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Gain of function. Unfortunately, by now everyone should know what it means. It’s the deliberate amplification of aspects of a pathogen that sensible (albeit nonexpert) people might consider undesirable. In particular, it includes efforts directed at making an infectious agent more communicable, more resistant to countermeasures, and/or more lethal to its victims.
As I type this, gain of function experimentation is going on in thousands of laboratories across the United States under the misguided supervision of people who often fancy themselves knowledgeable experts qualified to engage in such a dangerous project. The pathogen in question is racism, something to which humans are by nature susceptible but for which we have developed, over hundreds of years, fairly simple and effective preventative treatments.
It wasn’t easy. We fought a literal war within our own country, and then spent decades battling in the courts of law and public opinion, before we effectively put an end to the misguided notion that a man should be judged based on the color of his skin. There will always be a few still infected with the idea, but it no longer spreads — its R naught, as they say, is way below one: No one is likely to catch it from you if you’re one of the sad cases unable to shake this particular sickness.
Racism is a disease of childhood and relatively easy to prevent: Set a good example, avoid exposing your children to people who are infected, and promptly treat your kids when and if they show symptoms. Racism is stupid and ugly, and not something to which children are naturally attracted. It’s easy to raise children free of the disease.
Unfortunately, the people to whom too many of us have outsourced the raising of our children are investing a lot of energy in creating a strain of racism resistant to prevention by parents. They’re doing it by inculcating in our kids the idea that skin color really does matter and that people who say otherwise are, well, bad people. Far from being stupid and ugly, they are told, racism is something that good kids acknowledge and embrace, either as (usually symptomless) carriers or (usually symptomless) victims.
The very wise words of Martin Luther King Jr. will be no soothing balm for these afflicted children once they’ve been taught that the good doctor got it exactly backward. And social distancing your child from infected individuals isn’t practical when the school bus delivers them to contagion five days a week, nor when you send him or her off to incubate in college.
It will be ironic if America’s exposure to toxic classroom curricula, and our subsequent rejection of it, is a consequence of school shutdowns brought about by our exposure to an actual disease that itself benefited from misguided enhancement.Published in