I’ve put up two posts (part 1 and part 2 ) about Jodi Shaw, an employee of Smith College who worked as a student support coordinator specializing in “Residence Life”. Shaw had a beef with the College for forcing her to undergo mandatory training in what seems like Critical Race Theory, and in which she was humiliated by the facilitator for her “white fragility”. Read the two links at the beginning for the full story.
Kathleen McCartney, the President of Smith, then responded to Shaw’s first video with a cold-hearted letter to the entire College saying, in effect, something like, “Well, we can’t fire Shaw because of the law, but we’ll ensure that all students of color are protected from harm.”
Shaw, amazingly, continues to post videos, and she’s now up to six (her YouTube channel is here). From the outset it was clear that, at a place like Smith, Shaw would be completely demonized for bucking the established order, even though Smith College couldn’t fire her. Now she gets a profile in the conservative Spectator, which reprises her story—a story that many of you know—but also adds a bit more information. Click on the screenshot:
After her treatment by Smith, Shaw filed a 100-page complaint about her mistreatment in the anti-racism seminar, but, according to the article above, Smith College never responded. Here’s the new information, which includes the report that she’s been put on paid leave, which is what they do to police who kill somebody. I’ve listened to several of her videos, and I’ll put one of the latest ones below. They’re calm and reasonable, and I’m stymied about why she was taken off her job.
You can get the old stuff by reading either my past posts or the first part of the article above. The following includes her liberal bona fides, her sad plans for a fallback career, and the fact that she’s been put on leave:
She filed a 100-page complaint with the college, alleging multiple individual acts of ‘race-based hostility and discrimination’, as well as examples of ‘a climate of fear, hostility, exclusion and intimidation for its employees’. The complaint went nowhere.
Shaw is soft-spoken, thoughtful and modest. She’s the opposite of the emotional screamers who post videos of themselves having meltdowns about Trump, or the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She also has serious hipster-woke credentials, having gone to Smith herself in the early Nineties, and lived in Portland and in Brooklyn, both hotbeds of self-loathing white people trying to atone for their race. She laughs at the irony of a person like herself becoming a poster child for speaking out about racism against white people. As a young woman, she was an actual card-carrying member of the Socialist Worker’s Party. At Smith, she called out people who used the word lame. ‘That kind of language policing, I participated in it,’ she told me.
She’s all grown up now, though, and, like most people, has matured beyond the censorious fervor so common among the young. And she has put her job and her credibility on the line, as she was just put on paid leave while the college investigates her actions. Unlike others from academia who have spoken out against critical race theory, Shaw did not have a secure, tenured, prestige job and/or a large platform. Her Plan B, should she lose her position at Smith, is to work for a maintenance company clearing snow and raking leaves. She’s a single mother. When I asked her why she put her neck on the chopping block over this, she replied: ‘because it’s just wrong.’
The staff are on the frontline of this ideological race war. But it’s wrong for everyone involved. The students, who pay exorbitant fees to study at Smith, are being dealt with — at least by the staff who manage the student living quarters, food halls and security — according to their race.
Why is it the very best colleges, places like Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Smith, and Bryn Mawr, that are especially subject to self-flagellation and accusations of system racism? I don’t believe it’s because those places are more racist that other colleges; in fact, I don’t believe they were “systemally racist” (i.e., had in place a structure that perpetuated bigotry against racial minorities) at all.
Her latest video about her own situation has this description:
A population of individuals cut off from their respective moral centers is a population capable of committing great atrocities. In this video I explore some of the psychic damage resulting from my involvement in Smith’s efforts to combat “systemic racism.” Specifically, how a belief in the notion of “white fragility,” combined with the fear of being branded a racist, necessitates betrayal of ones moral compass.
I think Shaw is pretty much alone: I suspect she has almost no allies at Smith. These videos are her way of expressing her feelings to people who will listen. In effect, she’s using the camera as a therapist.
I do not believe she is a racist, but she’s been treated like one because she refused to flagellate herself with the whip of Critical Race Theory. In fact, she seems to have been the victim of racism herself. But she’s also right about the way anti-racism of a particular stripe is forced down the throats of students, faculty, and staff at many American universities.
For decades, the University of Chicago has prided itself as a unified community of scholars whose members were encouraged to (and were free to) debate the big questions. Now, apparently, the big questions have been settled by the uncritical adoption of Critical Theory, as evidenced by what our school is doing to its alumni (see below):
I am now in the sad position of watching my own school slowly go woke, fracturing along lines identified by Critical Theory as separating “homogenous” groups of people residing on a hierarchy of privilege. With the exception of “military alumni”, I hate to see our alumni tribalized in this way, and, truly, don’t see the sense in it..
An alum sent me links to this page, where events for alumni are divided up by race, sex, sexual orientation, and even military service. I’m not sure exactly why they are doing this (click on each screenshot to go to the page and read more). I suppose you could confect a reason, but in truth I think it reflects recent subservience to Wokeness, Critical Theory, and a tribalism once seen as exclusionary but now extolled as a sign of “inclusivity.”
I note with special sadness that one of the Association of Black Alumni events deals with the extremely controversial notion of “implicit bias”. Implicit bias is an important buttress of Critical Theory, asserting that that all white people are racist, whether or not they know it. (See Robin DiAngelo for a popular exposition.) This also holds for all men, who are said to be implicitly sexist.
As far as I know, most scholars without an agenda have abandoned it as a useful notion, along with “implicit bias training”, deep-sixed as a serious and useful endeavor to rid institutions of bias and bigotry (see, for example, here, here, here, here and here). But of course there will be no debate about this at the University of Chicago, where all were once free to question ideas like that. It’s simply presented as a given:
This is not to say, of course, that racism is gone, or that there aren’t bigots peppered through society. Of course there are! But the notion that all people are bigots, whether they know it or not, is an unfalsifiable assumption of Critical Theory, and used solely to gain power over others and advance one’s own power. If you’re racist and don’t know it, there’s nothing you can say, do, or evince to defend yourself—much less change the mind of your interlocutor.
A while back, the University suggested that members of our community might be required to undergo training to eliminate racism and other forms of “bias and exclusion”. If the University of Chicago does this, it’s finished as the gold standard school for freedom of inquiry.
I may live to see the day that I simply have to accept my school as the midwestern version of The Evergreen State College. We’ll all have to get in the canoe! But for now I’ll continue objecting to such a change. After all, the U of C has encouraged its community to be critical.
I’ve long thought that we need affirmative action in the public sphere, including admission to colleges, to graduate and professional schools, and in hiring (but, in universities, it should stop before tenure is awarded). I think this is necessary not primarily because diversity is an inherent good, but for two reasons: as a form of reparations for groups treated unjustly in the past, and because a society that is grossly segregated in jobs and schools shows itself to be not seriously devoted to equality of opportunity.
Yet, like many, I’ve always been uncomfortable with affirmative action, mainly because I think it’s the wrong approach. When I was a kid, and affirmative action began in the form of busing, it was always seen to be a temporary expedient, one that would be discarded when equality of opportunity was attained. Well, we’re sixty years on now, and nowhere near that equality. In fact, it’s worse in some ways.
