Tag Archives: white privilege

Student Grievance: Righting Imaginary Wrongs

In the persistent demands for submission to the current campus orthodoxy of verbal policing, there is evidently not a shadow of concern for the creation of ethical individuals capable of thinking for themselves. Instead, a distinctly authoritarian streak is proudly proclaimed in the assaults and threats angry students launch at others.

Ironically, the less there is to be angry about, the angrier student agitators get and the more vociferous their demands that the entire university is forced to conform to the particular terms official victim groups prescribe. And since anger, like the alleged pain of triggers and microaggressions, is the new currency of moral righteousness, those around them must genuflect and then rush to appease and heal the supposed wounds.

Surely only people used to enormous personal freedom are capable of willingly tossing it away in the name of righting wrongs that are ever more imaginary. How did it happen that the appeal to authoritarianism – the state and its institutions, the university and its administrators – has arisen in a modern liberal democracy as the path by which a better society is to be forged? Do students today lack all knowledge of the actual sordid history of the imposition of goodness (usually in the name of equality) throughout the world?  Or might it be not ignorance but a drive for power that leads many people today to embrace as solutions the very restrictions on freedom that have resulted in the death and destruction of millions?

Anger and accusations, it turns out, serve as powerful weapons, bringing administrators, faculty, and other campus reprobates to their knees. Perhaps it is the obeisance demanded and received that makes student protesters ever more aggressive, more extreme. Principles vanish, accusations grow more hysterical, reasonable voices are shouted down, claims to victimhood abound. What actually transpires, who does what to whom, who suffers what ills — none of this matters. Only the identity of the players counts.

And so, relinquishing reason and evidence bit by bit, we’ve come to the present pass, in which the presumptive powerlessness of minorities has turned into a strong and ever available weapon, just as the supposed powerlessness of women has become an effective bludgeon against men.  Abject apologies are extracted, careers are ended, resignations forced. Verbal disagreement is not to be tolerated. Nothing but capitulation will do.

No doubt the thrill of power so easily achieved is hard to resist.  But the groundwork for this new spectacle was laid decades ago, when well-meaning academics accepted double standards by which whites were permanently on the defensive, forever needing to apologize for their “white privilege.”

The language of white privilege wasn’t that common back in 1989 when Peggy McIntosh’s article on the subject began to wend its way through education programs.  Who could have anticipated such wild success, as the term became a tireless mantra for those taking up McIntosh’s call for curriculum reform and an “anti-racist pedagogy”?  And who could have foreseen such rapid surrender on the part of school faculty and administrators, as if they were in endless need of atonement?

Calm disagreement, when expressed, is treated these days as further incitement, as demonstrated by the reaction in 2014 to Princeton undergraduate Tal Fortgang’s article refusing to apologize for his supposed privilege. His words caused a storm, and the ensuing tempest was picked up by national media.  But Fortgang’s explanation rested on some details that undermined his own cause.  He was Jewish, and his family had fled Nazi-occupied Poland (those who didn’t were killed). In fact, he should not have had to offer such a defense.  The child of, say, wealthy Protestant parents should have the same right to not constantly apologize for his existence, for once identity politics are unleashed, no one is immune.

Indeed, the logic of demanding that people “check their privilege” is hard to grasp unless it is merely a verbal gesture (one so many academics are apparently willing to make).  Are they to hand it over? In what form and to whom? As in China? Cambodia? Eastern Europe? Or simply apologize for it forever more – as so many people who attacked Fortgang’s article seem inclined to do?  Yet it is telling that the meas culpas written to protest Fortgang’s and similar articles tend to be written in highly confident and assertive tones, perhaps in the belief that such self-criticism, so familiar a sight in totalitarian regimes, might spare the writers from personal attacks.

Do these good souls eager to “check their privilege” really aspire to live in a society that imposes ideological conformity and rhetorical policing on all its citizens? Or do they just want to display their own sterling credentials and moral superiority?  In fact, saying “Yes, I am privileged, I am guilty” changes not a thing.  It is an act of acquiescence to ritual humiliation.

The logical fallacy of this offering was beautifully displayed at Harvard in March 2016: During a formal debate ostensibly about renewable energy, two black debaters decided instead to attack their opponents’ skin color, and suggested that since “white life is based off black subjugation,” the ethical thing for whites to do is to kill themselves. “Affirmative suicide, that’s cool,” one experienced debater declared. “It’s one little step in the right direction.”

Related: Working Hard to Convince Freshmen They Are Victims

In the light of such statements, the recent attacks on Professor Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College are mild—students merely shouted obscenities at him and demanded that he be fired. Evidently, even polite disagreement with the new campus dogma is not allowed. Weinstein’s great offense was to express the opinion that the college’s Day of Absence (whereby whites are asked to stay off campus for a day, an inversion this year of the annual ritual by which black students and faculty leave the campus to demonstrate how sorely they would be missed).

It is intolerable that Professor Weinstein should say, as he did: “On a college campus, one’s right to speak – or to be – must never be based on skin color.” No, according to his student critics, the mere expression of such a view provides incontrovertible evidence of the professor’s racism, which must be punished.

When the supposed oppressors knuckle under, either because they really believe in their guilt or because they’re trying to protect themselves from similar attacks by being vocal “allies,” a healthy society of individuals not subjected to group-think evaporates quickly. All that is left is arguments based not on reason and evidence but on blackmail and threats of violence. The rapid capitulation to the presumably correct politics of inflamed students has been visible for decades; it just wasn’t so cravenly embraced by administrators most of the time.  But now it is.

A Nation of Whiners and Grovelers

Claiming to feel unsafe—but only when the claim is put forth by a member of an official oppressed group–is the facile new campus device for preventing unpopular speech. News flash: life is dangerous, full of risks. Being safe from the words and attitudes of one’s neighbors isn’t possible in any absolute sense.  Never having to hear a discouraging word is incompatible with a society of free people, who, yes, are capable of being unkind, thoughtless, even mean and nasty.

It’s difficult to let go of highly emotional accusations that take no account of changing conditions or individual agency. Is the U.S. the same now as it was in the 1960s, the 1980s?  Hardly. Yet today, in the sub-legal environment of college campuses, any hurt feelings can be turned into a weapon, and the truth of an accusation counts not at all, merely the identity of the accuser and the accused.

We have created categories positively designed to stimulate accusations and aggravate resentments, and it should surprise no one that this is precisely what is taking place, as self-righteous students believe ever more deeply in their right to control others. Evidently, it is far easier to play this game of gotcha than to go about constructing a positive life for oneself.  The herd mentality is at work. We’ve become a nation of whiners and grovelers. Are all such demands for greater equality destined to founder and become mere reversals of privilege? Is that the new ideal of American citizenship?

