Part 2 of a Smith College employee’s complaint about racial harassment

November 5, 2020 • 12:15 pm

Here we have the second part of Jodie Shaw’s indictment of Smith College, where she works as a student support coordinator specializing in “Residence Life”. (Her first video is here, and my analysis of it here.) In this episode in a continuing series, Shaw relates how, in her latest job, she was forced to attend a mandatory three-day “professional development retreat,” the first day of which was devoted to employees discussing their “identities”.  That meant “social identities,” which at Smith meant race.

Shaw said she was uncomfortable talking about her identity and race, and was told at first that she didn’t have to. Then, at the meeting, one of the two “professional facilitiators” asked her to “tell us about your race in the context of your childhood, your adolescence, and your college years.” Shaw didn’t want to talk about her childhood or these issues with her colleagues present, for she didn’t consider them relevant to her job. So she took a pass during the discussion.

Shortly thereafter, the facilitator told everyone said that any white person who expressed discomfort or resistance about talking about their race wasn’t really experiencing discomfort, shouldn’t be comforted, and that they were really displaying “white fragility” as a “power play.”  It was made clear, however, that if you weren’t white, your discomfort would be taken as genuine.

You can listen to the rest of the short video for yourself. Shaw felt psychologically attacked and shamed in front of her colleagues, as well she should have. She filed a complaint with Smith on the basis of racial discrimination and hostility, as she was shamed and treated differently because of her race.

You may think she’s kvetching about a minor matter, but she says that her complaint extended well beyond what she says here—it was over 100 pages long. I’ll continue to put up her videos so we can see how the obsession with race is playing out in the life of an ordinary Smith employee, who’s now become extraordinary because of her courage in speaking up. It may turn out that she’s exaggerating or overreacting, but all we can do is watch to see what she says—an opportunity we’re not usually given in matters of this sort.

As I said in my last post, Shaw’s first video went up on October 27, and the College responded two days later in a public letter from President Kathleen McCartney.

And as I added at the time, the letter basically says, ““Well, we can’t fire Shaw (but we would if we could), but we’ll ignore her (she’s an outlier, after all), and reassure those students of color who feel harmed by this video that they have our wholehearted support.”

It used to be that religion poisoned everything. Now it appears that race is acting the same way. But let us see as Shaw posts more videos.

41 thoughts on “Part 2 of a Smith College employee’s complaint about racial harassment

  1. I’ve subscribed to her YouTube channel. She could use the public support. Also, that support could play a larger role — if Biden wins (he seems a slight favorite now), the liberal backlash against the woke may gain rapid momentum, as the glue that binds liberals and wokes (fear of Trump) may dissolve.

      1. “‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

        Who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat under a wokish life?

  2. I listened to Coleman Hughes talk about Robin D’Angelo’s (not sure of the spelling) book White Fragility. I need to get it to see what it is about. The book is apparently a manual for race education in business seminars, given by D’Angelo. There are bullet point lists in the book, which, Hughes claimed, amount to :

    1. The white person talking to a Person of Color is not to remain silent during conversations about race.

    2. The white person is not to use confrontational /argumentative language with a Person of Color.

    The product of the guidance is to speak agreement and only agreement within a conversation about race with a Person of Color. I think the book might explain some of what we see here.

      1. Looking forward to it — as for the library copy I located in the meantime, theres over 100 holds on it –
        — that is a significant measure of demand — popular movie DVDs can reach 100’s of holds. I’ll get it nonetheless.

      2. I just got a copy of White Fragility, published in 2018 by Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

        I noticed in the front matter — and I’m not making anything of this, except that I find it peculiar :

        “Beacon Press books are published under the auspices of The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.”

    1. Greetings, I have read substantial excerpts from “White Fragility”. I am also gay and in my mid 60s.

      I was absolutely stunned as I read those excerpts to see how much her pedagogy and methodology totally duplicates, unintentionally I am sure, the manner/discourses in which psychology pathologized gays back in the 50s to 80s.

      Really stunning. Don’t think many people have noticed that, wouldn’t expect them to, but there you have it.

      What she does is pathologize white people and being white.

  3. It will be interesting to watch this stuff when it ends up in the courts. Color blind may be “white supremacy” but the Civil Rights Act is color blind, and the courts have acknowledged claims of discrimination on the basis of whiteness. Yes, we have affirmative action but that is through some legal cartwells, not because official race-based preferences are legal (they can only be considered in seeking “diversity”).

    A lot of the “white privilege” re-education programming strikes me as bordering on race-based harassment, and I’m just waiting to a see the plaintiff who steps forward who quit their job due to the PTSD from one of these sessions, and is having nightmares, insomnia, and can’t eat because it brings back memories of being tortured by the Stazi in their childhood before they immigrated to the land of freedom.

  4. “tell us about your race in the context of your childhood, your adolescence, and your college years.”

    So, I kinda get the point here. You’re trying to get people to understand that other employees have had different background experiences than you, and that what you say and do might have a different connotation to them than to you. At the risk of making a poor analogy, it’s sort of like trying to make a co-worker understand that while he/she might find that sexual innuendo joke funny and see nothing wrong with it, his/her background isn’t everyone’s, so don’t make that joke. Fast forward, the point is to understand that what the white person might think of as an innocuous comment to the black person (“I like your hair that way”), might be taken as racially insensitive by a POC with a different background.