The problem is that equality of opportunity has to start when a child is very, very young. And those born in poverty, in areas where there are bad schools and many incentives to do things other than achieve, simply lack the opportunity to show their drive and merit. Affirmative action, then, is a Band-Aid, an expedient that ignores the real problem: inequality among groups that is there at the start of life, as a remnant of historical oppression. What we really want to do is to eliminate those remnants.
Of course that’s a task that looks insuperable, but only because we don’t want to sacrifice the time and enormous amount of money it would take to level the playing field. But unless society has the will to do that, we’ll have affirmative action forever.
I thus was pleased to see that, with some caveats, Glenn Loury generally agrees with me. But he’s thought a lot more about the issue than I have, and in a long interview with Michael Sandel in Quillette, has a number of provocative things to say, some of which only a black man could get away with saying. It’s certainly worth reading (click on screenshot).
Loury sees affirmative action as “covering ass”, that is, it’s about optics rather than a serious endeavor to attain true equality. He worries a lot about two things: the lack of performance in the future of those given advantages because of their race despite less “merit” (this is the stuff that white people aren’t able to say), and about the reduced “honor” and “dignity” of black people who are given preferential advantage. I’ll give a few quotes, but will try to restrain myself from quoting a lot (all quotes are from Loury):
If I’m transitioning from a status quo ante of black exclusion, I may want to rely upon some preferential methods as a temporary, stop-gap mechanism. But, at the end of the day, I must address myself to the underlying fundamental developmental deficits that impede the ability of African Americans to compete. If, instead of doing so, I use preferential selection criteria to cover for the consequences of the historical failure to develop African American performance fully, then I will have fake equality. I will have headcount equality. I will have my-ass-is-covered-if-I’m-the-institution equality. But I won’t have real equality.
I’m not here concerned with any particular mechanism of selection—you may not like the SAT score and prefer to rely on letters of recommendation or high school Grade Point Averages for college admissions. But whatever the mechanism of selection, it should eventually be applied in the same way for selecting African Americans as others. Otherwise the consequence is going to fall short of what I’m calling genuine equality. That’s a statistical argument, not an ethical argument. Are those criteria—SAT scores, ACT scores, high school grades, advanced placement classes, and so forth—correlated with the performance of the selected person in the competitive venue after selection or are they not? If they are not correlated, we shouldn’t be using them. At all. Why would you use them if they’re not predictive of how people are going to perform after they’re selected? But if they are correlated, then if we use them differently for African Americans than for others, there will be on average different performance post-admission for African Americans than for others.
Now, if I’m getting on average different performance by race, that’s not equality. We can pretend it doesn’t exist, we can look the other way, we can grade inflate, we can formulate various institutional responses to the objective fact of racially differentiated average performances in our competitive venue. We can live with it, but it’s not equality. That’s what I’m trying to get at—the quality of equality. It’s the difference between counting people by race while saying we’re open and inclusive and adopting an objective means of promoting and measuring performance which allows people to achieve genuine equality of honor, standing, and respect.
He emphasizes “honor, standing, and respect” a lot, and I’m not in a position to tell those of other races what they should strive to attain or achieve, but that at least sounds reasonable. But it does lead Loury into some blind alleys, as when he justifies affirmative action by colleges for “legacy” students by saying that, unlike affirmative action for blacks, those students don’t wear their group membership on their bodies, and so don’t have to prove anything after they leave college. That seems a bit unfair, but Loury is more concerned with gaining honor and dignity for those who have black skin.
As you see, he’s concerned with the future performance of people who are given advantages in education and hiring because of their race. But he also thinks that, despite that concern, there’s still a need for affirmative action:
. . . a person can argue that gatekeepers to elite institutions like Harvard or Princeton or Brown might want to have some people of color coming through its winnowing process. This is Bowen and Bok’s argument in The Shape of the River—that society as a whole has a profound interest in having within its stratified elites a representative number of people of color so as to sustain the legitimacy of institutions and to facilitate the smooth operation of society. So I’m not a colorblind person. I would actually subscribe to the argument Randall Kennedy makes in his book For Discrimination: “Look, I acknowledge that this is racial discrimination we’re engaging in here when we do affirmative action, but it’s not racial discrimination that should be precluded by the 14th amendment to the constitution.”
He worries about whether one should select students on the basis of effort, ability or privilege, all of which could be considered aspects of “merit”. But in the he argues that it really doesn’t matter much so long as the criteria used to choose can predict future performance. So, argues Lowry, someone who attained a good high-school record despite an oppressive and difficult environment might be given preference over someone with an equal record but who had a better environment, for overcoming bad environments takes effort and hard work—indices of good performance in the future.
And why performance as the gold standard? That’s because Loury thinks that the honor and dignity of his fellow blacks depend on their making a good showing in society, and, ultimately, a showing that doesn’t depend on the advantages of affirmative action. I was glad to see that this thoughtful man agrees with me (and I think everyone must agree on this) that we ultimately need profound structural change in society to allow everyone the same opportunities to achieve. Two bits on that:
I see the consequences of American history as leaving a huge project of the development of the human potential of African American people in this society. I see the legacy of our ignoble past as partly reflected in deficiencies or inadequacies of human development so that the relative number of African Americans performing in certain kinds of rarified intellectual pursuits is low. Taking the long view of history, the only viable solution to that historical inheritance is a focus on the development of the capacities of African American people to perform. That is a huge multi-dimensional decades-long project. Institutional dependence on racial preferences merely diverts us from that necessary task.
. . . consider that primary and secondary education—whatever your view about school choice and charter schools and whatnot—objectively is not serving the least advantaged people in our society well. And yet it is a fundamental engine for these people to be able to improve their social position. It could be that you think the schools are underfunded. We can have a debate or a discussion about what to do about primary and secondary education. But the huge disparities in the quality of the educational services available by class and by race and by social location are a fundamental issue of fairness. So, in my view, racial justice and equity understood in the largest sense would be 95 percent talking about things like that and five percent talking about who got admitted to the most selective higher education venues. They’re not unimportant, but it’s the tail wagging the dog if that’s the main thing we’re talking about.
This will not go down well in colleges and universities with their bloated diversity apparatus. Nor will it be welcomed by the apparatchiks employed in that industry, for when true efforts to achieve equality are made, it will put them out of business. But I don’t think anybody can argue about our ultimate goal being the elimination of affirmative action because it’s no longer needed.
Let me get this straight at the outset: in my view, nobody should use the “n-word”, except perhaps in quoting its use in literature or for didactic reasons. Yes, black people use it as a term of fraternity or affection, but I learned from Grania that if the word is to disappear from use, everyone has to stop using it. It’s almost as if Jews were allowed to call each other “kikes” and “Hebes” but other people weren’t. (We don’t do that.) But at the very least, white people have to stop using it in non-academic circumstances.
So I think that when 15 year old high-school student Mimi Groves of Leesburg, Virginia was filmed in a three-second video four years ago, saying “I can drive, n—–“, (she’d just gotten her learner’s permit), she should have kept her mouth shut. But she didn’t, and now is suffering the consequences. In my view, those consequences are completely disproportionate to this one statement, and yet the New York Times implicitly sees her as having got her just deserts, despite lacking any further evidence of racism in her behavior. In the piece below, it looks as if they’re celebrating her cancellation.
