Some pushback to the toxic wokeness at Smith College

March 24, 2021 • 9:00 am

In my darker hours I tend to think that Wokeness is a one-way ratchet, as I see nothing that would reverse the trend. Woke teachers in colleges turn students into woke young people, who then go into their jobs and wokeify corporations and media, as well as into academic where they train yet another generation of performative authoritarians.  Still, one could have said the same thing about religiosity a few centuries ago. Nevertheless, I don’t have a few centuries to see if Wokeness diminishes. What heartens me is when people I respect oppose Wokeness, especially when they’re liberals and are in favor of eliminating bigotry and racism—but not in a useless and performative way. Here we have a bunch of African-Americans speaking out about the Wokeness that permeates Smith College like mites permeate our eyelashes.

Glenn Loury issued this tweet, which then led me to the yahoo!news article (reprinted from The National Review) and then to the letter to Smith College from a group of African-American notables.

The original article (link above) reports that more than 40 (it’s actually 43) African-American intellectuals (well, some are preachers, others CEO, but all qualify as “notables), wrote a letter to Smith College decrying its treatment of “service workers” (cafeteria employees and security people) after a black student, Oumou Kanoute, reported in 2018 that she was racially profiled while lying on a couch in an unoccupied dorm.  It turned out that Kanoute was reported to security simply because that had asked to be notified if anybody was seen in the dorm, and race wasn’t an issue. Several investigations, including one by Smith college itself, concluded that this was not a racist incident.

Despite that, several Smith employees involved in the bogus “profiling” were fired or forced out, and the odious President of Smith, Kathleen McCartney, has never apologized for that treatment. I reported on this incident several times (see here, for example), and it’s what initiated the toxic climate at Smith that includes mandatory diversity training and, according to Jodi Shaw, harassment of students who were white.

An excerpt from the article:

More than 40 African American intellectuals are asking Smith College to end the “forced, accusatory ‘anti-bias’ training” that was mandated for campus service workers after a student falsely accused some workers of racially-profiling her.

The letter, obtained by National Review, was sent on Monday to Smith College president Kathleen McCartney by Bob Woodson, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement and founder of “1776 Unites,” and 44 fellow black intellectuals. The signatories ask McCartney to “rethink how you have handled” the fallout over an alleged incident of racial profiling in the summer of 2018, and urge her to “publicly apologize” and “compensate” the school’s service workers that were caught up in the firestorm.

As detailed by the New York Times, a Smith student accused a janitor and a police officer of questioning “my being at Smith, and my existence overall as a woman of color” after the service workers asked her why she was eating lunch in a closed dormitory lounge. McCartney immediately sided with the student, who drew national attention and backing from the ACLU, as she held up the incident as an example of an oppressive campus environment.

. . . Despite a subsequent investigation by an outside law firm revealing no persuasive evidence of bias, McCartney responded by arguing that “it is impossible to rule out the potential role of implicit racial bias,” and subsequently implemented mandatory anti-bias training for campus staff. The move has led to public blowback, including from a former staffer and Smith alum who recently resigned over the treatment.

That “former staffer and Smith alum” was, of course, Jodi Shaw, whose GoFundMe campaign for her own expenses as well as a lawsuit against Smith, is now at nearly $300,000—double her original request.

You can see the pdf of the letter here, and read about the 1777 Unites website here. Among the signers of the letter—I’ve reproduced just the first page below—are Glenn Loury, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, and Clarence Page. It appears to be a consortium of influential African-Americans who are opposed to the machinations of the elect, to Wokeism, and to Critical Race Theory. What I like about the letter is that it’s pushback against the madness and, especially, that it stands up for those who were really marginalized in this case: the Smith College employees who were victims of the entitled administration and students who have made their College a place to avoid.

I especially like this bit, which I’m betting was written by Loury:

Imagine an institution that responded to an allegation of theft by a Black employee by searching the pockets of all its Black employees before they left the workplace. Then after an investigation showed that the employee in question had not actually stolen anything, the institution only increased the frequency and invasiveness of the searches. Such treatment would rightly be condemned as racist. Yet that is exactly what Smith College has done to its service workers.

The letter (click to enlarge it):


22 thoughts on “Some pushback to the toxic wokeness at Smith College

  1. There will be more of this, and still harder pushback, as time goes on. Some of these kinds of incidents will go to court, and plenty of anti-woke pro bono legal types will bring at least some of them to the Supreme Court—and given the political make-up of this court, the judgment will come down like a hammer on places like Smith, Oberlin and the other cesspools of—what was that phrase?—’performative authoritarian[ism]’? Perfect!

    1. Obama is definitely an anti-woke liberal (“I’ve never had the option of restricting my loyalties on the basis of race, or measuring my worth on the basis of tribe,” as he says), but I suspect he doesn’t want to be drawn into one side of such a binary battle, not while he still has the ability to speak across a wide spectrum of progressives, liberals, and non-aligned masses. I am with you, Phillip, but I guess I’ll trust Obama’s instincts — whatever they are — more than my own on this one 🙂

  2. A friend just introduced me to the term baizuo, which Urban Dictionary defines as:

    Baizuo (pronounced “bye-tswaw) is a Chinese epithet meaning naive western educated person who advocates for peace and equality only to satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority. A baizuo only cares about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment while being obsessed with political correctness to the extent that they import backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism.

    The Chinese see the baizuo as ignorant and arrogant westerners who pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours.

  3. The other week, I read the detailed (35-page) independent investigative report by the Sanghavi Law Office into the “July 31, 2018 incident” at Smith College. The report’s authors note that the “Reported Party” (Kanoute) had written that the incident

    “reflect[ed] a pattern of discrimination toward [her] as a black woman that has spanned throughout [her] year here from non-black staff and students at the college”,

    adding in a footnote that

    “The Reported Party did not identify in her interview any other events that might have illustrated a ‘pattern of discrimination’ related to her time as a Smith student”.