In this topsy-turvy world, speaking truth to power has morphed into endless lies about our social reality. Everything in life is supposedly stacked against those whose forebears may indeed have experienced prejudice and marginalization, even if they have no experience of it in their own lives.  Who would wish to admit to not actually being a victim, when the payoffs are lavish, in sheer emotional indulgence, destructiveness to those around one, and the actual power to bring them down? How much more gratifying and, indeed, economical, than trying to work hard, learn, and forge a path through life. Claiming victimhood denies any agency while paradoxically fully displaying it in the too often successful attempts to destroy others over a comment or opinion.  Why not threaten violence in order to suppress expression of the “wrong” opinions?

What Fun to Attack Their Elders

The need to count grievances, and to invent them if none are readily available, creates a new social reality. But no one calls this the social construction of grievance. No; it’s simply called reality, and presented as if it were a fact of contemporary life. And like all other closed systems, there is no way to combat or contradict this representation, since to do so immediately marks one as a defender of privilege, a loathsome enemy of those suffering souls clamoring for justice.

That those suffering souls are college students in modern-day America evidently does nothing to modify this caricature.  Identity is all – except, of course, in those cases where one simply decides to adopt another identity (e.g., males “identifying as female”), in which case that simple declaration must be respected by all.

So, what have we? A real reality, in which race, sex, and class actually do exist and matter? Or a make-believe reality of which I am a victim if I say so and you an oppressor if I say that? Of which not referring to me by my preferred pronoun is a grievous injury?

In today’s academy, all offenses are treated as the same offense. When a cruel word is the same thing as a physical assault, a skeptical attitude about claims to perpetual victimization is simply not to be tolerated.  The inmates are running the asylum; the doctors have capitulated, afraid of losing their jobs or merely being stigmatized by people whose newly acquired virtue consists in insisting they are victims.

Enraged students these days evidently have too much time on their hands. Their school work is ever-less demanding, and their energy seems to find no outlet in positive activities – say, learning. Thus they must seek out alternatives.  What fun to attack their elders, those who dare imagine they have something to teach them, those whose lives will (if they don’t lose their jobs) continue in these educational institutions long after the irate students have gone on to greener pastures.

Or maybe not. Perhaps not using their time in college to actually learn about the world beyond their narrow little vision of villains and victims will have some cost in their future lives.  Maybe one day they’ll realize they wasted a great opportunity, that they weren’t in college to do moral grandstanding, to engage in risk-free politics, to create little storms endlessly magnified by the media, but to actually explore the world, to get beyond frantic recriminations and gain some understanding.  To do that, however, they’d have to value the opportunity to study, open their minds, give up their puerile grievances, and grow up.

Of course, if the elders around them can’t get beyond abject apologies and groveling, the adult world doesn’t look very enticing.  In which case, it makes sense to just continue with the same drama, the same recriminations, forever more. After all, it seems to pay—at least for now, at least on the very dangerous terrain of the modern university.

Liberals Who Drifted Toward the New Illiberalism

Liberal. Progressive.  Liberal progressive.  Progressive liberal.  Radical.  Social democrat.  Democratic socialist.  Occupiers.  Social justice warriors.

What do we call today’s leaders of the political left?  Where do they stand in the eye of history?  Answering these questions resembles sometimes trying to grab an eel with your bare hand.  Most likely it will slip away, but it may bite as well.

Related: The Strange World of Social Justice Warriors

Kim Holmes, a historian who served as assistant secretary Closing of Liberal Mindof state under Colin Powell, has undertaken an ungloved eel-hunt in The Closing of the Liberal Mind (Encounter, 2016).  It is not an entirely thankless task in that there are those of us who will thank him.  (Thank you, Dr. Holmes.)  But a book such as this will win no friends in places such as The New York Times or The Chronicle of Higher Education, which are among those who insist that today’s leftist priorities are the plain extension of the same principles that animated the leftist priorities of past generations of liberal activists.  Holmes opposes that narrative.

Holmes’ thesis is that “progressive liberals” are not “really liberals,” but are “postmodern leftists.”  The eel is touched.  What, in turn, is a “postmodern leftist”?  The postmodern part, says Holmes, is the belief that “ethics are completely and utterly relative” and human knowledge is whatever people say it is.  (Truth, fantasy, error, and lies flow together in the endless stream of consciousness.)  The “leftist” half of “postmodern leftist,” in Holmes’ unpacking, is “radical egalitarianism” along with “sexual and identity politics and radical multiculturalism.”

Related: The Power of Buzzwords like ‘Dispositions’ and ‘Social Justice’

This is certainly a serviceable definition.  One could—and Holmes does from time to time—annex other pieces of the left’s core agenda.  Let’s not forget sustainability and radical environmentalism, or the apocalyptic element in the left’s agenda; or transnationalism (turning us all into “citizens of the world”); or radical feminism’s war on marriage and the family; or the numerous importations from Marxism.  How much of the “postmodern leftism” is the legacy of Barack Obama, and how much was Barack Obama just the cork floating on the wave of postmodern leftism?  Holmes starts with the easier clarification that the two go together.  Postmodern leftism is “the predominant worldview of Barack Obama’s Democratic Party.”  That seems to me an objective truth of the sort postmodern eels squirm away from.  Holmes sets himself the task of holding on tight.

Two Closings: Bloom and Holmes

The Closing of the Liberal Mind echoes Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, but while Bloom put his primary emphasis on the university as the door-closer, Holmes sees a whole army of door-slammers at work as much in the media and politics as on campus.  But as this is Minding the Campus, I will attend to just the academic portion of his argument.

Holmes’ point of departure is the 18th century Enlightenment, which he divides into the “moderate” Enlightenment (Locke, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, the American Revolution) and the “radical” Enlightenment (Spinoza, Bayle, Diderot, Rousseau, the Reign of Terror, socialism, communism, and postmodern ideas of egalitarianism.)  This is an important distinction that is familiar to readers of intellectual history but Holmes presents it lucidly for readers who aren’t.  The line from Spinoza’s 17th century materialism to today’s academic ascendency of leftist utopians passes through the New Left of the 1960s.

A large part of the story Holmes tells is how the New Left revived the radical egalitarianism of the radical Enlightenment and gave it a new home on the college campus, where it shortly found its postmodernist component in the likes of French theorists such as Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault.  It also found its anti-liberal lodestars in Frankfurt School Marxists such as Marcuse and Adorno.  The cast of relevant characters is large, but Holmes is excellent in pinning them to their places in the story of how old-style American liberalism, with its emphasis on liberty and individual rights, transformed to the new-style postmodern leftism, with its emphasis on conformity, control, and group identity.

As an analyst of the contemporary university, Holmes’ great strength is, perhaps paradoxically, his decision not to lean too heavily on campus developments themselves.  For example, his explanation of the rise of multiculturalism puts as much emphasis on the residue of the “legal realist” movement of the 1920s, which attacked the ideal of legal neutrality and the notion of “general principles,” in favor of a view of law as essentially arbitrary.