You can see what caused all the fuss at the beginning of this video, which shows what Groves said, with the offending word bleeped out:
As this article recounts (click on screenshot), one of Groves’s friends, a half black student named Jimmy Galligan—who was sick of racism in Leesburg—got hold of that video, held onto it, and waited until the time when making it public would do the most damage to Groves. Then he did the deed, and social media did the rest. The time was after Groves had been admitted to her dream college. Groves was first taken off the cheerleading squad at the University of Tennessee, and then the college asked her to withdraw. It was all because of those three seconds and that one word.
According to the article, both Leesburg and Galligan’s and Groves’s high school were permeated with racism attitudes, and, this being Virginia, I have no reason to doubt that. Galligan, frustrated with the racism and his futile attempts to alleviate it, decided to use the video of Groves as a form of punishment, even though the two were friendly:
The slur, [Galligan] said, was regularly hurled in classrooms and hallways throughout his years in the Loudoun County school district. He had brought the issue up to teachers and administrators but, much to his anger and frustration, his complaints had gone nowhere.
So he held on to the video, which was sent to him by a friend, and made a decision that would ricochet across Leesburg, Va., a town named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee and whose school system had fought an order to desegregate for more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.
“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” Mr. Galligan, 18, whose mother is Black and father is white, said of the classmate who uttered the slur, Mimi Groves. He tucked the video away, deciding to post it publicly when the time was right.
The time was when Groves had decided where she wanted to go to college: the University of Tennessee (UT). Galligan then shared the Snapchat video to several social media platforms even though by that time Groves was making statements in favor of Black Lives Matter. And by that time she’d been admitted to UT and had apparently also made its famous cheerleading team (a dream of hers), even though she hadn’t started going there yet. The story continues with the now-familiar social media mobbing.
The next month, as protests were sweeping the nation after the police killing of George Floyd, Ms. Groves, in a public Instagram post, urged people to “protest, donate, sign a petition, rally, do something” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. [JAC: Note that this is before she knew that the video was spreading.]
“You have the audacity to post this, after saying the N-word,” responded someone whom Ms. Groves said she did not know.
Her alarm at the stranger’s comment turned to panic as friends began calling, directing her to the source of a brewing social media furor. Mr. Galligan, who had waited until Ms. Groves had chosen a college, had publicly posted the video that afternoon. Within hours, it had been shared to Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, where furious calls mounted for the University of Tennessee to revoke its admission offer.
And she was cancelled; or rather, kicked off the cheerleading team and then had her offer of admission to UT rescinded:
The consequences were swift. Over the next two days, Ms. Groves was removed from the university’s cheer team. She then withdrew from the school under pressure from admissions officials, who told her they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls from outraged alumni, students and the public.
“They’re angry, and they want to see some action,” an admissions official told Ms. Groves and her family, according to a recording of the emotional call reviewed by The New York Times.
Ms. Groves was among many incoming freshmen across the country whose admissions offers were revoked by at least a dozen universities after videos emerged on social media of them using racist language.
The rest of the article is devoted to describing the atmosphere of racism in the Leesburg schools, which does seems pretty dire and reprehensible. The n-word was used often, and black students were disciplined disproportionately. The NYT describes this atmosphere in detail, and one can’t help but feel that the racism of Leesburg, not of Mimi Groves, is the real subject of the article. That’s fine, except that Groves’s rescinded offer, for using one word in a three-second video, is characterized as “retribution” for that racism. There’s no other record of Groves’s behaving or speaking in a racist way; she is serving as the scapegoat for the whole atmosphere of racism in Leesburg. And yet the NYT says things like this, which seem gratuitous:
Ms. Groves, who just turned 19, lives with her parents and two siblings in a predominantly white and affluent gated community built around a golf course.
Is Groves a racist? I wouldn’t call her one despite the use of that word four years ago. For she has no history of racism, and was taught to despite the attitude. Would a racist put up a post asking people to support Black Lives Matter?
Here’s some more from the article:
On a recent day, [Mimi] sat outside on the deck with her mother, Marsha Groves, who described how the entire family had struggled with the consequences of the very public shaming.
“It honestly disgusts me that those words would come out of my mouth,” Mimi Groves said of her video. “How can you convince somebody that has never met you and the only thing they’ve ever seen of you is that three-second clip?”
Ms. Groves said racial slurs and hate speech were not tolerated by her parents, who had warned their children to never post anything online that they would not say in person or want their parents and teachers to read.
But there’s no stopping the mob. I emphasize again that Mimi Groves used a racial slur, and should not have. But should she have suffered the loss of a college admission four years later? It was not as if her whole life had been an act of racism.
Once the video went viral, the backlash was swift, and relentless. A photograph of Ms. Groves, captioned with a racial slur, also began circulating online, but she and her parents say someone else wrote it to further tarnish her reputation. On social media, people tagged the University of Tennessee and its cheer team, demanding her admission be rescinded. Some threatened her with physical violence if she came to the university campus. The next day, local media outlets in Virginia and Tennessee published articles about the uproar.
. . .The day after the video went viral, Ms. Groves tried to defend herself in tense calls with the university. But the athletics department swiftly removed Ms. Groves from the cheer team. And then came the call in which admissions officials began trying to persuade her to withdraw, saying they feared she would not feel comfortable on campus.
The university declined to comment about Ms. Groves beyond a statement it issued on Twitter in June, in which officials said they took seriously complaints about racist behavior.
Ms. Groves’s parents, who said their daughter was being targeted by a social media “mob” for a mistake she made as an adolescent, urged university officials to assess her character by speaking with her high school and cheer coaches. Instead, admissions officials gave her an ultimatum: withdraw or the university would rescind her offer of admission.
“We just needed it to stop, so we withdrew her,” said Mrs. Groves, adding that the entire experience had “vaporized” 12 years of her daughter’s hard work. “They rushed to judgment and unfortunately it’s going to affect her for the rest of her life.”
Now Groves goes to a community college online in California, and yes, her life has been severely affected. I suspect that’s exactly what Mr. Galligan wanted, and why he waited to release the video when it could do maximum damage to Groves.
My take: Groves spoke thoughtlessly, but showed no other evidence of racism, and even apologized before the video became public. Galligan could have discussed it with her personally, which is the way I would handle it if someone called me a “kike”. And the University of Tennessee could have simply asked Groves to issue a public apology, mirroring the one described below, without kicking her out of the school. More from the article:
One of Ms. Groves’s friends, who is Black, said Ms. Groves had personally apologized for the video long before it went viral. Once it did in June, the friend defended Ms. Groves online, prompting criticism from strangers and fellow students. “We’re supposed to educate people,” she wrote in a Snapchat post, “not ruin their lives all because you want to feel a sense of empowerment.”
For his role, Mr. Galligan said he had no regrets. “If I never posted that video, nothing would have ever happened,” he said. And because the internet never forgets, the clip will always be available to watch.
“I’m going to remind myself, you started something,” he said with satisfaction. “You taught someone a lesson.”
