators seek to resurrect the scurrilous propositions of a disgraceful past — if only they knew what they were doing.
UPDATE: Warner Todd Huston has more here.

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