As Holmes sees it, legal realism was the nihilistic blade that cleared the ground for feminists and other radical identity theorists to turn the law into a tool of their political agenda.  Without the radical multiculturalist legal theorists who moved into this vacuum, “there would be no talk of ‘hate speech’ or ‘hate crimes’” and “no expansive judicial interpretations of Title IX to force universities to act like courts in rape cases.”

The drift from liberalism towards illiberalism, Holmes says, is partially explained by the emergence of a new ruling class distinguished by “cultural habits.” He refers to David Brooks’ term for Baby Boomers who grow rich but persist in thinking of themselves as cultural outsiders, “bourgeois bohemians,” and he updates Brooks with Charles Murray’s characterization of the “cognitive elite” who dominate the professions.

These folks “think alike” and “live in the same kind of places, eat and dress alike, watch the same movies, read the same blogs and news sites, and listen to the same radio programs (All Things Considered, not The Rush Limbaugh Show.)” And they attend America’s elite universities. “The result is a high correlation between elite education and wealth. Murray observes that 31 percent of Wesleyan University graduates, for example, live in what he calls ‘Superzips’—the wealthiest zip codes in America based on median family income and education—and 65 percent live in zip codes at the 80th percentile or higher.”

This aristocracy plainly sees itself as superior to everyone else and Holmes says it is “ruthless” in maintaining its position. But members of this elite also “fashion themselves as hip advocates of equality.” The paradox has grown old.  Tom Wolfe’s depiction in Radical Chic of Leonard Bernstein’s posturing to a leader of the Black Panthers as angry about his own wealth and privilege goes back to 1970.  I pick up today’s New York Times to read in the letters a declaration from someone who says, “I, too, am a white male and work every day to overcome how I was raised, to recognize that I am not entitled to superior rights because I was born a white male of European heritage.” The moral vanity of people who say this sort of thing is the real enunciation of their elite standing.  Instilling that vanity is the principal work of elite colleges, which teach this exquisite form of self-regard far more effectively than they teach the heritage of Western civilization or the substance of any particular subject.

The subtitle of Holmes’ book is “How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left.”  Because the motherlode of groupthink and intolerance is the contemporary American university, Holmes has bright and shining examples by the truckload of such academic devilment.  Many of these are familiar, e.g. the Rolling Stone University of Virginia rape hoax and Marquette University’s effort to unseat tenured professor John McAdams. But even the familiar stories of academic groupthink and intolerance gain from Holmes’ careful contextualization.

The Closing of the Liberal Mind is a synthesis that comes along at the just the right political moment.  As we ponder the shift in American culture that has made avowed socialist Bernie Sanders the most popular presidential candidate among college students and that has kept Hillary Clinton afloat on a platform of feminist exceptionalism, we are in need of some sober thinking about the decline of the old liberal tradition.  Postmodern leftism is a threat not just to higher education but to our Constitutional republic.  It may not be the only threat, but it is one that deserves focused, historically informed, and intellectually precise attention.  Holmes has reached into the basket of eels and given us that.

Race Baiting in the Name of Justice

The annual White Privilege Conference, not open to the public, concluded yesterday at an undisclosed site in Philadelphia. Caucasians mustn’t worry though — the sponsors say they aren’t anti-white. It’s just that having white skin is an oppressive virus or disease that must be repented in the name of mutual respect.

The teachers and lecturers at the conference — mostly multicultural consultants who make a living inducing white guilt and shame at predominantly white institutions — think American society is hopelessly stacked against minorities and the only way to fix the system is for white people to acknowledge and shed their immense “privilege.” The event featured “social justice” topics, such as “White Women: Internalized Sexism and White Superiority,” and “White Followership – Centering People of Color and Building Effective White Practices for Racial Justice & Systemic Change.” The conference also branched into new territory with discussions about gay and transgender rights, as well as Islam and Islamophobia.

Related: Notre Dame’s Class on Shaming White People

Sponsors of the conference included a number of mainstream organizations not usually associated with race baiting, including Haverford and Swarthmore colleges, the Sierra Club and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

The University of Notre Dame, where I am a student,  has also adopted the “White Privilege” cause, offering a one-credit sociology course, or “White Privilege Seminar” and paying the expenses of students in that course to attend the national conference in Philadelphia.

A controversial appearance of the Black Lives Matter movement’s founders at Notre Dame during a January week honoring Martin Luther King, Jr, increased anxiety over the White Privilege Seminar. Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi spoke during the week, and Cullors, while speaking of Dr. King’s legacy, said, “We don’t need a black Christian cis-normative man to take us to the Promised Land.”

Tometi and Cullors used their event to promote a conversation about gender ideology while also verbally attacking the police. Though they conceded that Dr. King had a great leadership role in the civil rights movement, the women believe that their movement demands other, female leadership.

Stating at the event that, “our principles really uplift black women, cis and trans, to be in this dialogue,” Cullors also noted that “history books, schools, institutions erase us or limit our [black women’s] investment in the work.”

Cullors and Tometi believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is inhibited by the police, whom they view as “a very big enemy.”

Cullors stated, “I do not believe in prisons, in jails, in police, in court systems, as the way to punish our people, as a way for accountability. I’ve seen how it destroys and decimates individuals, families and whole communities.”

‘Christonormativity’

Notre Dame’s Multicultural Students’ Programs and Services, Gender Relations Center, Center for Arts and Culture, Student Government, Department of Africana Studies, and Division of Student Affairs all sponsored the event, which was intended to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during Notre Dame’s “Walk the Walk” week. Designed by University president Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C and the President’s Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, the week included “a series of university and department-sponsored events, community-building dialogues and opportunities of reflection.”

Notre Dame’s White Privilege seminar employs similar rhetoric, and takes for granted the validity of the causes for which the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting. According to the course description, participants will learn to be “more aware of injustices and better equipped with tools to disrupt personal, institutional, and worldwide systems of oppression.”

Last year’s White Privilege conference, which my Catholic university paid students to attend, taught attendees that Christianity is a system of oppression that must be disrupted, according to its program. Speakers spoke of “Christonormativity,” or a “system of oppression which assumes Christianity as the norm, favors Christians, and denigrates and stigmatizes anyone that is not Christian.”

The 2015 White Privilege Conference also analogized Christians with the 9/11terrorists.

“With increasing frequency, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Christian extremists are terrorizing Americans, most frequently blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and immigrants…the perpetrators of American hate crimes follow the same irrational and misguided ideologies as the 9/11 terrorists,” reads the program.

“The purpose of this course gives it away,” Bill Dempsey, the Chairman of Notre Dame watchdog group Sycamore Trust, told Minding the Campus. “It is obviously no dispassionate sociology course appropriate for a university. It is designedly a training course for participants in an anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, anti-white movement whose primary weapon is disruption. That Notre Dame would not only solicit trainees but even cover their expenses surpasses understanding.”

Notes:  The army allowed 400 soldiers to take a Privilege course last year at Ft. Gordon in Georgia, according to Judicial Watch.