I’m sorry, but although Galligan certainly experienced offensive behavior because he’s half black, his behavior towards Groves was not admirable. He did what Cancel Culture dictates: rather than fix the situation by talking with his friend, he decided to ruin her life. As Mimi’s friend said, “We’re supposed to educate people, not ruin their lives. . ” Had Groves shown a pattern of racist behavior throughout high school, that would be another thing—but she didn’t. There is a time for forgiveness and reconciliation, and that time was before Galligan released his video. He is not a person I admire, though I sympathize with the racism he experienced.
I’m not the only one who feels that the NYT doesn’t see anything wrong with this incident. By going into the racism of the entire town, describing Grave’s home as “in a predominantly white community”, and detailing incidents in local schools that did not involves Groves, it make Groves implicitly complicit in the racism. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “reckoning” this way (the only definition relevant to the use above):
6. The settlement of accounts or differences between parties; the settling of scores or grievances; an instance of this.
Were scores really “settled”? Did Groves receive her just deserts for using that word in 2016? Why choose a headline like that?
Well, you can judge for yourself. As for me, I think that Galligan behaved very poorly in trying to ruin somebody’s life, and that the New York Times thinks that that’s just fine. Here are two people who agree with me (I wouldn’t call Galligan a “psychopath”; that word is too strong):
A psychopathic kid gets a video of a girl using a racial slur when she's 15, holds on to it until she has chosen a college to get her admissions revoked. The NYT celebrates this "reckoning." How many previous tyrannical regimes have gone after the children?https://t.co/cgIsjgMKp3pic.twitter.com/UoQ48j3jhE
Two things that Cancel Culture needs—besides engaging with ideas rather than trying to destroy people—are some compassion and a sense of proportionality. And if you don’t think that Cancel Culture exists, you’re sorely mistaken, for that’s what took down Mimi Groves.
It looks as if the ritzy private secondary schools are beginning to take their behavioral cues from the ritzy private universities like Swarthmore, Yale, Princeton, and Haverford. In this case the ritzy private venue is the Dalton School in Manhattan, a high-class college prep school on the upper East Side. At Dalton, tuition is about the same as at the Ivy-League colleges (Dalton students pay $54,180 per year for tuition, and live at home). It’s also progressive and, as Wikipedia says, “is known for the diversity of its staff and students.”
What’s going on at Dalton, though, is in some ways worse than what’s happening at places like the Ivies, because the students’ parents, who want some return for their money, are threatening to pull their students out of the school after the latest fracas, which started when the school decided to go all-virtual last semester. Other fancy private schools, which abound in New York City, are still holding live classes, and Dalton parents don’t want to pay $54K per year to have their kids sit in front of computers. (The school goes from kindergarten through grade 12, which is 13 years, for a total of at least $650,000 for a full ride.)
Further, since the school is now in the process of meeting the protestors’ demands, the quality of education will also drop, and parents send their kids to Dalton so they can get into a really good college. That won’t happen if Dalton’s reputation suffers (as is already happening), and if the school lowers the standards for achievement (which the protestors want).
But let’s back up. Why are there protests at Dalton? These are well summarized in several pieces. The best one is from the website The Naked Dollar, but there are shorter pieces at Bloomberg News and The New York Post. Otherwise, you’ll have to go to right-wing sites. But all the pieces agree about what happened.
The backstory: Because of the pandemic, Dalton decided to shut down this year, with all classes going virtual. The parents got upset and sent a petition to the school asking for re-opening, especially because similar private secondary schools in NYC were open for live classes. Dalton did say they planned to re-open, but that made things really blow up. The faculty and staff argued that re-opening is racist because faculty and staff of color say they have a longer commute than do white teachers and staff, exposing them to greater risks of viral infection. The same is probably true of black and Hispanic students, though there are no data.
A big roster of Dalton’s faculty, staff, and administrators then issued a very long and detailed series of demands, which you can see here. The Naked Dollar link above summarizes the most important ones in the list below (I’ve made a few comments which are flush left):
The hiring of twelve (!) full time diversity officers
Actually, the petition demands that the school “expand the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to include up to 12 full-time positions”. Since there’s already an office with some staff, that doesn’t mean twelve new officers. Still, 12 full-time officers is a big staff for a school that has just 1300 students.
An additional full time employee whose “entire role is to support Black students who come forward with complaints.”
Hiring of multiple psychologists with “specialization on the psychological issues affecting ethnic minority populations.”
Pay off student debt of incoming black faculty
Re-route 50% of all donations to NYC public schools
This is a really sore point with donors and trustees, as well as with parents. It means that if you donate a lot of money to the school, half of it will immediately go into a fund for New York Public Schools. You have no choice about this, which means that if you want to support just Dalton itself, you have to give twice the amount of money you planned to give. This requirement only kicks in if, by 2025, Dalton’s study body is not “representative of New York City in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic background and immigration status”.
Elimination of AP courses if black students don’t score as high as white
These are called “leveled courses” at Dalton, and it’s true that if, by 2023, “membership and performance of Black students are not at parity with non-Black students, leveled courses should be abolished.” This makes no sense to me at all, for it gives sole responsibility to the faculty to achieve that equity, despite any disadvantages black students may come in with due to their backgrounds. In other words, it punishes everyone and achieves nothing useful.
Required courses on “Black liberation”
Reduced tuition for black students whose photographs appear in school promotional materials
Public “anti-racism” statements required from all employees
They also require that no faculty can be hired without submitting a “diversity statement”
Mandatory “Community and Diversity Days” to be held “throughout the year”
Required anti-bias training to be conducted every year for all staff and parent volunteers
Mandatory minority representation in (otherwise elected) student leadership roles
Mandatory diversity plot lines in school plays
Overhaul of entire curriculum to reflect diversity narratives
The list is even more comprehensive than lists tendered by college protestors at places like Haverford and Swarthmore, and is especially ironic because, as the author of the website above says (their emphasis),
. . .Dalton has long been one of the most progressive schools in the country. They have actively encouraged the sort of thinking that is now biting them in the ass. And the obvious irony is that if Dalton is “systemically racist,” a belief they themselves promote, it is progressives who bear the responsibility.
When progressive institutions embrace revolutionary ideologies, as Dalton has done, they fail to appreciate that the revolution comes for them first. The scaffolding is being built on East 89th street.
Well, I don’t know that much about Dalton, but there are lots of alternative private college-prep schools in the area, and some predict that as many as 30% of students may be pulled out of Dalton by disaffected parents. What’s worse is that, like Evergreen State, Dalton’s reputation may suffer permanent damage from both dilution of standards and the hegemony of the protestors, and, like Evergreen, Dalton’s input of money could be seriously reduced, leading to layoff of faculty and staff.
Here’s a photo of “Big Dalton,” the building housing facilities for grades 4-12 (photo from Wikipedia):
In early November I reported on the meltdown at ritzy Haverford College in Pennsylvania in response to an October 16th police shooting of a black man in Philadelphia. From then on the scenario is familiar: the Haverford administration responded with a message of solidarity and social justice, but they didn’t phrase it exactly as the disaffected students wanted (they told the students to “stay safe” and not venture into Philly). The students protested, accused Haverford of structural racism, and issued a list of demands. They then went on strike. The Haverford administration immediately folded, abasing themselves in a cringeworthy way and promising to accede to all the students’ demands.
