If it can happen in San Francisco, it can happen anywhere

The San Francisco School Board recently returned the admissions policy at Lowell, the city’s most prestigious public high school, to the merit-based system that it had used for more than a century. Thus ended a short-lived lottery introduced in the name of racial equity. The board also abandoned a campaign to erase “The Life of Washington,” a WPA-era mural at George Washington High School by the artist Victor Arnautoff. Arnautoff was a Communist, and his mural, which depicts slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon, was intentionally subversive. But an earlier incarnation of the board had voted first to destroy it, then to cover it up, saying that removing it from view was a form of “reparations.” The board member Alison Collins had said, “This mural is not historic. It is a relic.”

These two decisions, both 4–3 votes, represent a double rejection by the current board of the hypersensitive poses adopted by its predecessor. When you factor in the 2021 collapse of the infamous school-renaming campaign, it’s a trifecta. Our deep-blue city seems to have grown weary of the more radical elements of the new racial-justice movement. And although this story is specific to San Francisco, if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere…

Contrary to the claims made by some progressives, this is not evidence of a recrudescence of racism, but of a deep-seated belief in the color-blind philosophy of the old civil-rights movement. The modish demand for equity of outcome, as opposed to equality of opportunity, proved to be a bridge that many San Franciscans were unwilling to cross. Drawing any sweeping conclusions from this episode would be inadvisable. If I were in national politics, however, I would pay attention.