In presidential politics, Hillary Clinton called on white Americans to recognize white privilege several times this year, once during the January Iowa primary campaign before the black and brown forumin Harlem in February, and once last week at  the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Convention in Harlem, after the awkward racial joke involving Mayor DeBlasio, and  just before the White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia.        

Racial Discrimination by the University of Virginia

By John S. Rosenberg

The University of Virginia has just released data about it applicants for the class of 2020, including a “record number of Early Action minority applications.” These numbers reveal a prima facie case of racial discrimination by the university.

The cover of the February 1 Cavalier Daily presents a graphic display of the distribution of early admission offers by race. Offers were extended to 2893 of 9636 white applicants, for an acceptance rate of 29.7%. Of the 692 blacks who applied for early admission, 294 were accepted — an acceptance rate of 42.5%.

It is conceivable, of course, that there is a non-discriminatory explanation of these dramatically different acceptance rates. The accompanying article quotes Jahvonta Mason, a third-year undergraduate and co-chairman of the Student Council’s Diversity Initiative Committee, who, “These students tend to have some of the best undergraduate success rates of any university in the United States.” True, but how likely is it that their qualifications were so much higher than those of the white early admission applicants? In any event, it will be a freezing day in July in Charlottesville before UVa voluntarily releases test scores, etc., by race.

More likely is that UVa has to over-admit qualified minorities because they will also have been admitted to other institutions, many of which are quite literally bidding for them. According to Mason, “acceptance rate of minorities is exciting,” but that does not solve what minorities at UVa see as “the problem.” Many “minorities who received offers to come to UVa will ultimately decide to go to another university,” Mason said. “Part of the problem is that many of these students can go to other academically comparable universities for free because of minority scholarships, and UVa doesn’t offer any.”

That may or may not be true, depending in part on a Clintonian parsing of the meaning of “offer” (see my discussion of racially restricted scholarships in “Is The University Of Virginia A Racial Scofflaw?”), but it is clear UVa is going the extra mile after mile after … to recruit and retain minority students. Proudly describing these efforts to the Cavalier Daily, Dean of Admissions Gregory Roberts mentioned “several new initiatives the admissions office is implementing to increase the number of admitted minority students who enroll, including connecting current students to admitted students, hosting seven different open houses in the spring, reaching out to every admitted African-American student through alumni and a newly-redesigned admissions packet mailed to acceptees.” (Query: Should white and Asian students regard the absence of similar efforts on their behalf an institutional microaggression?)

When liberals see racial differences in rewards or punishments much less severe than UVa’s Early Action decisions, they are quick to decry discrimination, either overt and intentional or covert, “systemic,” etc. So far no such complaints have been heard in Charlottesville — perhaps simply providing more evidence for the old saw that if liberals didn’t have double standards where race is concerned they wouldn’t have any standards at all.


John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

America’s ‘Soft Civil War’ Is Here

By Fred Siegel

Twenty-five years ago, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.—premier historian of twentieth-century American liberalism, highbrow courtier to the Kennedys, and grey eminence for the Kennedy’s would-be successors—published The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society. The Schlesinger of the 1950s idolized Adlai Stevenson, whose professorial demeanor endeared him to academia. Academic expertise was, as Schlesinger understood it, the key to the American future.

But in the wake of the Black Power movement, feminism, and anti-Enlightenment postmodernism, the quota-driven academia of the late 1980s lost its rationalist moorings. Both lament and warning, The Disuniting of America reflected a Schlesinger disconcerted by the rise, within overwhelmingly liberal academia, of multiculturalism and political correctness, the linked solvents of American identity.

Related:  Left Intellectuals Hovering over the Campus

Well before the evils of Western achievement were written into the catechism of college courses, cultural pluralism—not white supremacy—had become the American norm. Multiculturalism displaced a hyphenated Americanism in which we spoke of Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, and, eventually, African-Americans as the norm. Pluralism assumed that Americans shared a common identity even as they retained ancestral attachments. The problem was that supposed multiculturalists were often “ethnocentric separatists” (in the manner of the recent National Book Award winner Ta-Nehesi Coates) who, in Schlesinger’s words, “see little in the Western heritage other than Western crimes.”

Their mood was “one of divesting Americans of their sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions from non-Western cultures.” Further, Schlesinger understood that academic debates about what should be taught could be readily translated into the program of the Democratic Party. “The self-ghettoizing of black history or women’s history,” noted respected literary critic Frank Kermode in 1992, “presages a more general social fragmentation, and endangers the precious ideal of political unity in ethnic diversity.”

The connection between political correctness and the doctrine of multiculturalism is integral. PC proscribes open debate. Instead, in classic Communist fashion, it judges an argument on the basis of the interests it serves. Schlesinger clung to a traditional notion of truth: “There is surely no reason for Western civilization to have guilt trips laid on it by champions of cultures based on despotism, superstition, tribalism, and fanaticism. In this regard the Afrocentrists are especially absurd.

The West needs no lectures on the superiority of these ‘sun people’ who sustained slavery till Western imperialism abolished it (and sustain it to this day in Mauritania and the Sudan) . . . .” On numerous campuses today, the once-lionized Schlesinger’s words would today be condemned as “hate speech.” Worse yet, Schlesinger saw the malign consequences of a black nationalism that strives to separate African-Americans from an increasingly colorblind mainstream. He wanly notes that, “If some Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan wanted to devise an educational curriculum for the specific purpose of handicapping and disabling black Americans, he would not be likely to come up: with anything more diabolically effective than Afrocentrism.”

The book has its failings. Schlesinger tries too hard to discern a comparable quest for correctness on the right. He fails. Similarly, the celebrated historian who had spent much of the late sixties lambasting the white-ethnic working class tries to equate the passing revival of a heightened ethnic consciousness with Black Nationalism. He makes much of the 1974 Ethnic Heritage Act, a symbolic piece of legislation with scant consequences.

But Schlesinger also reached for a touch of optimism. “I believe,” he wrote, that “the campaign against common sense would fail.” And to buttress his point from the Left, he cited my old mentor, Irving Howe—the venerable socialist and “storyteller of ideas”—to speak on behalf of Western Civilization, warts and all. “The situation of our universities, I am confident,” Schlesinger writes, “will soon right itself once the great silent majority of professors cry ‘enough’ challenging what they know to be voguish blather.” Shaken by the Right’s ability to speak in terms of American “commonalities,” “the Left,” Schlesinger insisted, “cannot base itself on identity groups.”

For a time it seemed that Schlesinger’s optimism might be justified. The collapse of Communism looked to have put on end to expeditions into Utopia. Then the Clinton presidential years seemed to staunch the drift to academic inanity. Alan Sokal’s exposé—a hoax, whereby a physicist claimed to deconstruct gravity—was published by Social Text, a postmodernist magazine, which took him as being in earnest. The Sokal caper made the front page of the New York Times. It was hard to see how the postmodernists could shake off this fiasco.