In solidarity with Haverford, other nearby schools, also ritzy ones, also went on strike, including Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore. Swarthmore students also issued a long list of demands (I’ll quote a few below), which included another familiar one: that students who didn’t go to class and missed their academic assignments because of the strike were not to be penalized in any way. Unfortunately, Swarthmore didn’t agree to that, and students began failing assignments. At that point they stopped their strike.
You can read the list of demands by clicking on the screenshot below:
The demands begin with the familiar land acknowledgment, but with a twist: the students want to give the land back! I still maintain that these are examples of moral preening with no salutary effects:
We would like to first acknowledge that Swarthmore College resides and operates on stolen land from the Lenni Lenape. With this acknowledgement of the stolen Lenni Lenape land, we also bear witness to Swarthmore College’s longstanding history of racism, violence and continual oppression of Indigenous people. We recognize that our fight for Black wellness and safety at Swarthmore is happening on desecrated land, which means we are also implicated in the violence that the College enacts against Indigenous peoples. It is not acceptable to offer empty condolences without a concrete plan for reparations. Let us be clear: we are fully committed to creating a future where Native people everywhere get their Land Back.
That would, I suppose, mean the end of Swarthmore. But no matter. Here are a few of the many student demands (indents are direct quotes, emphases are as in the original)
We demand that there be no punitive actions and/or repercussions for the students involved, whatsoever. This includes BiCo students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr currently taking Swarthmore courses. This includes the guarantee that no student will fail this semester, fail to receive credit, or be hindered from completing their degree plan in any way, as a result of any involvement with this organizing.
And this is rich: the students who wrote the demands want to be paid for it!
In alignment with the demands of Bi-Co students, we demand that Swarthmore recognize, credit, and financially compensate the Black and Brown, gender-oppressed, and FLI people involved in the creation of this open letter and demands.
Here’s a good way to kill a liberal education and chill speech at the same time:
We demand that Swarthmore faculty across every department incorporate and center the work of Black, Indigenous, Disabled, and Queer writers, scientists, and activists beginning with the 2021-2022 Academic year.
For too long, the syllabi of Swarthmore faculty have been Eurocentric, and have erased the contributions of disabled, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities. We demand that the revised syllabi of Swarthmore faculty be looked over by a committee of LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and disabled students who will be financially compensated for their labor.
How are you going to do that in a chemistry class? And, of course, there must be no dissent in these courses, for they’re structured around Critical Theory.
Naturally, the campus police have to be defunded in favor of social workers and therapists:
We demand that Swarthmore College reduces its Public Safety officer workforce over the next two years. We demand that funding from those vacated positions be re-allocated to CAPS for the hiring of new counselors as aforementioned.
Public Safety is not in the service of protecting Black students, who are frequently stopped and asked what their business is on campus. Pubsafe is not an essential service. Counseling for Black students, for whom this political and historical moment is incredibly traumatic, is essential and funds should be reallocated accordingly.
There is the request for lowering academic standards, but only for students of color:
We demand that all academic expectations are significantly modified to meet the needs of the most marginalized students. Beginning with the Spring of 2021, all coursework deadlines should be adjusted to prioritize student wellness. This will require professors to rework their syllabi in order to meet the needs of the students that are struggling the most in their courses. It is violent to expect students to disregard their well being in order to meet academic expectations.
Finally, there’s the call for mandatory brainwashing, clearly is not an opportunity for discussion, but for the authoritarians to instill RightThink in the students:
We demand that Swarthmore fully fund workshops on cultural competency and intersectionality that are mandatory for all first-year and transfer students beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. These workshops should be taught by marginalized people. Too many of our peers are able to graduate without having to reflect on systems of oppression and how they are implicated within them.
On November 19, two weeks into the strike, Swarthmore’s President, Valerie Smith, wrote to the protestors and the whole college. Her letter is remarkable in both its civility but also its flat-out rejection of the students’ petulant demands. Click on the screenshot:
A few excerpts.
The civil opening:
I am grateful to be part of a community united in its commitment to make the institution we share a more inclusive, equitable, and welcoming place. While I’m proud of the work we’ve achieved together, that work is far from complete; in fact, it may never truly be “finished.” But I want to reiterate that I am eager to engage with students as we continue to build a more diverse and just community together.
The hammer falls:
In my experience, however, the type of large gathering you’ve described, particularly one organized by an anonymous group that requires attendance of certain individuals to discuss the specific demands you’ve put forth, isn’t conducive to meaningful and productive dialogue. I am thus declining the invitation, because I believe that to bring about enduring change, we must engage in a more genuine, focused, nuanced, and sustained interaction and exploration of the issues at stake. My colleagues in the administration and I welcome engagement with any members of our community who are willing and able to participate in this difficult and necessary work.
The spanking of the striking students for not behaving well:
But while we share some of the same aspirations, our vision for the path toward achieving them differs. Some of your demands and aspects of your latest response take liberty with the facts. Students and faculty alike have raised serious concerns about feeling pressured into supporting the strike. And there is an undercurrent emerging that those who do not fully subscribe to your demands or your approach somehow fail to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which would be, of course, a false equivalency. I am sure that you do not intend for others to feel this way, but it is, nevertheless, the way that some in our community — who are deeply committed to racial justice — are feeling.
Smith’s polite rejection of further dialogue with the letter writers, who were of course anonymous:
At this point, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I see further engagement with an anonymous group and a set of demands that do not reflect the serious and ongoing efforts of those in our community as the most effective way of addressing issues critical to the entire College community. As I said before, I greatly appreciate that you have highlighted the need for me and members of the administration to find new and more effective ways of communicating, connecting, and working with students, in the service of meaningful change. I am committed to doing so and am even now working to develop new structures and strategies for conflict resolution, change, collaboration, and communication.
And lest you think President Smith is an old white racist woman, no she’s not. Her photo is below; she’s also described as “a distinguished scholar of African-American literature” and an advocate of social justice:
Smith’s significant priorities at Swarthmore include attracting more low-income and first-generation students, innovating the curriculum, increasing diversity, and strengthening relationships between the College and the region.
But she’s going to do it her way, not at the point of a gun held by a bunch of entitled students. I can’t say she has “cojones,” for she’s a woman, but she’s surely, as the kids say, “badass.” Kudos to her. She knows how to walk the line in these troubled times, and that doesn’t mean truckling to the students. It means being a leader, not a craven follower.
I haven’t been a big booster of of James Lindsay since he announced he was voting for Trump, but since he’s done good work before (his book with Helen Pluckrose on the intellectual origins of critical theory is a must-read), and because I don’t erase people just because they vote for morons, I want to highlight his latest essay on his New Discourses website (click on screenshot to read). It is in fact a good analysis of the dilemma Wokesters face when confronted with “the Jewish question”, though, unfortunately, the essay is more than twice as long as it needs to be.
