Martin Luther King famously said, in his “I have a dream” speech in Washington D.C., “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
This now seems passé, for anti-racists assert the opposite: you should judge people by the color of their skin—or at least treat them differently. That’s what the “people of color” designation is about. Though it doesn’t refer strictly to pigmentation but assumed oppression (I know Hispanics who are lighter than I but considered POCs), and though the term doesn’t imply that POC are always of good character, there’s no doubt that you are now supposed to be treated differently if you’re a POC—not discriminated against, of course, but given certain privileges as well as deferred to in discussions of oppression. In other words, the phrase “I don’t see color” has become a microaggression. With identity politics, one’s “color” is the most important part of your persona.
Sadly, Dr. King’s words, while not explicitly denied, are not respected by many. And that’s why we have a resurgence of segregation on campuses, or calls for segregation. Here’s a tweet sent to me by reader Luana, describing an initiative at the University of Michigan at Dearborn in which the school planned bimonthly discussion groups segregated by ethnicity: one for whites only and the other for BIPOCs (I can’t keep up with the acronyms):
I will never understand the woke mindset. pic.twitter.com/t7uvlMZpoA
— Noam Blum (@neontaster) September 9, 2020
There was pushback—apparently a lot of it. Here are two examples:
This can’t possibly be legal. And this doesn’t end anywhere good. 🤦🏻♀️ https://t.co/jI0gDTfiQu
— Keiko (@keikoinboston) September 9, 2020
Apartheid and segregation are both policies of separating human beings based on race. What motivates that separation does not matter; this is straight up racism and it is happening online under the auspices of a major American university.
— Rational Expat (@rationalexpat) September 10, 2020
And eventually, according to this article in MEEAW (Media Entertainment Arts Worldwide; click on screenshot). The University decided to cancel the two segregated cafes.
Yesterday, the University apologized and said it would rescind the cafes on the grounds that this segregation violated the university’s policy of “inclusion” (duhh!). Click on the screenshot for the UM apology.
I think it’s a good sign that there was pushback and, especially, that the university responded. If everyone opposed to this mishigas pushed back, it might stop.
However, the apology itself is couched in woke phraseology, and also has some pretty weird explanations.
First, it repeatedly talks about the “harm and pain” that these cafes caused people. I don’t buy that; it caused offense, perhaps, but not “harm.” In fact, in other schools the failure of an administration to set up separate spaces for people of color has itself been said to cause “harm and pain.” As a result of the two segregated events, says the University statement, “Our community is hurting.” I doubt it’s hurting much; it’s divided. The conflation of offense with “harm” and “pain” is one of the most invidious aspects of college Wokeness.
The apology comes in two parts. First there’s a letter from Chancellor Domenico Grasso with the words above, and then an explanation from the University why it created segregated salons—a separate explanation for each cafe.
The “cafes” were virtual open conversations developed to allow students the opportunity to connect to process current events, share their experiences related to race, share knowledge and resources and brainstorm solutions. The original intent was to provide students from marginalized communities a space that allowed for them to exist freely without having to normalize their lives and experiences. . .
I’m not sure what “normalizing your life and experience” is. I get it that black students may speak more freely about their experiences with other black students (second wave feminism largely got off the ground via women’s discussion groups), but if they want to do this, they must create meetings on their own—meetings that aren’t official University events. For the latter violates civil rights laws.
And for whites:
. . . while also providing students that do not identify as persons of color the opportunity to deepen their understanding of race and racism without harming or relying on students of color to educate them.
This makes little sense, for how do you “deepen your understanding of race and racism” without talking to students of color? I know black people have bridled at constantly having to educate white people about racism, but I see no other way to learn about the oppression that comes with being black in America without black people talking to white people.
The other day I read an essay in which a white woman decided to have a conversation about race with the black man who regularly fixed her furnace (or so I recall), and it was an eye-opening experience for her. She had no idea at the daily humiliations this highly trained man was subject to simply because he was black. All of us need to hear stuff like this, though, of course, we should be able to discuss it rather than just be told to shut up. But it’s only through the writings and speeches of people like Dr. King that we can learn what people of color face.
That’s not to say that we should force POC to educate us about race, or engage in conversations they don’t want to have, but there’s no way that civil rights will advance in America without conversation. Demonstrations alone won’t do it, so Michigan’s idea to let white people learn about race in a whites-only space is simply ludicrous.
To add insult to injury, the University’s apology ends this way.
The events were never intended to be exclusive or exclusionary for individuals of a certain race. Both events were open to all members of the UM-Dearborn campus community.
Who are they kidding? Look at the original announcements, as well as what the University describes it intended to do. Of course they were supposed to be exclusionary!
There may be valid reasons to have segregated meetings in universities, but they must be self-segregated and not official functions. If you can think of exceptions, let me know.