Further, two of the heroes of postmodernism, Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man, were exposed as Nazi sympathizers. Articles lamented that postmodernism no longer seemed fresh and innovative, and a few literary critics—most notably, Terry Eagleton—distanced themselves from the reigning academic fashion. But there was never a shout of “enough” from academia, which seemed, on the contrary, to have developed an insatiable appetite for infantile exhibitionism. With few exceptions, faculties had no desire to distance themselves from campus hijinks. The Clinton years proved to be a mere interregnum. It turned out that the- collapse of political and economic Communism paved the way for the cultural Marxism that took hold in the universities.

How Universities Encourage Racial Division

Collapsing standards in high schools and colleges reinforced one another. Ill-prepared college freshmen increasingly needed remedial assistance. They arrived at college equipped with the politically correct attitudes appropriate for what passed as “higher education” in the humanities and “social sciences.” They left with their attitudes reinforced. Likewise, academia increasingly marginalized or repelled students with less politically correct views. The sixties-born faculty repeatedly replicated itself. Last year, when Brandeis University disinvited as graduation speaker the famed and formidable Ayaan Hirsi Ali—an outspoken critic of the Muslim suppression of women—not a single faculty member rose to defend her.

As the faculty became increasingly uniform in its outlook, power passed to students, who were treated as precious consumers. At the same time, academic administrators, now outnumbering the faculty, aimed for a stress-free atmosphere on campus. Colleges across the country replaced their classes on American history with therapy sessions about diversity that demanded not just orthodox thinking but orthodox speaking and feeling as well.

Attempts to upend free speech in order to protect “group rights” has produced a rash of campus hoaxes. Under pressure from feminist ideologues, a “man,” explains David Frum, shifted from a demographic category to an “accusation.” Men accused of rape were denied elementary civil liberties in order to propitiate the gender activists. Civil liberties, wrote Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, “are regarded as a chief obstacle to civil rights.” The call for “safe spaces,” free of challenging arguments produced a Club Med ambience. Nursery school, sighed literary critic Camille Paglia only half-sarcastically, has become the model for college. Students today, Paglia explained in 2015, are “utterly uninformed,” and colleges are responsible for the lack of intellectual discourse in America:

“I’ve encountered these graduates of Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton; I’ve encountered them in the media, and people in their 30s now, some of them, their minds are like Jell-O. They know nothing! They’ve not been trained in history. They have absolutely no structure to their minds. Their emotions are unfixed. The banality of contemporary cultural criticism, of academe, the absolute collapse of any kind of intellectual discourse in the U.S. is the result of these colleges, which should have been the best, instead having retracted into care taking. The whole thing is about approved social positions in a kind of misty love of humanity, without any direct knowledge of history or economics or anthropology.

Related: How PC Corrupted the Colleges

In sum, explains former Harvard president Larry Summers, “there is a kind of creeping totalitarianism on college campuses.” Barack Obama, a product of the PC university, is the most polarizing president since Richard Nixon. Obama has reinforced the “which side are you on?” hyper-partisanship of the university, which is spreading beyond the campus. Ordinary working Americans are bullied by bureaucrats, who were, as Glen Reynolds, puts it, “credentialized” in college without being educated.

These preening bureaucrats are the ideal instruments of government overreach. They impose their ideological agenda in the name of racial, gender, and environmental equity, not to mention obscure IRS rules. And working Americans are forced to pay for a now-vast population of unemployed but subsidized Americans of working age, even as new immigrants—legal and illegal—undercut their wages. Meanwhile, college graduates educated in “victim studies” weaponize what they’ve learned and go to work in the aggrievement industry. The rhetoric of multiculturalism, feared Schlesinger, placed the American republic “in serious trouble.”

Somehow, even as they have spent the last 30 years insisting on the fundamental differences between people, multiculturalists are surprised at the rise of a white nationalism that feeds into the support for Donald Trump. Trump replays the extremism of Obama. Trump and Obama have been drawn into a see-saw dynamic in which each plays off the excesses of the other. Trump speaks to the frustration and anger of people whose wages have stagnated as government bureaucracy has grown dramatically more intrusive. Trump is a peculiar spokesman for that honor-driven egalitarianism that Walter Russell Mead describes as “Jacksonian America.”

“Our ruling class,” writes Angelo Codevilla, “has created ‘protected classes’ of Americans defined by race, sex, age, disability, origin, religion, and now homosexuality, (and perhaps Islam) whose members have privileges that outsiders do not. By so doing, they have shattered the principle of equality—the bedrock of the rule of law. Ruling class insiders use these officious classifications to harass their socio-political opponents.” Worse yet, Obama’s reaction to the San Bernardino terror attack has been to bemoan supposed Islamophobia—no evidence required.

Jim Webb would have been a better spokesman for Jacksonian America. Trump’s a big-city guy with a big mouth who made his money from casinos and TV shows and went bankrupt twice. His appeal lies in his brashness—his willingness to violate politically correct conventions that are widely despised. It was said in mistaken defense of Joe McCarthy that, unlike the liberals, he at least understood that the Communists were our enemies. True enough, but as Obama understands, liberals dined out for decades on the inanities of McCarthyism. Obama hopes that Trump will serve the same purpose.

Related: Too Many Hollow Men on  Campus

It’s been said of Trump that at least he understands that the Southern border needs to be closed, and at least he knows that the Syrian refugees are not, as Obama pontificated, all “widows and orphans.” Trump, we hear, understands that the deal with Iran boosts Iranian support for terrorism. It’s all well and good to suggest in a flight of realism that the Sunnis and Shia should feel free to kill each other. But what Trump seems not to understand is that Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian-backed ruler of the Syrian rump state, is the chief recruiter for the Sunnis of ISIS. Trump, like McCarthy, gets some things right, but in a manner that will pay dividends to his critics.

What rankles most among workaday white Americans is that, even as their incomes and life expectancies decline, and even as the protections promised in the Fourteenth Amendment are eviscerated in favor of new minority carve-outs, they’re accused of benefitting from “white privilege.” The rise of Ferguson’s Michael Brown and Baltimore’s Freddy Gray—the first a thug, the second a small-time drug dealer—as black icons of white oppression, exemplify the perversions of Obama’s America. Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a dramatically diminished racism is asked to account for the ongoing infirmities of the inner-city underclass.

Trump is both a reaction to and expression of liberal delusions. Schlesinger’s fears have largely come to pass; we’ve become what he called a “quarrelsome spatter of enclaves.” Schlesinger was too much a part of the elite to imagine that the class he always thought of as representing the best of the future would come to be despised by a broad swath of Americans for its incompetence and ineffectuality. But what Schlesinger saw on the horizon seems to have arrived, with no sign of abating: we are in the midst of a soft civil war.

This essay in reprinted from City Journal, with permission.


Fred Siegel is a writer in residence at St. Francis College and author of The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.

How Universities Encourage Racial Division

By James Huffman

In response to the campus protests, much has been written and spoken about how universities can best serve the interests of their students of color. Those who sympathize with the protesters argue that students of color, in particular, should be nurtured and protected from uncomfortable experiences that distract from their education.