What is the problem? It’s how to regard the Jews if you’re Woke. Are they white? Where do they fit in the hierarchy of oppression that’s a leading tenet of Critical Theory? After all, Jews have been historically oppressed, and even today are demonized not just in the Middle East, but are the most frequent victims of ethnic or religious group “hate crimes” (on a per capita basis) in America. They get attacked regularly in France. And many Jews aren’t even “white”, whether you go by genetics, pigmentation, or historical victimization.
So we have a group of high achievers, who were historically oppressed and are still marginalized by many, but who are also seen by the woke and many on the Left as oppressors, and de facto as white people who must check their privilege since they’ve benefitted from their “white privilege”. (Some chowderheads have tried to classify Ashkenazi Jews as “white” and Sephardic Jews as “people of color”, but that’s a ridiculous exercise that will go nowhere).
The dilemma of how to regard Jews been resolved by ignoring their historical oppression and the attacks on them that still occur in the West, and considering them identical to whites regarded as universal oppressors. In fact, it’s even worse because Jews are associated with Israel, which itself is seen as “colonialist”, so all Jews carry the taint of that as well. The upshot is that Jews appear to have risen to the top of the oppression scale (i.e., the least oppressed), despite the undeniable fact of their oppression for two millennia. The problem that Lindsay outlines that it’s hard to justify this placement using Critical Race Theory itself.
A few quotes from Lindsay:
Under Critical Race Theory, many Jews are Theorized as having been granted and to some degree embraced—as a matter of effectively indisputable fact if not explicitly in both cases—the status of “whiteness” in contemporary American (and sometimes European) society. This would imply that under Critical Race Theory, Jews have an intolerable privilege they need to check. So demands the new “successor” ideology Weiss warns about in her Tablet piece.
Placing aside the obvious complication that not all Jews are white by any reasonable definition (which therefore may not have anything to do with Critical Race Theory’s definitions), there’s a huge problem with this formulation that every Jewish reader of this essay will immediately realize. Jews have quite the incredible history of incredible oppression, including imperial destruction, diaspora, enslavement, and a literal genocide in the Holocaust. This set of horrors tended to follow a familiar pattern as well, which we now name “anti-Semitism.” That pattern is that Jews are made out to be a group that stands by its own claim as separate from broader society in some significant way and yet finds a way to gain significant privilege, eventually to the point of usurping control of the institutions that shape society. We would be remiss to avoid pointing out that assigning “whiteness” to Jews repeats the opening act of this tragic play.
The uniquely Jewish combination of a long history of terrible oppression of a people that isn’t just (at least partly) fair-skinned but also highly successful in what the Theorists would deem a “white” milieu is, in fact, completely intolerable to Critical Race Theory. The Theory distrusts Jewish success as such and, as with everything it analyzes, believes it must have something to do with having been granted access to the privileges of whiteness—illegitimately, by betrayal, and at the expense of blacks. It would then, in due course, demand that (“white”) Jews accept and atone of their whiteness by the familiar process: recognize it in themselves, acknowledge their de facto complicity in “white supremacy,” critique their own unwitting participation therein, and then submit to and promote the Critical Race Theory worldview in both ideology and deed, which takes the form of their brand of “anti-racist” social activism—for life. This, however, requires asking Jews to deny both their history and what makes them Jews in the first place.
The crux of the problem:
Adherents to Critical Race Theory, for all their claims upon sophistication in analyzing group standing in society and its subtle meanings in terms of power, do not possess the conceptual resources needed to deal with historically oppressed white people—unless they’re fat, disabled, maybe gay (that’s complicated now), or trans, none of which would have anything to do with them being Jewish in any case. Critical Race Theory therefore places Jewish people into a very dangerous spot within their Theory: they are a group that has tremendous privilege they don’t deserve who also have an apparently ironclad excuse not to “do the work” of dismantling their own whiteness.
Below: its effect on college students. Many Jewish students have experienced pretty severe opprobrium, always accused of being boosters of Israel, even when they aren’t or don’t think about it. The inevitable association with “colonialist” Israel (anti-Zionism) is one way that Woke anti-Semites use to alleviate their cognitive dissonance. Here’s a quote from a Tablet essay by Bari Weiss:
“It’s hard to overstate how suffocating this worldview is to specifically Jewish college students,” Blake Flayton, a progressive Jewish student at GW, wrote me recently. “We don’t fit into ‘oppressor’ or ‘oppressed’ categories. We are both privileged and marginalized, protected by those in power and yet targeted by the same racist lunatics as those who target people of color. The hatred we experience on campus has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s because Jews defy anti-racist ideology simply by existing. So it’s not so much that Zionism is racism. It’s that Jewishness is.”
Let me pull that out for you. This isn’t about Zionism or landlords or capitalism or AIPAC. We live in a world in which everyone is being told to side either with the “racists” or the “anti-racists.” Jews who refuse to erase what makes us different will increasingly be defined as racists, often with the help of other Jews desperate to be accepted by the cool kids.
One more note on the ludicrous lengths that the Woke go to ignore the historical oppression of the Jews. This comes, unsurprisingly, from the anti-Semitic Linda Sarsour, and the quote is from an academic paper, “Critical Whiteness Studies and the ‘Jewish Problem’ by Balázs Berkovits:
Linda Sarsour, the “new face of intersectional feminism,” who had also been invited to the “Jews of color” gathering before she participated in the panel on antisemitism at the New School for Social Research, was very clear on the subject. Speaking in a video published by the Jewish Voice for Peace, she said: “I want to make the distinction that while anti-Semitism is something that impacts Jewish Americans, it’s different than anti-black racism or Islamophobia because it’s not systemic. […] Of course, you may experience vandalism or an attack on a synagogue, or maybe on an individual level… but it’s not systemic, and we need to make that distinction.” Here, Sarsour implies that first, it is not a collective or structural phenomenon, but the sum of scattered individual acts, and second, and more importantly, that antisemitic attacks carried out by other minorities (which is most often the case) cannot be significant, for those are not the actions of the dominant (white) groups, who determine the permanence of structural racism. The theoretical underpinning of this view, besides “intersectionality,” comes from a theory of structural racism. (pp. 88–89)
Critical Theory has other problems, too, for Muslims are seen on the one hand as people of color, but on the other can be seen as oppressors—especially in Muslim countries that oppress gays, women, apostates, atheists, and, of course, the rare Jews who still live in such countries.
About three years ago I got a frantic call from a teacher in the upper Midwest asking for help. Her high school had banned her from teaching Huckleberry Finn to her upper-level English class because the book contained the “n-word”. She thought it was important to not only let the students read the book, but also to read that word, unexpurgated, in class (there were readings aloud). She was willing as well to have a discussion about the use of the word with the students, which I thought was good. Sadly, I couldn’t help her, for there’s not much someone like me can do on the high school level about such matters.
This kind of censorship has occurred with other works of literature as well, including To Kill a Mockingbird and the stories of Flannery O’Connor. Even historical documents get censored. In the two articles below by libertarian law scholar Eugene Volokh, he reports that his own school UCLA condemned a lecturer, W. Ajax Peris, for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” aloud. The essay is a classic of anti-racism literature, and an iconic document in the struggle for civil rights. It also contains the “n-word.” Peris’s crime was that he read that word aloud, quoting the text directly. (I’m referring, of course to the full word.)
