Black DEI director fired for being too conciliatory

April 3, 2023 • 12:00 pm

I don’t know the Compact site, but it looks like it’s antiwoke judging from the authors and articles. Here’s one of their articles that was sent to me by several readers. The author, Tabia Lee, was the faculty director for the Office of Equity, Social Justice, and Education at Anza Community College in Cupertino, Californa. Her story is how her more extreme colleagues managed to get rid of her for a variety of sins (including jealousy from a colleague who was passed over for Lee’s job.  I’ll let you read it for yourself, but there is one telling slide that I’d like to show.

Click to read:

One or two excerpts:

My crime at De Anza was running afoul of the tenets of critical social justice, a worldview that understands knowledge as relative and tied to unequal identity-based power dynamics that must be exposed and dismantled. This, I came to recognize, was the unofficial but strictly enforced ideological orthodoxy of De Anza—as it is at many other educational institutions. When I interviewed for the job in August 2021, there was no indication that I would be required to adhere to this particular vision of social justice. On the contrary, I was informed during the interview process that the office I would be working in had been alienating some faculty with a “too-woke” approach that involved “calling people out.” (After I was hired, this sentiment was echoed by many faculty, staff, and administrators I spoke to.) I told the hiring committee that I valued open dialogue and viewpoint diversity. Given their decision to hire me, I imagined I would find broad support for the vision I had promised to bring to my new role. I was wrong.

Even before any substantive conflicts came to a head, warning lights started flashing. Within my first two weeks on the job, a staff member in my office revealed he had also been a finalist for my position and objected to the fact that I had been chosen over someone who had been there for years “doing the work.” I would have a rough ride ahead, this person told me—and, indeed, I would. It also soon became clear that my supervising dean and her aligned colleagues were attempting to prevent me from performing my duties.

From the beginning, efforts to obstruct my work were framed in terms that might seem bizarre to those outside certain academic spaces. For instance, simply attempting to set an agenda for meetings caused my colleagues to  accuse me of “whitespeaking,” “whitesplaining,” and reinforcing “white supremacy”—accusations I had never faced before. I was initially baffled, but as I attended workshops led by my officemates and promoted by my supervising dean, I repeatedly encountered a presentation slide titled “Characteristics of White-Supremacy Culture” that denounced qualities like “sense of urgency” and “worship of the written word.” Written meeting agendas apparently checked both boxes.

Voilà, the slide mentioned.

Have a look at that slide. The jugs are labeled “poison”, and include individualism and objectivity. Yes, some of the traits are bad ones, but are they really characteristic of “white supremacy culture”? After all, “worship of the written word” is the way that a lot of antiracism spreads.

More from Lee about the slide:

You may have encountered this graphic or similar ones before. Derived from Kenneth Jones’s and Tema Okun’s 2001 book, Dismantling Racism, it has appeared in different forms on many institutional websites, sometimes provoking controversy. After all, doesn’t the statement that “objectivity” and “perfectionism” are “white” qualities seem kind of, well, racist? On these grounds, the National Museum of African American History eventually saw fit to remove a “White-Supremacy Culture” page from its site in 2020. But if you are wondering whether this document is still circulating and being cited inside publicly funded educational institutions, the unfortunate answer is yes.

For something equally offensive, go to this post and have a look at the two posters showing “Aspects and assumptions of whiteness & white culture in the United States,” mentioned above, which were briefly on display at  National Museum of African American History & Culture, a museum in Washington, D.C. that’s part of the Smithsonian Institution. Eventually people realized the racism of those posters, like that of the one above, and they were removed. And indeed, all three of these are racist in that they make unwarranted and invidious generalizations about ethnic groups. And imagine if you took the opposite of each of these characteristics, put them on the posters, and labeled it “characteristics of black culture.” That makes the racism palpable.

Her further crimes against DEI were multifarious: refusal to swallow whole hog Ibram Kendi’s antiracism doctrines, attempts to find common ground between different varieties of antiracism, and—worst of all—she tried to include Jews into a multifaith attempt to create solidarity:

The conflicts were not limited to my tenure-review process. At every turn, I experienced strident opposition when I deviated from the accepted line. When I brought Jewish speakers to campus to address anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, some of my critics branded me a “dirty Zionist” and a “right-wing extremist.” When I formed the Heritage Month Workgroup, bringing together community members to create a multifaith holiday and heritage month calendar, the De Anza student government voted to support this effort. However, my officemates and dean explained to me that such a project was unacceptable, because it didn’t focus on “decentering whiteness.”