Others insist that true education depends on students experiencing discomfort so they are better prepared to cope with the discomforts they will inevitably face in the future. No doubt there are good points to be considered on both sides of the question. Every campus has its boors and jerks whose bad behaviors might warrant chastisement from university officials, although peer disapproval is almost always a more effective remedy.

Whether and when offensive speech should be prohibited are more difficult questions. The boundary between gratuitous verbal assault and the free expression essential to the academy is not always easily drawn, although a few institutions have followed the example of the University of Chicago in making clear that their default position is free speech.

Sadly, Americans seem to lose any capacity for reasoned discussion when alleged personal assaults are said to stem from racial animus. Disagreements deteriorate into verbal and often physical violence, with an almost conclusive presumption of racism whenever racism is alleged. In this climate, college administrators see only two options. They can resign, as did the University of Missouri president and the dean of students at Claremont McKenna (after writing an email to which students of color took offense). Or they can accede to protesters’ demands for safe spaces, sensitivity training, trigger warnings, expanded diversity offices, and rapid response to allegations of discrimination and hurt.

But there is a third way. Colleges and universities should examine how their own policies and programs encourage racial division.

At the time of the University of Missouri protests, a story in the New York Times reported that students of color at the university felt isolated and disrespected. They, particularly the black students, tend to hang out together. According to a student quoted in the Times story, an area in the student center where blacks sit is called “the black hole.” There is little real integration, say both white and black students. Visit the cafeteria of almost any campus with even a small population of black students and you will see the equivalent of the University of Missouri’s black hole.

Do students of color hang out together because they feel disrespected and discriminated against—because they are excluded? Or is it a matter of choice rooted in racial pride, perceived cultural difference, and a desire to preserve and protect that difference from the dominant white culture? While the protesters would surely assert their right to racial self-segregation for reasons of pride, solidarity and culture, they do not hesitate to claim that disrespect and discrimination by other students and school officials prevent their full and equal participation in the university.

To be clear, no one is claiming that students of color are being denied access to higher education—the sort of discrimination James Meredith experienced a half century ago at the University of Mississippi. Rather, today’s discrimination is said to take the form of “micro-aggressions”—subtle actions and loaded language that slowly eat away at self-confidence and the sense of belonging.

Are colleges and universities responsible for the isolation and exclusion the protesters claim to experience, and for the de facto segregation that exists on most campuses? In significant ways they are, but not, for the most part, for the reasons said to justify the protests at the University of Missouri and elsewhere. There is little campus administrators can do, beyond declarations of disapproval, to prevent offensive comments, or even explicitly racist statements and actions of usually anonymous individuals. If the past two decades of sensitivity training haven’t solved that problem, there is little reason to think more of the same will help.

The core of the problem is that the vast majority of our colleges and universities have made race and racial differences central to almost everything they do. And to make matters worse, those who accredit our universities make attention to race in admissions and programming a condition of accreditation.

Central to the mission of the University of Missouri is diversity, described on the school’s website as “not an end to itself” but “a means for students, faculty and staff to experience firsthand the increasing multicultural world that we live in.” And what are the means for achieving diversity and the measure of success? The means is the admissions process and the measure of success is the degree to which the races of those admitted reflect the racial makeup of the state and nation. Whatever the university may claim to the contrary, race is a key factor in admissions, as it is at almost every other college and university in the country.

Once the racially balanced student body arrives at the University of Missouri, minority students have a wide array of options provided especially for them. For example, black students can enroll in black studies with a minor in multicultural studies. They can apply for many different “diversity-related scholarships.” They can join one of seven “historically black fraternities or sororities.”

They can hang out at the Black Culture Center and join the African Students Association, the Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative, the Mizzou Black Women’s Initiative, the Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students, the Legion of Black Collegians, the Black Business Students Association and the Black Law Students Association, just to name a few. Meanwhile their fellow white students can enroll in any number of diversity and sensitivity training courses all under the watchful eye of the vice-chancellor for inclusion.

Can there be any surprise that students of color feel as if they are treated differently from white students when their admission to the university is very likely to have been influenced by their race? When they, and only they, are often invited to campus a week early, purportedly to bond with their fellow students of color and to give them a head start on college? When one of their first experiences on campus is some sort of gathering with other students of color? When they are directed to the campus office of diversity or minority affairs as a place for counseling? When they are invited to join the Black or Hispanic or Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian student union? When they learn they can major in Black, etc. studies?

No factor, not even athletic prowess, is more significant to college admissions than race. Diversity is a core mission for the vast majority of institutions and students of color know that means them. Students of color know themselves to be what we now call, in a terrible corruption of the language, “diverse” individuals. Special programming for minority students cannot help but convey, in a micro-aggression-like manner, that campus officials believe students of color need extra help to succeed. School sanctioned programs and groups that cater to students of color, even students of particular colors, segregate students on the basis of race. Separate minority counseling services reinforce the idea that students of color are different, that counselors of a different race cannot possibly understand a minority student’s issues and concerns. Some universities even provide separate (dare one say segregated) housing for students of particular races.

All of this focus on race cannot help but influence the thinking of white students. Even before going to college, most white students have been taught in secondary and even primary school that minority kids are different and that as white students they need to be sensitive to those differences. When they apply to colleges, white students know that they have a disadvantage in the admissions process. Once they arrive on campus, they witness university-sponsored and endorsed programming directed at students of color. Now they are learning that they need to shelve their “white privilege,” notwithstanding that many of their minority classmates may have come from economic or family circumstances far better than theirs.

Whatever privilege students may have before they arrive at college, the reality of American higher education today is that students of color have been privileged by their institutions in ways that invite segregation and differential treatment, whether done in the name of reparations for past discrimination, as affirmative action to overcome societally imposed disadvantages, or in the belief that celebrating and encouraging differences improves education for everyone. There should be no surprise that students of color often self-segregate and are seen as different by their fellow students.

The concept of white privilege is a logical outgrowth of the concept of institutional racism. In reaction to the now quaint notion that intent to discriminate must be proven to establish illegal race discrimination, lawyers and race scholars came up with the concept of institutional racism. The idea is that racism is so deeply rooted in American society that it persists even amongst institutions that have made genuine efforts to correct for any intentional past discrimination. Thus, the theory holds, the University of Missouri and all of its privileged white students are guilty, by definition, of racial discrimination today, albeit in subtle ways.

But there is nothing subtle about the most pervasive form of racial discrimination prevailing at most American colleges and universities today. It is done in the name of lifting up those who have been discriminated against in the past. But there should be little wonder that the intended beneficiaries of this allegedly benign discrimination feel themselves isolated and treated differently. By design, universities have isolated them and treated them differently.

Reprinted with permission from the Hoover Institution site, “Defining Ideas.”


James Huffman is dean emeritus of Lewis and Clark Law School.

How Your Tax Money Promotes Grievances

Oregon State University is launching a series of “social justice retreats” to “promote  a campus dialogue about race and racism.”