King’s letter contains two mentions of the word; here’s one:
But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
That’s eloquent, and the word serves a real purpose here—showing its hurtful use in oppressing and degrading black people. Frankly, I don’t see the use of glossing over it, or saying the “n word” in its place, for the “offense” of the word is no worse than the images it conjures up: beatings, lynchings, and cross-burnings. Nevertheless, Peris was reported to the University and condemned by his department. It’s not clear yet whether he’ll suffer further punishment. One thing is for sure, though: he’ll be ostracized.
This brings us to the crux of the matter: is it okay to use the n-word in full when you’re reading it in a historical or literary context? The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says “yes”, arguing that the entire unredacted word has a didactic purpose, and prohibiting its utterance is an infringement of academic freedom:
Peris’s academic freedom, as a faculty member at a public institution bound by the First Amendment, includes the right to decide whether and how to confront or discuss difficult or offensive material, including historical readings that document our nation’s centuries-long history of racism,” Patton said. “Doing so does not amount to unlawful discrimination or harassment, and the law is abundantly clear that UCLA could not investigate or punish a professor for exercising his expressive or academic freedom.”
UCLA is, of course, a public university, and so the First Amendment applies, which allows the use of such a word, especially when it’s not a “fighting word”.
I think the same argument holds true for any historical document or work of literature, so long as it’s presented in a didactic and not disparaging way. Yes, some people may be offended, while others may feign offense (after all, the word is regularly used by blacks themselves, and is pervasive in rap music; the crime is that the word is uttered didactically by a non-black person—but one who is not trying to insult someone). Still, there are a lot of things that are offensive, but none so taboo as the n-word. As a Jew who’s been subjected to similar slurs, those involving epithets like “yid”, “kike”, “Hebe”, and so on, I have to say that I do find them offensive, and would be angry and upset if they were directed at me or other Jews (secular or not). But when they occur in law documents or literature, as they do in, say, TheCatcher in the Rye, I find no problem with reading them, silently or aloud.
Why, though, shouldn’t professors redact the word to the shortened “n-word” version when teaching it? Well, think of how that would sound when reading King’s letter. And should you redact the letter itself, changing the text to read “when your first name becomes ‘n-word’ and your middle name becomes ‘boy’. . . . .?” It’s not the same, is it? King’s eloquent denunciation of black oppression is watered down.
In the piece below, Volokh describes how his dean at UCLA apologized (but Volokh did not) for Volokh’s quoting a law case when a man was prosecuted for “loud, abusive, or otherwise improper language” for saying “What, are you an idiot? What do I have to do, be a nigger to be served in this—in this place?” That’s directly from the law transcript. As Volokh and Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy emphasize in their longer piece below, the word “nigger” has been spelled out in full in literally thousands of court decisions, including those authored by the likes of Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Conner, Clarence Thomas and so on. They didn’t abbreviate the word because they insist on accuracy; and abbreviation not only broaches that accuracy, but distorts the offense.
Lawyers obey what Volokh call the “use-mention” distinction, which draws a bright line between using such a word as an insult, and referencing them in a didactic context, like court cases or teaching literature. As Volokh says in the article below:
Professors certainly shouldn’t use epithets, racial or otherwise, to themselves insult people. But when they are talking about what has been said, I think it’s important that they report it as it was said. This is often called the “use-mention distinction,” see, e.g., Randall Kennedy, How a Dispute Over the N-Word Became a Dispiriting Farce, Chron. Higher Ed., Feb. 8, 2019; John McWhorter, If President Obama Can Say It, You Can Too, Time, June 22, 2015 (distinguishing “using” from “referring to”).
Thus, when I have talked in my First Amendment Law class about Cohen v. California, I talked about Cohen’s “Fuck the Draft” jacket, not “F-word the Draft.” When I talked about Snyder v. Phelps, I talked about Phelps’ signs saying things like “God Hates Fags.” When I talked about Matal v. Tam, I talked about a trademark for a band called “The Slants,” which some view as a derogatory term for Asians. I suspect many, likely most, law professors do the same; they should certainly be allowed to. If I were to talk about the Redskins trademark case, I would say “Redskins,” rather than talk around the word, the way some news outlets apparently do.
What’s useful in Volokh’s piece above is his list of reasons why you shouldn’t abbreviate the n-word in a “mention” context. He gives five reasons. I won’t go into them all, but they include some of what I said above, as well as the “slippery slope” argument: once a word is made taboo, it makes it easier to make other words taboo, as each group demands that it gets the same consideration. This is not just a theoretical speculation: people have already been punished for using the term “Negro”, “wetback,” “bitch” and “fag.” And of course there are blasphemy considerations as well: many believers get deeply inflamed when someone in academic or intellectual discourse criticizes Islam or mocks the Prophet. Some of those people are even driven to murder! Nevertheless, I, at least, don’t favor a ban on such speech or images.
I recommend you go the article above and read Volokh’s arguments. They’re certainly worth considering.
After several experiences like this, and observing the censorship of those who use taboo words in the “mention” rather than “use” (derogatory) context, Volokh and his UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom created a statement prompted by Peris’s denunciation. It’s contained in the post below, or you can read it directly here. It allows instructors free rein to assign material that is potentially offensive, but also allows students the right to discuss that material, which is only fair. As Volokh says, “it’s not a binding university rule [JAC: it should be, as similar principles apply in my school], but we hope it will be influential.”
Finally we get to the document at the bottom (click on screenshot below the book) that really does make a compelling case for the “use/mention distinction”: a 32-page, heavily documented piece written by Volokh and Randall Kennedy. If you read Kennedy’s biography above, you’ll know he’s not only a black, liberal, anti-racist Harvard Law Professor specializing in race law and relations, but has no problem using the n-word in full. In fact, he wrote a book about it in 2003 (click below to go to its Amazon page). You can also see Randall Kennedy discussing the word’s use on a PBS video here.
The Washington Post published an excerpt from Chapter 1, which you can see here.
I read the entire 32-page document; it’s easier if you don’t delve deeply into the footnotes. Much of it is about the potentially detrimental effect of expurgating words on law students, but the overall argument is a general one for free speech and academic freedom.
In the end, I think I agree with Kennedy and Volokh: professors should be able to use any words in the “mention” context so long as they’re relevant, and students have the right to object or give counterarguments. And I have no problem with professors deciding to censor themselves: University of Chicago professor Geoff Stone stopped saying the whole n-word in his First Amendment law school class after the Association of Black Law Students objected. I wouldn’t fault him for that.
I won’t really have this dilemma, as I no longer teach, and, at any rate, none of my lectures come within miles of using potentially offensive words. But I believe that anybody who does so for good reason in the classroom (or in other didactic contexts) shouldn’t be censored, punished, or rebuked.
Brown University professor Glenn Loury is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more. What’s he mad about? The protestors and their running dogs who are calling for defunding the police. And that, he argues—probably correctly—has reduced the amount of policing, which is “costing black lives.” Further, he’s angry at Nikole Hannah-Jones for being proud that someone called the riots after the George Floyd killing “the 1619 riots.”