When I later sought the support of our academic senate for the Heritage Month project, one opponent asked me if it was “about all the Jewish-inclusion stuff you have been pushing here,” and argued that the senate shouldn’t support the Heritage Month Workgroup efforts, because I was attempting to “turn our school into a religious school.” The senate president deferred to this claim, and the workgroup was denied support.

G-d forbid! As we know, Jews are demonized by the progressive Left, all called “Zionists” and assumed to be colonizers and genocidal maniacs.  But Lee, though she was given her pink slip, ends on a hopeful note:

As my experience shows, questioning the reigning orthodoxies does carry many risks. But the alternative is worse. Authoritarian ideologies advance through a reliance on intimidation and the compliance of the majority, which cowers in silence—instead of speaking up. Engaging in civil discourse and ensuring that multiple perspectives are presented are crucial, if we want to preserve the components of education that ideologues are seeking to destroy.

There is some reason to hope. Since my firing, I have been contacted by scores of people who have said that they are attempting to resist similar pressures. As bleak as things may seem, there are many who still believe in academia as a space where divergent viewpoints can and must be explored.

The question, of course, is whether “the many” can resist the few, for it is the vocal few who push these programs through and, though being loud, make everyone else feel guilty for not adhering to The Program.

23 thoughts on “Black DEI director fired for being too conciliatory

  1. Yet another example of communities where ideological puritanism has run amok, consuming themselves with endless rounds of “holier-than-thou” posturing and witch-hunting.

  2. The “Fear of Open Conflict” one always makes me laugh. While it may be a trait of white *liberals*, the white supremacists in the USA have no problem with a little bit of open conflict. Jan 6th, anyone?

    In fact, this whole list is designed so that the illiberal left can shit on the liberal left. Nothing more.

    1. Also, power-hoarding, either/or thinking, paternalism (we must teach the poor plebs the proper ways of thinking and behaving, lest they go astray!), one right way of doing things, and — this one is REALLY a gas! — “right to comfort” are all strongly indicative of woke culture. In fact, I’d say its rather daring to accuse their opponents of such things without reflecting on their own behavior, but isn’t that always the case? Isn’t power-hoarding exactly how they got these positions and continue to proliferate? Isn’t either/or thinking exactly how they decide when their opponents are in the wrong (“I just think we should hear more than one view…” “NO! There is only one proper view, and it’s ours”)? Isn’t the right to comfort the constant banner under which they rally against phantasms like microaggressions and including Jews in anything?

      1. Perhaps the woke could refrain from writing anything, including slides, to more powerfully express their commitment to the oppressed and destroy the worship of the written word.

      2. I was puzzled by the inclusion of “Belief in one right way”. After all, that is essential to ultra-wokism. Then I noticed that it is the one jar without the poison symbol.

  3. Not having investigated the facts regarding Dr. Tabia Lee’s separation from De Anza College, I have no opinion about the trustworthiness of her account. Prompted by Prof. Coyne’s ignorance about Compact magazine, however, I do want to offer some support for my belief that Sohrab Ahmari & Co. are dangerous enemies of liberal values. Indeed, their Note From the Founders describes Compact as being in opposition to “the ideology of liberalism” and challenging “the overclass that controls government, culture, and capital.”

    One founder, Sohrab Ahmari, has moved, according to James Kirchick, “from Marxist atheism to Catholic ‘post-liberal neo-traditionalism.'” Or, as NY Times op-ed writer Bret Stephens wrote about Ahmari (“The High Church of the Low Blow”): “What’s needed, he [Ahmari] writes, is ‘to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.’ That’s the voice of a would-be theocrat speaking, even if he hasn’t yet mustered the courage to acknowledge the conviction.” And Ahmari wrote in defense of Trump: “His instinct has been to shift the cultural and political mix, ever so slightly, away from autonomy-above-all toward order, continuity, and social cohesion.”

    Another Compact founder, Edwin Aponte, founded and edited The Bellows, self-described as “Labor Populism for the Future.” In one article (“As Workers Resist, the Left Recoils”), Aponte writes approvingly of “the many acts of worker resistance against the COVID-19 vaccination mandates” which “placed [workers] in a dehumanizing position–either participate in the world’s largest clinical trial, or be cast into a life of social alienation and privation.”