    But if that’s the objective, forcing white people to speak gets the training all backwards. In general, the person in the power position or the one who is clueless about the social faux pas or the one making the joke, the comment, etc. is the one you want listening to others. Having them speak isn’t as important, though if they want to, I certainly wouldn’t shut them down.

    Accepting for the moment the woke idea that it’s white folk who need to change their behavior the most, it makes no sense to put the emphasis on having white folk speak about their experiences at such training. Just like Innapropriate Joke Guy, his story about why his background makes it acceptable is likely not as important for achieving workplace harmony as getting him to understand why the workplace isn’t like his background.

    Or, maybe I’m just trying to see this in the best light possible. I certainly don’t think anyone should be forced to speak in such sessions.

  5. If she’s complaining about the facilitator — that probably wasn’t a Smith employee, and most likely was something that was not instructed by Smith for the facilitator to say. The fact that Smith is promoting racial justice and equity is a good thing. Nobody will be 100% happy, and no facilitator will be 100% perfect.

    Any time there is training about almost anything, somebody will have a complaint about it.

    I would like to see if her 100-page complaint is really 100 pages of content, or just ranting.

    If there’s truly a hostile environment there, she should take her 100 pages to an employment lawyer or to the EEOC.

    Minorities have endured so much in U.S. history that I cringe whenever a white person complains about well-meaning efforts to make the world a better place. It makes us (privileged white people) look bad.

    1. The fact is that you can promote racial justice and equality in ways that are heavy handed and inimical (like making people confess that they’re racists), and you have no idea what is going on there. I do not think you’re being open-minded about what she says, as you’re looking for any excuse to dismiss her complaints. You could take the position that maybe she has a legitimate beef but we shall see, which is what I’m trying to do.

      You can absolve Smith for this if you want, but I’m pretty sure they knew EXACTLY what they were getting with a hired facilitator.

      As for your statement that what she says is cringe-worthy and makes you privileged white people look bad, you’ve given your hand away. Not all white people are privileged, and I don’t think she makes white people look bad. She was humiliated and blindsided, and you simply reject what she says because she’s not serving the cause of racial justice in the way you think she should. She should allow herself to be humiliated and suck it up. She should admit she’s a racist because that’s the way to solve the race problem in America.

      1. Indeed. Leaving aside the egregious assumptions behind white fragility/supremacy and seeing everyone’s identity through the lens of race, the facilitator in such sessions has NO IDEA about what someone may have suffered during their childhood and adolescence, so forcing them to discuss this in public is a totally irresponsible course of action. Shaming them for feeling uncomfortable on top of that is unspeakable.

        Shaw gave the example of dog training, and she has a point. Perhaps this kind of thing could be acceptable in a group therapy session made up of convicted sex offenders or domestic abusers – but that kind of scenario is a long way from a mandatory workplace training event!

    2. What’s cringe-worthy here is that Jodie Shaw isn’t privileged, and you confess your “white privilege” and claim she makes you look bad.

      She’s relatively poor with a BA degree working as an admin of sorts, when many of students at Smith either make more money than she does or come from families with higher SES than Jodie’s current one.

      Jodie is functioning as a scapegoat for the faculty who don’t want to look bad. Smith and its faculty can point to Jodie and say, “Look, here’s “white privilege”, and we denounce it.”

      Jodie is able to post these videos because she doesn’t have privilege.

      What we have here is an example of actually privileged people at universities throwing a person of lower SES under the bus. Jodie’s a modern-day sacrificial lamb. If she understood this, I would advice her not to make her own life worse by falling on this sword.

      I’ll continue to watch her updates. So far she doesn’t come off as unhinged, hyperbolic, or attention-seeking. But I’m sure that the ordeal of how she has been treated makes her want to be seen and understood.

      Good for her for making these clips. Let’s hope that it helps others recognize emotional abuse disguised as “justice”.

      1. White privilege isn’t about economic privation (I also grew up poor). It’s the privilege that comes from being white – not being followed around a store, not being stopped for minor traffic violations, not being called disgusting names, not having your complaints about pain dismissed by doctors, not being mistaken for the “help” in a store or hotel, not having recruiters ignore your job applications, not having the police called because you are “suspicious” (as happened at Williams), etc.

        Compared to all those things, having to sit through imperfect or even insulting training is hardly worthy of al this attention.

        1. You seem to ignore the fact that this training is taking place at Smith, where the students of color are almost certainly not subject to this kind of discrimination, and yet the employees are forced to admit that they take part in it. You haven’t considered that this kind of hectoring is not going to solve the problem of discrimination in society at large, but lead to anger and resentment–not because of “white privilege”, but because people are being accused of things they don’t practice.

          Most of all, you fail to make a case that this kind of mandatory training accomplishes anything about reducing racism in America. Thanks for your lecture on what white privilege is (you gave it before), but I will not be told what is or is not worthy of my attention.