Translation: the university is sponsoring therapized programs to makes non-whites more aware of micro-aggression, more separatist and how aggrieved they ought to be at the hands of whites. There are also programs to render whites guilty about “white privilege.”  And the beauty of these programs, from the cultural left point of view, is that they will be paid for out of tax money.

Retreats, from one day to a weekend long, are being offered in Racial Aikido, Multiracial Aikido (a touch of Asian mystery here), Examining White Identity in a Multicultural World, and Examining White Identity for Faculty and Staff.

Promotional material for the program says, “Racial Aikido seeks to empower students of color at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) using the principles of aikido to recognize, respond, and replenish. Originally created at the University of Vermont, Racial Aikido acknowledges that people of color may be ill prepared to deal with issues of race and racism as it affects them personally.

Racial Aikido promotes tools for people of color to maintain a positive self-image and be able to respond to overt and covert racism. By the conclusion of the retreat, you will have a better understanding of White privilege, in-group and internalized oppression, identity development models, and be more self-aware of your multiple identities.

Multiracial Aikido is a one-day experience grounded in the principles of the Racial Aikido retreat. By the end of the experience, you will have a better understanding of your multiracial identities, explore the role of physical appearance, family, and build community with other students and staff at OSU.

The Examining White Identity (EWI) retreat focuses on White identity development, White privilege, and oppression in both personal and institutional contexts, while introducing strategies to dismantle oppressive systems.”

American institutions once worked to integrate immigrants and other outsiders into the mainstream Now many do their best to discredit the mainstream and work hard to encourage grievances and separatism.

Postmodernism Comes to CUNY

It’s easy to mock the sheer silliness of postmodernism. But the pretensions of our present-day sophists, who traffic in knowingness as opposed to knowledge, have wormed their way off campus and into American life. No evidence, no logic is required to take a position on any issue since everything is merely about story telling backed by force. Previously accepted, if vigorously debated truths, give off the appearance of dissolution after being flooded by the rhetorical tides of postmodernism.

Indeed, the aim of the so-called progressives and postmodernists is not to pursue truth, as that was once understood in academia, but to pursue “social change” by – in the words of the self-reinvented Malcolm X– “any means necessary.”

Now the postmodern narrative of perpetual white racism spreads into post-campus life.

Rachel Dolezal, a white woman passing as black, constructed a narrative in which she was the victim of racist harassment. But the incidents she described had merely been part of her imagined life. Sean King, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter, similarly appears to be a white guy passing as black.

Like Dolezal, he claims to be the victim of an anti-black hate crime for which no evidence exists, and he recently accused a black police chief of being an “Uncle Tom.” King, recently hired as a columnist by the New York Daily News, is adept at redefining words, so police brutality becomes a synonym for broken-windows policing.

A white Georgetown student, seeing himself victimized at gunpoint by an African-American, insisted that as someone endowed with white privilege, he deserved to be mugged. Chaya Babu, while taking part in a writers’ workshop with recent college graduates was frightened not by an armed robber but “by his gun.”  She saw herself as a victim of the police. For their part, the workshop group she says identified with the Black robber more than with the police, who “assault and kill black people with what looks like reckless abandon and impunity.”

The narrative is its own evidence; no facts are provided or even suggested. In Babu’s bizarre essay on the robbery, displaced African-Americans, uprooted from their neighborhoods by “the monster of gentrification,” are forced to seek revenge. The story is imagined, since Babu is a newcomer and unaware that most of those neighborhoods were never black.

White self-loathing has now been incorporated into part of CUNY’s makeup. Britta Wheeler, daughter of an academic who taught in Nebraska, defines herself as “a sociologist and a visual, life/art, performance artist.” She seems to have internalized the resentment of her bohemian parents toward their Midwestern surroundings. Wheeler claims to be performing as a character named Belinda Powell, though from the videos she has posted on the internet, it’s hard to tell where Wheeler ends and Powell begins.

Professor Wheeler has performed as a “squanderer” in Times Square, an area populated by comic-book characters cadging money from tourists who like to have a photo taken with Spiderman, Superman, Batman or one of desnudas, naked buxom Latino women with bras and panties painted on. In that setting it’s hard to imagine that anyone who saw her “performance” regarded it as a parody, since like postmodernism it’s hard to spoof what’s already a take-off.

Perhaps that why Wheeler who teaches ethnography at CUNY’s Stella and Charles Guttmann Community College, which was created thanks to a donation from a wealthy white family, has turned to performing her song of ritual self-abnegation, “I’m White and That’s not Right” for an appreciative – virtually all white– audience that had been asked to sing along.

Wheeler/Powell comes out in all white dress that appears too small for her, holding a ukulele and first offers the onlookers gluten-free cupcakes that she has personally baked and announces cloyingly, “I made my dress too.” She sings:

 I know it ain’t right but I’m white

White privilege is a matter of fact

Don’t expect much from me cause I’m free of respectability

I’m ashamed of how some people act

I’m trying to change that

Her “performance” was greeted with cheers and whoops. Wheeler/Powell has also posted online photos of herself posing as a suburban blonde having her nails done in a lounge chair– all in the name of academic advancement.  Among her academic achievements is a short video entitled, “Gonna Change the World One Smile at a Time.”

In the postmodern academy, performance often refers not to academic achievement but rather to acting out the gestures of white penance.

In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche, much beloved by postmodernists, anticipated their folly. Referring to “the men of resentment,” he wrote:

 “When would they achieve the ultimate, subtlest, most sublime triumph of revenge? Undoubtedly if they succeeded in poisoning the consciences of the fortunate with their own misery, with all misery, so that one day the fortunate began to be ashamed of their good fortune and perhaps said one to another: ‘it is disgraceful to be fortunate: there is too much misery!’ But no greater or more calamitous misunderstanding is possible than for the happy, well-constituted, powerful in soul and body, to begin to doubt their right to happiness in this fashion.”

Based on Babu and Wheeler, resentful post-modernists “ashamed of their good fortune” are eager to act out doubts about “their right to happiness.”

‘White Only’ and ‘Black Only’

A bizarre incident happened last week at University of Buffalo. Someone posted signs reading “White Only” or “Black Only” at the entrance to bathrooms and above drinking fountains around campus. Students were shocked and outraged, USA Today and other outlets reported. Police were called in to remove the signs and investigate.

The Black Student Union called a meeting to discuss the incident, in the course of which the affair crossed over into a wonderland. As the members deplored the signs and the racist legacy they invoked, a black graduate student rose and admitted that she placed the signs herself. It was a performance art project, she said, created to fulfill an assignment for a course, “Installation in Urban Spaces.”

Attendees got angry and walked out. Some started crying.

The student has followed up with a long letter to the Buffalo student newspaper that only aggravates the situation. After describing the course assignment, she switches abruptly to herself. “I am in pain,” she says. She studies art at Buffalo precisely to express her suffering and to advance the process of “healing.” Her “symptoms” (she uses the term) include self-hate, trauma, and “an unbearable and deafening indignation.”