Here’s part of his recent Patreon discussion with John McWhorter (the whole discussion is behind a paywall but will soon be up for free) about the 1619 Project and its leader, the often-unhinged Nikole Hannah-Jones. McWhorter isn’t a fan of Hannah-Jones, either, but shows a little more empathy for her because he thinks that she really believes she’s changing America for the better and isn’t just engaged in moral preening. McWhorter recalls an incident from his youth, when he knocked down a ten-year-old girl and “broke her,” as leading to his reluctance to “break” Hannah-Jones.
My own view is that you don’t need to “break” any of your opponents (after all, that’s what Woke people do): just break their arguments. On another note, I can’t wait for McWhorter’s upcoming book on social-justice activism and DiAngelo-style anti-racism as forms of religion.
Here’s Loury, in another clip from the same show, really heated up about the death of black children in drive-by shootings, and how, he thinks, the media ignores that compared to the death of people like George Floyd.
The mantra “All Lives Matter” is rightfully criticized as an effort to marginalize black people, for it’s an attempt to practice “whataboutery” on the slogan “Black Lives Matter”, words meant to emphasize that black people count just as much as white ones. It’s an anti-racist slogan, and a good one, even though the movement has been coopted for some goals with which I disagree.
But title of Andrew Sullivan’s new Weekly Dish piece (click below if you have a subscription) might sound just as offensive to people of color, even though it’s not meant to do down racial justice. Rather, Sullivan is pointing out that the number of black people killed by other black people dwarfs the number of unarmed African-Americans killed by cops (and not all of those cops are white). And yet, he argues, if black lives do matter, why is this problem given so much less attention?
Now you may say that the statement that “Only some black lives seem to matter” (Andrew means “the ones killed by cops”) also tries to diminish the problem of police racism, but that’s not what Sullivan is about here, for he notes that “there remains a real problem with police interaction with African-Americans.” As he says,
. . . . killing by a representative of the state is a much, much graver offense than that by a fellow civilian. We should take it much more seriously than regular crime. That’s why I favor every measure to increase accountability from the police — tackling their unions, de-militarizing their equipment, ending qualified immunity, putting more resources into de-escalation training, and so on.
But then he goes on to quote the data, and after that highlights the folly, in view of that data, of calling for reducing policing, whether it be by eliminating cops or “defunding” them to the point that crime prevention and protection is seriously diminished. I’ll give a few quotes from the article, as the data should be seen by anyone who deals with these issues:
Nationally the toll on black lives from violence is shockingly disproportionate. The data from 2019 show 7,484 homicides of African-Americans, compared with 5,787 homicides of whites. That we have become used to this discrepancy doesn’t make it any less awful: African-Americans form only 13 percent of the population and yet comprise 54 percent of homicide victims. If you look at black men alone, it’s even worse. They comprise less than 7 percent of the population and a whopping 46 percent of the murder victims. Black men, in other words, are over six times more likely to be killed than the general population — and young black men face even worse odds.
Increasingly black children and minors are victims as well. . .
. . . It is not therefore an exaggeration to say that African-Americans are being gunned down in America vastly out of proportion to their numbers in the population as a whole. We’ve heard this truth before, of course, but usually when talking of police shootings. And it’s true that police disproportionately kill black men — 26 percent of fatal police shootings are of black men, compared with their 7 percent of the population as a whole. This is a vital, troubling issue that deserves attention. But the disproportion for African-Americans killed by civilian shootings is almost twice as skewed as that for those killed by cops.
And the scale of it is on an entirely different level. In 2019, 243 black men (including only 13 unarmed black men) were shot dead by cops. In comparison, a whopping 7,484 were killed by civilians. If you believe that black lives matter, where is the outrage about that 7,484? If Travis Nagdy, a young man of color, had been killed by a cop, you would know his name by now. Because he was killed by a civilian, you probably don’t.
I live in a city where these statistics are often in our face on the evening news. Time after time we hear about black teenagers or kids shot, often accidentally, and the toll can be brutal. So far this year in Chicago, 715 people have been victims of homicide—227 more than in all of 2019. Most of these killings are on the South and West sides, areas where black and Hispanic people live. In 2016, a year for which I could find data, 75% of the 762 murder victims in Chicago were black, and 71% of murderers were black; yet in the city as a whole, 30.1% of the residents are black. It is a valid question—one apart from that of police brutality—why blacks disproportionately kill each other so often. And if you do think that black lives matter, as most good people do, then surely this is a problem that must be addressed. (Gun control, in my view, is one of several solutions.)
There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that one of the solutions is NOT less policing. Those who call for that are, in my view, lunatics: so woke that nobody’s life means much to them. Yes, by all means reform the police, involve social workers when police alone won’t do, and get ride of hyper-militarization. But in view of statistics like those above, cutting way back on policing is not the answer. In fact, American blacks are in general against reducing policing, as Sullivan notes (and the bolded bit, which is my emphasis, will get him into that hot water):
Yes, I know many now insist that abolishing or defunding the police is not their real agenda. And for some, that may be true. But the record is quite clear: abolition of the police and of incarceration was exactly what many BLM activists and critical race theorists demanded, and still demand. It’s what the Minneapolis City Council voted for last June. It’s what Ilhan Omar explicitly demanded. It’s what the autonomous zone in Seattle enforced. It’s what BLM’s DC branch explicitly endorsed. It’s what the newly elected congresswoman Cori Bush supports. It’s what was painted on the streets of DC in letters large enough they could be read from an airplane. Abolition, in fact, is integral to critical race theory, and its view of the police as mere extensions of “white supremacy”, even when police departments are often very racially diverse or majority black, and run by black police chiefs.
It is no accident that the killing of George Floyd prompted a massive outpouring of protest while no such national movement emerged in response to, say, the killing of a one-year-old child in Brooklyn. Black lives matter, it seems. But some black lives matter more than others — depending entirely on who took them.
This left-progressive view is not one shared by most African-Americans. Or, for that matter, by leading and successful black pols like Barack Obama and James Clyburn and the late John Lewis. Polling in 2018 showed that only a small minority — 18 percent in one survey — opposed hiring more police officers, while 60 percent want more cops and more funding. A Gallup poll this summer found that “61 percent of Black Americans said they’d like police to spend the same amount of time in their community, while 20 percent answered they’d like to see more police, totaling 81 percent. Just 19 percent of those polled said they wanted police to spend less time in their area.” So mostly white leftists last summer campaigned for something a hefty majority of actual African-Americans oppose. And, of course, it is the African-American community that endures the murderous consequences.
The notion that the cops are universally reviled in the African-American population is just as false. In a Vox/Civis analysis poll, 58 percent of black Americans said they have a favorable opinion of their local police. In the Gallup survey, 61 percent are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” about “receiving positive treatment” by police.
It seems to me, and here Sullivan agrees, that the “defund the cops” movement is a drive led mostly by well-off white people that is against the wishes of most black people.
Reformation of police departments is much to be desired, and will go a long way towards easing the feelings of many blacks that the cops put targets on their backs. But even if we bring down the number of unarmed blacks shot by cops to zero, the huge problem of homicide in the black community will remain. Who in their right mind would say that the solution is to get rid of the cops?