            1. So you find one incident from several years ago (one student, not “students”), and use that to justify a form of proselytizing that accuses all white residence counselors of complicity and “white fragility”? I’m sorry but one microaggression like this doesn’t justify the form of mass social engineering that Smith is apparently engaged in. More important, you fail to consider that such mass accusations will do more harm than good, or, more important, that this form of accusation and humiliation of those who aren’t guilty bigotry will have zero effect on improving racism in America. I, for one, would not want to take part in such a mandatory program if a student was the subject of a bigoted action by somebody else. But apparently there is no amount of humiliation or hectoring of non-guilty employees that excessive in your search for social justice.

              And, by the way, more recently than this they found three swastikas drawn on Smith College Buildings. Surely that makes all the Jews there feel unwelcome, as they did. (] Should we have three days of anti-anti-Semitism training because of that? Swastikas are at least as bad as the incident you describe. My view would be try to find the perp and discipline them, just as in the incident you describe. Accusing all the residence heads of “gentile fragility”, and forcing them to go to three days of training, isn’t a way to solve that problem, and will only make it worse. There is no “systemic racism” at Smith, and your failure to find more than a single incident by googling shows that.

              The purpose of a university is education, not social engineering of the type that Smith is engaged in. This is not done to improve racial relations, but to help Smith avoid being accused of racism.

            2. This is a non-incident, as reported in the Boston Globe:

              Smith’s own investigation of the incident gave no evidence for racism whatsoever, and the supposed “racists” were completely exonerated.

              So your “evidence” for racism at Smith is completely bogus. Perhaps you’d like to withdraw your claim in the face of the facts.

    3. IMO mandatory encounter sessions are not appropriate workplace training.

      My employer may train me in company policy and acceptable behavior in the workplace. It should not be trying to improve my character by means that are distressing to me unless I choose to participate.

      My employer is not my mother, my therapist or my spiritual adviser.

      1. “My employer is not my mother, my therapist or my spiritual adviser.”

        I heartily concur. Of course, employers consider their flesh-and-blood employees human “resources” and “capital.”

    1. She should have been allowed to leave. That was outright racist harassment and if the skin pigmentation had been reversed there’d be outrage, riots and lawsuits.

      1. If it’s required training, ‘leaving’ opens her up to administrative firing for failing to take required training.

        I hear lots of people saying ‘bad facilitators,’ but I suspect the problem is unethical ones, not incompetent ones. What I mean is: I suspect these facilitators were teaching the curriculum the way it was written. But, like one of Milgram’s button-pushers, they are not thinking about what the curriculum does to the students.

        1. I suspect compartmentalization also plays a role. The people who give the training see it as a job they know how to do. Those in management are ordering the training as an insurance policy against bad PR and various kinds of lawsuits and to be seen as doing the right thing where “right thing” is defined by others. Each is doing the best they can under the circumstances. It is useless, IMHO, to fight this battle at the corporate level. They are simply relying on what the community says they need to do to avoid a racism charge. What we need is to prove that this stuff doesn’t battle racism effectively and causes problems. It’s a tough thing to do but I don’t see any other way.

          Well, there is one other way. Make the fact stick that CRT is the opposite of what MLK taught. I suspect that MLK is held in higher regard than CRT.

          1. It’s not at all useless. My company updates their training curriculum practically every year in response to feedback. Negative feedback given to the Smith administration about a course should, at least in principle, affect next year’s training. Whether the administration actually listens to it’s employees or not is a different story.

            1. I’m losing the thread here — the premise of white fragility is that “negative feedback” will, by definition, earn the tarring and feathering as a racist. The force keeping this working is fear of getting tarred as a racist — Tw1773r, 5aceb00k, etc.

  6. There seems to be a pretense that this is somehow like counseling, but it’s not voluntary, it’s public, the people facilitating are not health care professionals (with all that means ethically or for privacy), and it’s asking people to talk about things which are personal and unrelated to work. How is my experience in childhood relevant to my job? This is just fishing. They are assuming there’s a problem. I was coincidentally talking today to a couple of lawyers who are personal friends. They both feel that here is wide-open ground here for personal legal action.

    1. That – legal options- are I think the only way out for anyone hoping to salvage our schools. Make them pay for this kind of racist crap and they will stop. Or at least try to hide it better.

      1. It’s a decent plan and worth trying. However…

        if it only sometimes work to stop evangelizing school boards leading prayers…

        and it only sometimes works with evangelizing HS administrations having religious assemblies…

        there’s probably only a “sometimes works” chance it will stop these religious believers from conducting their mea culpa ceremonies…

      1. Incompetence implies that the training doesn’t specify coerced input, and the facilitator(s) came up with that idea on their own.

        Do you really think that’s the case? I have to say, I don’t.

  7. As a note to readers, I requested that she become a Facebook “friend”.

    I urge you to do same as you will see both her videos and some very interesting comments.

  8. One minor point against her, filing a 100 page report is ridiculous. She needed to summarize a few egregious incidents and be done. A rambling 100 page complaint is not useful and will not be read in it’s entirety.

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