Just a few years ago, I was beginning to believe that I had reached a point in my life where I might be ready to slow down. After almost six decades on the planet, I had overcome the obstacles of my youth and after more than three decades, I had achieved a level of education, competence, and wisdom that should have made the golden years of my career a relative breeze. I was looking forward to enjoying a period of quiet respect before gracefully fading away, something akin to the ending of Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
For a working-class boy raised in a single-parent household in the 1970s, this was more than I hoped for in my youth, when economic uncertainty made any kind of professional success seem unattainable. My current career as a history professor was a dream come true. But as of late, the dream has started to sour, perhaps even rot. I have learned that the rules of the game have changed.
For certain groups of us within academia, e.g., aging white men with particular religious (there is a God and I am not him) and philosophical beliefs (fairness and equality), our previous achievements and struggles mean nothing. We must be completely reeducated and baptized in the current cultural and educational narratives, and while we can never really be accepted as equals amongst the new elites because of who we are, we can be tolerated until our inevitable demise.
I lived in a world where critical thinking was encouraged, debate was healthy, and ideas were not equal. The best way to separate the wheat from the chaff was by presenting arguments and appealing to reason—may the best idea win, and may everyone have an opportunity to present his argument. This is no longer the case. In the new narrative, the absolute truth has been discovered, the debates have ended, and all those who refuse to conform must be tolerated for a time until they can be canceled or eliminated.
In my case, it was the current controversy surrounding personal pronouns (also known as “preferred pronouns”). For the past several years, it has become increasingly common for people to share their personal pronouns in their email signatures, online profiles, and even nametags. There are thousands of videos online illustrating the multitude of pronouns that are being used and how to use them. Last fall, when the online platform we use for meetings and for teaching classes at my college added a space for personal pronouns, I decided that this was an open invitation for all faculty, staff, and students to share whatever pronouns they chose. It turns out I was wrong.
After nearly a yearlong investigation by Human Resources, I was accused, interrogated, and ultimately convicted of three collegiate crimes: “mis-gendering” a colleague, harassment, and retaliation. As punishment, I was assigned to a reeducation program which would culminate in the writing of an essay in which I would “reflect” on what I had done wrong and how I would avoid those crimes in the future. All of a sudden, I was no longer a respected professor with over thirty years of experience in my field. I was, at best, woefully ignorant and, at worst, downright evil—someone who had to start over from scratch and be taught the manners and mores that would allow me to reenter this new-narrative society.
So, I have spent part of my summer break watching training videos and writing my reflective essay as a condition of my continued employment. In the process, I have learned three things which I’d like to share with you.
First, if you are like me, a white male of a certain age, don’t expect the presenters in any of the trainings to look like you. While we are constantly told by the educational bureaucracy that in order for our students to learn, they have to have instructors that look like them, not a single person in any of the trainings I was required to complete looked like me. In fact, the only time a white male of any age was shown at all was in those short vignettes which illustrated the horrors committed by those in most need of correction. This is ironic for a video titled, How To Be More Inclusive. White men are only valuable for demonstrating their inhumanity toward their fellow human beings. Once that was done, the woman, or person of color, would come in to point out the errors of his behavior and make sure that he was properly ashamed.
Unlike the trainings of my youth, where mistakes were shown, pointed out, and then corrected, there was no redemption. After shaming the offender, the all-knowing presenter simply moved on to the next point. In the secular religion of anti-racism and transgender ideology, that’s the point, isn’t it? Confession and penance are demanded, but there can be no grace, at least not for those whose race, sex, or gender identity is considered “privileged.” There can only be endless submission. Again, the irony is palpable with titles like I Don’t See Color, I Just See People: Becoming Culturally Competent or Promoting Respect in the Workplace for Employees. This kind of doublespeak might confuse even George Orwell.
Second, on every list in every training, the two greatest sins a person can commit are being white and being male. Of course, there are many other so-called privileges that are enumerated on these lists (e.g., 50 Potential Privileges In The Workplace), but on each and every list I was required to view, number one was white(ness) and number two was male. In the current cultural narrative, I was born with two strikes against me, and the final pitch has already left the mound. (I suppose using baseball metaphors are a form of privilege as well.) The keepers and promoters of this new narrative are watching intently, and any failure to fully embrace any of the principles of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) agenda becomes strike three.
Not only will I strike out, but I will also be ejected from the game as soon as they can find a reason to do it. As one colleague in a similar situation put it, we are “walking on eggshells” all the time because one never knows who is listening for ever-present micro-aggressions. Students, staff members, and even fellow faculty members are encouraged to report behavior that is not in line with the accepted ideology. In fact, any attempt to discourage such reporting can and will be seen as “retaliation.” If they can’t change my mind, they will make it so that I live in constant fear of ever expressing a contrary opinion again.
Third, another lesson I had drilled into me throughout these trainings was that no one wants to hear what I have to say, at least no one less privileged than I am. My job is to listen, learn, and repeat what those whose race, sex, or gender identity is different than mine have to tell me. There is no discussion or debate. The truth of the “lived experiences” of those who have not had my privileges, whatever they may be, trumps all other knowledge. Education, experience, and my own “lived experiences” hold no intrinsic value, as they have all been swept away by the unassailable wisdom of critical race theory and gender identity theory. I am only allowed to talk to those few who might possess more privilege than myself, and only then to reinforce the talking points of this radical progressive ideology.
In summary, I learned through this reeducation that I must begin any conversation by apologizing for my privilege and making sure that everyone within earshot knows my personal pronouns. I learned that the oppressed are now privileged. I learned that my personal “lived experience” is discounted and discredited simply because I am white and male. There are infinite other examples I could list on how my training was designed to wear me down, make me doubt what I know to be true, and, ultimately, force my silence, if not my endorsement.
There are many of us who have experienced these indignities in the last few years. These assaults on freedom and fairness are becoming more common every day. The beatings will in fact continue until morale improves, or until people begin to realize that they don’t need to accept the current narrative as fact. I’m here to tell you that it is possible to walk through the fire and come out the other side. I was sent to the 21st century equivalent of a reeducation camp. Think of it as a precursor of what is to come for all who even question DIE orthodoxy.
There was only one problem with my reeducation: It didn’t work, and this particular Mr. Chips is ready to push back.