U. Michigan Dearborn creates segregated events, then apologizes

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):

There was pushback—apparently a lot of it. Here are two examples:

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.

For POC:

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.

26 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Can you major in bone-headedness at universities these days?

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I guess college is where people go to learn. It is a good thing because there seems to be a lot to learn and it really doesn’t have much to do with school.

  3. merilee
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Seems likely.

  4. Wunold
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Inclusion by seggregation. No, I don’t understand the woke mindset either.

  5. eric
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    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

    Yes exactly. Individuals may self-select whom they associate with; organizations to which a bunch of people “pay” into do not.* Or at least, should not – they have to serve their members.

    *Public accommodations owned by individuals count as organizations on this model; the public has “paid into” them in numerous ways, from the obvious corporate tax breaks to less obvious things like zoning laws. Such entities are no longer free to self-select who they associate with the way the individual owner might be free to do. At least, IMO…

  6. Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    MLK and the 60s hippie radicals wanted to tear down the walls between races, genders, etc., and join people together to celebrate each other without using demographic lines as an obstacle. Today’s “progressives” are quite reactionary in comparison, reviving the core philosophy of the old Bull Connor segregationism. Never trust any ideology (Left or Right) that says we need to respect walls of separation.

  7. ronsch99
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    On simple action would be to ask students to read “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. That would be just about as good, or maybe even better, for a white person to be listening to the thoughts of a black person about his experiences. It appears to me that the author thought of this book as his having a conversation with white people.

    • Roo
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Random aside to your comment… I do not agree with the content of much of what Kendi says, in that he seems to throw the ideal of ‘a colorblind society’ out the window and focus heavily on differences, grievances, and assigning victim status. That said, I find him interesting in that he is far, far and away (like not even in the same universe as DiAngelo) the most charismatic figure the Woke movement has produced thus far. I see him as being one of the few / only parts of the movement that will age well, although I suspect he will have some manner of revelation and change his rhetoric a bit in the next decade or so when (again, this is my prediction,) Wokeness goes way out of style.

    • savage
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      Kendi is worth reading because of his growing influence.

      But he has no idea on how to improve race relations except one: establish a totalitarian state (I mean this literally) ruled by an unelected anti-racist (that is, pro-black) committee with effectively unlimited powers. He wrote that he believed whites to be subhuman demon-aliens in his college days because he saw a documentary on television. That’s certainly unintelligent, and although he overcame these views I would not want someone with this background in an influential position.

      • Roo
        Posted September 12, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        I haven’t read his book but pulled up the preview on Amazon and it looks like at one point in his past he was also giving impassioned speeches about how people in the black community have to take responsibility, pull themselves up by the bootstraps, general ‘tough love’ stuff, etc., etc. So it seems to me as if he has been pretty much all over the map on the topic of race relations.

        That’s not necessarily a bad thing – I think that happens if you are generally passionate about a topic (sorry to bring this up on this site as I know it will make me look bad to most here, but I have been the same way about spirituality. If you are thinking about something and studying it from many angles over the years it’s bound to happen.) But I wouldn’t necessarily assume his current views are set in stone.

  8. KD
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    How about a POC Cafe and a Non-POC Cafe which includes POC who will be paid to monitor and report on Non-POC who are suspected of harboring white supremacist sentiments, so it won’t be whites-only, and any white suspected of supporting whites-only space will be sent to a racial justice camp in Siberia for re-education? Whites-only is probably okay as long as whites view the exclusion of POC as punishment for being born white.

  9. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Segregated discussion groups are all the rage in the current academic world. At the Univ. of Washington, a School of Medicine notice two months ago read as follows:
    “In the past three weeks, the UW Medicine Office of Healthcare Equity hosted three race-based virtual caucuses for employees.”
    A series of segregated caucuses—one Black, one People of Color, and one White—were scheduled to continue through July, August, and September. The Equity Office helpfully provides “facilitators” to guide each caucus.

    Our UW caucuses are thus organized along very finely drawn lines, with separate ones for the Black and the POC groups. We might look forward to the POC caucus being further subdivided into the several sub-groups that this line of thinking clearly implies.

    The notice ended with the following ringing exhortation:
    “We are excited about the energy and interest in anti-racism work generated by the previous caucuses and look forward to continuing that momentum into our next session.”

    • GBJames
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      George Wallace would approve.

      • jezgrove
        Posted September 11, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Good grief – is this an attempt to out more Jessica Krugs?

        • jezgrove
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          D’oh, that was a more general reply to Jon above.

    • Posted September 11, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      This sounds illegal.

      • Jon Gallant
        Posted September 11, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        The series of caucuses–two each month–are
        “virtual”, which may get around the letter of certain laws. And they are all sponsored by the SOM’s Office of Equity. We all know that anything with both “Office” and “Equity” or “Diversity” in its title is not merely legal, but sacrosanct.

    • Posted September 11, 2020 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      The tone deafness is deafening.

  10. Posted September 11, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    It seems like the Woke’s CRT approach to racism is increasingly running up against the government’s (and MLK’s) color-blind approach. There will be more and more battles like this one. I hope and expect the latter will win — eventually.

  11. Posted September 11, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    People can self segregate if they want. But the University of Michigan should not aid and abet.

  12. Posted September 11, 2020 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I remember reading “Black Like Me” (https://www.amazon.com/Black-Like-John-Howard-Griffin/dp/0451234219) in High School. “One of the deepest, most penetrating documents yet set down on the racial question.”—Atlanta Journal & Constitution

    There’s a book that couldn’t even be imagined today.

  13. Posted September 11, 2020 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    People do frequently self-segregate on campuses. In common eating areas, hanging out in commons areas, parties. In all places students gather in social groups with their peers, everyone can see it is effectively segregated by race, major, year… This is perfectly understandable, since they associate with those who share common experiences and outlooks.
    Of course there is no need to officialize such spaces. They happen anyway a thousand times over. So why do it? There must be administrators who wish to advertise their wokeness. Because woke is cool.

  14. Wunold
    Posted September 12, 2020 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    For anyone who’s into comic books, I can recommend “Symmetry”, a SF series about a future society without hunger, sickness, work … but which is also highly segregated, not only by ethnicity, but also by age, which is seen as the ultimate means for peace and tranquility – until a catastrophe forces a random group of varied people to survive outside of their completely controlled environment. (Yeah, of course there has to be a love story, too. 😉 )

    https://imagecomics.com/press-releases/love-sparks-a-revolution-in-symmetry-vol.-1-1

    I can recommend the collected editions, although alas, the second one from 2016 ends with a cliffhanger and wasn’t continued ever since. The existing two volumes are a worthwile read nonetheless, including the extensive text-only addendums about social philosophy.

  15. Filippo
    Posted September 12, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    From the university: “. . . while also providing students that do not identify as persons of color . . . .”

    Linguistic pretzel-twisting. Are there students who do not identify as persons of non-color?

    Is ones (non-)color merely a matter of what one identifies as? (Apparently not, re: Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal)

    I want the university to specifically point out, or provide photos of, these students of non-color, so that I might see what they look like. (“white”?)

    I’m reminded of the substitutionary locution, “people who menstruate.”

  16. Matthew Jenkins
    Posted September 12, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Professor, could you provide a link to the essay?


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