The cause is white racism, inflicted upon her for years. Snide jokes, the n-word, and ubiquitous white privilege have taken their toll and produced a “frightening” reality she and others of her race must endure. The system “threatens, traumatizes, brutalizes, stunts, and literally kills non-white people every day in the United States.”

She apologizes for “the extreme trauma, fear, and actual hurt and pain these signs brought about.” To recall Jim Crow was no doubt distressing for students on their way to class that morning. But the student has no regrets: “I do not apologize for what I did. Once again, this is my art practice.” Suffering must be allowed its moment. Without expression, suffering simmers inside forever. Furthermore, “hurt was necessary to call us to action.”

The statement goes on for 2,170 words. As you can see, it is chock full of erratic, overheated identity-politics contentions that provide ample fodder for satire, ridicule, denunciation, and head shaking.

But it’s the kind of episode conservative and libertarian critics of the university should avoid. However misguided this student may be, and however much we might want to say that she misunderstands herself and U.S. history, there is no point in making judgments. No doubt, students on campus are talking non-stop about the incident, and any corrective to the student’s actions should be left to her peers, not to us.

It’s not just because we shouldn’t go after such an easy target, or because we shouldn’t wade into race issues that are already a dismay and an embarrassment for Buffalo students and teachers and administrators.

Rather, it is because the best way of dealing with them is to follow the university’s own course and pull back, letting it wear out in a process of “dialogue.” Here is the statement the administration issued in response to the whole affair.

The University at Buffalo is a community that strongly values inclusiveness and diversity. Faculty, staff and students from all backgrounds and cultures challenge and inspire each other to explore, discover and expand their world view.

We are committed to ensuring that the University at Buffalo is welcoming and supportive of all members of our community. On a daily basis, our faculty and students explore sensitive and difficult topics in an environment that values freedom of expression, and this week’s student art project is generating considerable dialogue.

The university is encouraging our community to discuss how we negotiate the boundaries of academic freedom in a safe and inclusive environment that values freedom of expression and further builds a culture of inclusion.   

The University at Buffalo stands strong in our commitment to ensuring that such discourse occurs in a safe, inclusive and intellectually open environment.

The idiom is familiar, and it serves a managerial function. When an affair like this happens, campus staff drowns it in bureaucratic words—“welcoming and supportive,” “inclusiveness and diversity,” “culture of inclusion,” “save and inclusive environment.” As the hack clichés pile up, your eyes glass over . . . and that’s precisely the point! The words don’t mean anything and they’re not supposed to mean anything. The point is to blunt and soften, deflect and delay, smile and nod, sympathize and support.

They are wise to do so. There is nothing to gain from going after this student for posting hate speech, summoning a police investigation, and bringing heaps of bad publicity down upon the school. She has freedom of expression and campus identity politics on her side. Better to reiterate the prevailing truisms and get back to work.

There is a lesson here for conservative and libertarian critics of the academy. Don’t waste time with single episodes unless or until they rise to a level of significant immorality or illegality. No sensible person needs to be guided through this affair, just as no informed person needs to be told that some nutty things happen on campus these days. Let us save our critique for the actions that deserve it.

The Duke lacrosse is an obvious qualifier, and K. C. Johnson’s blog and book (with Stuart Taylor) were gold standard models of how to proceed. Cases like this one isn’t.

The Severely Biased New Prof at Boston University

Fresh off completing her doctorate at the University of Michigan, Saida Grundy has landed a job on Boston University’s faculty – Assistant Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies. What can B.U. students anticipate from her?

Editors at the site SoCawledge dug into Grundy’s thinking and found a lot of tweets that resemble those of Steven Salaita in their nastiness. Whereas the object of Salaita’s animosity is anyone who defends Israel, in Grundy’s case it is the white race.

Among her tweets is this one: dear white people: u are all ben Affleck. Those euphemisms for ur ancestors like “farmers” & “pioneers” means owned humans & killed natives

No doubt Professor Grundy knows that no white person now living either owned humans or killed natives, and that the great majority of whites in the past did neither of those actions.  Still, she appears to harbor a deep animosity toward whites anyway.

Another: every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned busineses. and every year I find it nearly impossible.

But the Reverend King had nothing against white-owned businesses. Why does Grundy feel the desire to discriminate against them?

Read through the tweets and you’ll see a young woman who has been brought up with (or perhaps schooled to have) animosity boiling within her. She illustrates very well the problem that former BU professor and now NAS president Peter Wood calls “bee in the mouth anger.” (I strongly recommend his book on that.)

What will her classes be like? It’s hard to believe that they will be “safe places” for white students, especially men.

After her tweets were made public, the university knew it was in a mess.

BU’s president, Robert Brown had to say something and came up with this attempt at straddling the fence: “At Boston University we acknowledge Dr. Grundy’s right to hold and express her opinions. At the same time, we fully appreciate why many have reacted to her statements. Boston University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form….We are disappointed and concerned by statements that reduce individuals to stereotypes….” (You can read Brown’s entire statement and more about the raging controversy here.)

At least Brown recognizes the racism, bigotry, and stereotyping that is such a big part of Grundy’s view of America. Many educators have rushed to her defense, claiming that people outside of higher education have misunderstood her and vastly overreacted. That’s the tenor of this Inside Higher Ed piece. The problem, according to author Colleen Flaherty is that “what professors write, think, or talk about doesn’t necessarily always translate to a wider audience…Ideas that are relatively uncontroversial among colleagues might elicit outrage from the public.”

Elaborating on that notion, VCU sociology professor Tressie McMillan Cottom said, “A lot can go wrong when you use ‘inside’ language ‘outside’ because we rely so much on social ties and context to make meaning of words.”

So we are apparently to believe that the only problem here is that Grundy made the mistake of letting the general public know what she thinks about race in language that revealed her evident biases.  If she had just kept her angry stereotyping within what Cottom usefully calls the higher education “bubble,” those ill-educated outsiders wouldn’t be upset over words they can’t comprehend out of their “context.”

The truth is that by using “outside” language on Twitter, Grundy allowed the whole world a clear view of the way her classes are apt to go. Academic writing is usually impenetrable (even to other academics), but you can’t hide anything in the tiny thought compressions of a tweet. If Grundy had used Twitter only for mundane personal stuff and reserved her vitriol for classrooms filled almost entirely with students inclined to nod in agreement, nobody would know what bile her students were steeping in.

Finally, Grundy herself says that she regrets having stated things “indelicately.” What that means is that she regrets having used clear “outside” language that revealed her biases instead of the cloudy language of academe that would have kept them hidden.

Your Orientation Stories Wanted

We’re looking for any upcoming or recent accounts of freshman orientation from those who’ve undergone the process or shortly will. PC skits, “white privilege” games, and the like, we’re interested in all of this. Any stories are welcome and encouraged. Write us or urge anyone you know who might be going through the process to write us at editor@campusmind.org