    The third Compact founder, Matthew Schmitz, writing recently with Ahmari in Compact magazine (“J.D. Vance Shows the Way for the GOP”), bemoaned that “[c]onventional conservatives have mastered a Trumpian cultural vernacular while ditching Trumpism’s authentically populist dimensions”, while thrilling that “all isn’t lost….one figure has shown himself up to the task of preserving and extending the movement’s best energies. That figure is J.D. Vance…”

    Of course, these views don’t mean that everything in their magazine is necessarily false. But, I respectfully suggest, they should place us on guard against taking what they publish at face value.

    1. Sorry, you’re instantiating the attitude that you can’t trust any article in a magazine because the FOUNDerS (not editors, mind you) are in your view politically dubious. Sorry, that attitude doesn’t fly here.

    2. You begin your comment with; “I have no opinion about the trustworthiness of her account.” and then go on for some 340 words (give or take) explaining why, in your opinion, her account is untrustworthy.

      The mind boggles.

  4. Tomorrow there is a debate (including Heather Mac Donald and Nadine Strossen) scheduled to take place at MIT, hosted by the Free Speech Alliance, on the topic of DEI; none of the “diversicrats”, according to initial reports, will have the courage to participate.

  5. Sounds like Dr. Lee experienced a nightmare. Is the DEI culture typically this extreme, or is this an exception?

    The poison slide is sick (in its several versions).

    And, you’ll note, there’s always something in there regarding the Jews.

    1. Who originally concocted the “poison” argument, including various versions that include other things (being prompt, for example)?

      I really want to know who did it, and what was their justification. Anyone know?

      1. As it says in the linked article, it’s “Derived from Kenneth Jones’s and Tema Okun’s 2001 book, Dismantling Racism”. It’s Okun who has kept it alive and keeps repeating it in various contexts, and if you google her name it’s clear she basically makes a living out of these fifteen piss-poor bullet points.

  6. We’ve come across that witless list of “white” traits compiled by Tema Ozun more than once here before. Interesting to note that in the context of the African American Museum display it was presented as the characteristics of “White Culture”. Now, without explanation or justification, it’s morphed into the characteristics of “White Supremacy”. Of course, in the past few years the ratchet of hyperbolic insult has been turned a few notches further, so there is no longer any white culture that *isn’t* about white supremacy. The dehumanization through language continues.

  7. There have been a couple of recent similar memorandums by disillusioned refugees from the DEI profession itself. Are we at the stage at which Jacobins and Montagnards begin to devour or drive away their own? If so, maybe Thermidor is not far off.

  8. I’m leaving this comment with hopes it will cause WordPress to start sending me new-post emails again. I’ve received nothing for several days. I feel like I’m being ghosted!

  9. It’s pretty wild. If you live in Seattle, WA. Okun’s chart on White Supremacy Culture is THE core concept of the racial justice initiatives of the city government and public schools, including my kids K-5. Further. This is supplemented by a guide to making staff and parent volunteers who even remotely challenge anything labeled anti-racism feel unwelcome and pushed out. This was provided by the Family Engagement Coordinator to parents on the school board steering comittee:

    Aside from the wrong headed neo-racism and conflicting intolerance on display, I cringe at the millions wasted paying consultants to copy and paste each others “work” which could be spent on material improvements for underserved students. How about revamping phonics based reading and providing financial literacy to HS students? After encountering the people promoting this stuff it’s becoming clear it is a bulwark against accountability in a system failing students. There are also several bills in legislation to mandate curriculum comply to DEI standards.

    1. Thanks for providing this link. The article makes it as clear as possible that equity is not merely distinct from but the opposite of equality, and is so understood by the
      educrats who use the phrase “equity lens”.

  10. The National Museum of African American History & Culture removed the infographic soon after it was posted. But the staff members who created the graphic continue to work there. That is most troubling.

  11. Having another read of the wokish lexicon 1619 entry, thought I’d share a bit for the heck of it :

    “Critical analyses often have this purpose at their core. Their objective is, more than anything, to generate polarizing debate around themselves, which increases their potency. ”

  12. ^^^adding :

    “The strategy is simple. A critical counterstory such as we have in the 1619 Project is forwarded with the express purpose of generating debate around its validity and the critiques it raises. The next step is to characterize that debate in terms of the relevant power dynamics addressed by the discrepancies between the narratives of the counterstory and the story it seeks to replace. ”

    “People are therefore forced to pick a side not between truth and falsity—which are irrelevant to the politics of the critical agenda (see also, reality)—but between siding with oppression or liberation from oppression.”

Leave a Reply