    The report is unequivocal in concluding that there was no evidence of discriminatory behaviour by the college staff and that there had been no breaches of the College’s policies in their handling of the incident.

    Time for Smith to apologise profusely to the falsely accused members of staff and to all of those who have been made to undergo its nonsensical and racist training programmes.

    1. That’s remarkably similar to an incident at my university last December. The campus was on COVID lockdown: only students and employees were allowed inside buildings, masks were mandatory. A member of the public entered one of the dining halls unmasked. Campus Public Safety (who are unarmed) asked him to leave campus, he became belligerent and claimed he was being racially profiled (he is Black), and he verbally abused the CPS. CPS called police. A single police officer arrived and tried to persuade the man to leave campus. When he refused, the officer tried to arrest him. The man assaulted the police officer and put the officer in a choke hold. At that point the police officer tasered the man, and then arrested him and took him to hospital (for a psychological evaluation and to be treated for injuries from the taser). The man has been criminally charged with assaulting the police officer among other things.

      Much of this was of course caught on cell phone video by bystanders (IDK about a body cam on the police officer) and splashed all over social media. Outrage duly followed the next day. The president of the undergraduate student society tweeted that the university is a “sick institution”. News reports emphasized that the man was an alumnus of the university, as if that gave him some kind of leeway to be on campus during lockdown. Reporters interviewed BIPOC students about their fears of the police. The university president herself pledged to address anti-Black racism on campus. The head of CPS was thrown under the bus and blamed for calling the police rather than “de-escalating”. The police were blamed for targeting a Black person and for his violent arrest. BIPOC students expressed fear for their safety.

      The president’s office then commissioned an independent report from a local law office. That report was quietly released to the university community a couple weeks ago. It demonstrated that no racist behavior or anti-Black bias was involved in the event. It noted that:
      – the man who was arrested had refused to be interviewed for the report
      – he had been asked two days prior to leave a different campus of the university for the same reasons (not a student or employee, not allowed on campus, not masked) but in that case CPS had de-escalated the situation by letting the man go about his business on campus; in that incident, the man had been told repeatedly and clearly that he was not allowed on any campus of the university during lockdown because he was not at the time a student or employee
      – in the second incident that ended in the man’s arrest, he had verbally abused a female student in a different building about an hour prior, and she had complained to CPS
      – given that complaint to CPS, they were not allowed under university policy to allow the man to remain on campus; they were obliged to resolve the situation that resulted in the complaint by the female student
      – at no time did CPS or police emphasize the man’s race or ethnicity; they emphasized that he had been the subject of a complaint by a female student (her ethnicity is not known and she is not identified in the report, but the report implies that she is also a person of color) and that he knew he was not allowed on campus
      – the responses to the incident by both CPS and police were guided by policy and were not racist, and the use of force was both appropriate and proportional to the response by the man who was arrested (he was not killed or seriously injured, and the police office used his taser rather than his service weapon).

      In releasing that report to the university community, the university president emphasized none of these details. She simply provided a link to the online report.

      Instead, the university president emphasized that the university needs to carry out a review of public safety policy and practices. This seems to be an allusion to the circumstances under which CPS call for police assistance, and a concession to the perceived over-policing of Black students.

      The president’s statement emphasized “concerns about racism on our campuses” and the need “to continue to take real and meaningful action to address systemic anti-Black racism and increase inclusion of Black and Indigenous people”, and that the university’s “leadership team and I are deeply committed to taking action on these broader concerns” because “[t]his event was traumatic for many in our community, especially Black students, alumni, faculty and staff.”

      Notably, no mention was made of the trauma experienced by the female student who was harassed by the man who was arrested.

      And no mention was made of the false reports of racial profiling, or the condemnation of the university by the Black president of the student union and by many other BIPOC students, both on social media and in news reports. The focus is on “concerns about racism” and white supremacy rather than on actual bias or discrimination (of which there is pretty much none, at least at my university, where white people are a plurality but not a majority).

      My friends and I find this all quite discouraging. Our university administration, like Smith College, seems to have been completely captured by the woke.

      1. Thanks for posting that anecdote (I don’t mean that in a pejorative way). It sure sounds like the uni administration was determined to flagellate themselves and find racism where it didn’t exist.

        To paraphrase an old saw: when your only tool is antiracism training, everything looks like racism.

      2. Yeesh. I’d like to hear what exactly they think should have been done differently. “Deescalate.” But what does that mean specifically? Tell people the rules but if they refuse to comply just let them do whatever they want? It seems like people are effectively saying that people of color should be exempt from the rules, because any attempt to enforce them might, you know, require force.

        I’m saving for my daughters’ education but year by year I become more uncertain about whether there’ll be any good place for them a decade from now.

      3. Thanks, Mike – yes, that seems to be a strikingly similar incident. An independent investigation finds no evidence for the alleged racism, but the college leaders seek to ignore the findings anyway.

  4. The Chinese sure have the Western woke’s number. The only thing missing from the Wikipedia page is a core principle of Baizuo , the rule under which apologies from Smith or Oberlin are
    slightly less likely than flying pigs: Never Admit A Mistake. The Nation magazine, for example, has exemplified this commandment for many decades.

  5. The Nation’s descent from a progressive liberal/social democratic journal to a Woke rag is one of the more depressing tales in left-wing media journalism. The description ‘rabid’ isn’t too strong as a description of their enthusiasm for all things Critical __ Theory (fill in your favorite social dimension)…

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