Another educator risks his job by objecting to mandatory and ideologically narrow diversity training

April 13, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Bari Weiss has a guest writer on her Substack site Common Sense this week: high-school math and philosophy teacher Paul Rossi from Grace Church School in Manhattan, a coeducational private college-prep school that serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade. His topic is the antiracist training he’s required to take, but abhors as harmful, divisive, and above all stifling to students’ ability to think freely and explore ideas. Rossi, still employed at the school, recognizes that by writing this he’s “risking not only my current job but my career as an educator, since most schools, both public and private, are now captive to this backward ideology.” He’s the Jodi Shaw of Grace Church School, and I worry that he’ll suffer the same fate as Shaw: a resignation that’s more or less forced, or, alternatively, outright expulsion if he refuses to sign the school’s agreement that they cooked up for him.

Click on the screenshot to read.

Rossi says he’s more or less forced to “treat students differently on the basis of race” and to discuss their dissents not with other faculty, but with a special “Office of Community Engagement,” which always bats away his objections.  A longish excerpt (read more at Bari’s site) serves to show the problem:

Recently, I raised questions about this ideology at a mandatory, whites-only student and faculty Zoom meeting. (Such racially segregated sessions are now commonplace at my school.) It was a bait-and-switch “self-care” seminar that labelled “objectivity,” “individualism,” “fear of open conflict,” and even “a right to comfort” as characteristics of white supremacy. I doubted that these human attributes — many of them virtues reframed as vices — should be racialized in this way. In the Zoom chat, I also questioned whether one must define oneself in terms of a racial identity at all. My goal was to model for students that they should feel safe to question ideological assertions if they felt moved to do so.

It seemed like my questions broke the ice. Students and even a few teachers offered a broad range of questions and observations. Many students said it was a more productive and substantive discussion than they expected.

However, when my questions were shared outside this forum, violating the school norm of confidentiality, I was informed by the head of the high school that my philosophical challenges had caused “harm” to students, given that these topics were “life and death matters, about people’s flesh and blood and bone.” I was reprimanded for “acting like an independent agent of a set of principles or ideas or beliefs.” And I was told that by doing so, I failed to serve the “greater good and the higher truth.”

He further informed me that I had created “dissonance for vulnerable and unformed thinkers” and “neurological disturbance in students’ beings and systems.” The school’s director of studies added that my remarks could even constitute harassment.

A few days later, the head of school ordered all high school advisors to read a public reprimand of my conduct out loud to every student in the school. It was a surreal experience, walking the halls alone and hearing the words emitting from each classroom: “Events from last week compel us to underscore some aspects of our mission and share some thoughts about our community,” the statement began. “At independent schools, with their history of predominantly white populations, racism colludes with other forms of bias (sexism, classism, ableism and so much more) to undermine our stated ideals, and we must work hard to undo this history.”

Students from low-income families experience culture shock at our school. Racist incidents happen. And bias can influence relationships. All true. But addressing such problems with a call to “undo history” lacks any kind of limiting principle and pairs any allegation of bigotry with a priori guilt. My own contract for next year requires me to “participate in restorative practices designed by the Office of Community Engagement” in order to “heal my relationship with the students of color and other students in my classes.” The details of these practices remain unspecified until I agree to sign.

Can you believe that oath he has to swear to? What is this—the Cultural Revolution? Well, yes, a form of it. Rossi also notes that many students have told him that they’re frustrated at the school’s “indoctrination” but are afraid to speak up against it. They’re never allowed to challenge the tenets of Critical Race Theory in class.

What this does, of course, is to stifle discussion and also to force—nay, brainwash—students into a narrow ideological mindset from which departure is heretical. As a private school in Manhattan, Grace is undoubtedly very expensive and has a lot of smart students. Yet their inquisitiveness and their dissent is being squashed flat.

I’ll add one more excerpt which shows how a “Cultural Revolution” is overtaking this school, as it is with many others:

Every student at the school must also sign a “Student Life Agreement,” which requires them to aver that “the world as we understand it can be hard and extremely biased,” that they commit to “recognize and acknowledge their biases when we come to school, and interrupt those biases,” and accept that they will be “held accountable should they fall short of the agreement.” A recent faculty email chain received enthusiastic support for recommending that we “‘officially’ flag students” who appear “resistant” to the “culture we are trying to establish.”

I expect that soon students will be waving copies of “White Fragility” as they denounce their teachers, who will be forced to wear paper dunce hats and signs around they’re necks—if they’re not fired. Rossi describes his suggestion that Glenn Loury be included among his students’ reading assignments, but that the administration nixed it on the grounds that “the moment were are in institutionally and culturally, does not lend itself to dispassionate discussion and debate.” Apparently, discussing Loury would “confuse and enflame students.”

Can you believe that? The students are denied the chance to learn that black thinkers don’t all agree with each other. But again, that’s the Cultural Revolution, Jake.

You’ll be familiar with Rossi’s description of what is happening, as it’s what’s happening in Smith College, the Dalton School in NYC, and almost every other school where mandatory “diversity training” is instituted.  Pushing back can cost you your job, as Jodi Smith and others have learned. But it’s heartening that people are willing to risk this because they’re committed to a kind of liberalism that unites rather than divides.

Oh hell, I want to reproduce Rossi’s ending as well:

One current student paid me a visit a few weeks ago. He tapped faintly on my office door, anxiously looking both ways before entering. He said he had come to offer me words of support for speaking up at the meeting.

I thanked him for his comments, but asked him why he seemed so nervous. He told me he was worried that a particular teacher might notice this visit and “it would mean that I would get in trouble.” He reported to me that this teacher once gave him a lengthy “talking to” for voicing a conservative opinion in class. He then remembered with a sigh of relief that this teacher was absent that day. I looked him in the eyes. I told him he was a brave young man for coming to see me, and that he should be proud of that.

Then I sent him on his way. And I resolved to write this piece.

At the end of this post, Bari gives an email address where you can write to Rossi expressing support, advice, or commiserating with him if you’re in a similar situation: teachingfortruth@gmail.com

 

h/t: Luana

The Friendly Atheist is not so friendly, damns Richard Dawkins as “transphobic” for comparing transexualism with transracialism

April 13, 2021 • 10:45 am

The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, isn’t being very friendly, nor charitable, to Richard Dawkins. This is based on a tweet that Dawkins made comparing “trans-racialism”—as in the case of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who pretended she was black—with transsexualism. Hemant has thus deemed Richard “transphobic” and implicitly demanded that he be removed from the board of directors of the Center For Inquiry (CFI; the Richard Dawkins Foundation is now part of CFI).

Hemant’s headline is misleading and clickbaity, and, more important, he doesn’t reproduce or correct Dawkins’s own explanation issued yesterday. Click on the screenshot below.

Hemant is greatly exercised by Dawkins’s first tweet below.

Now nobody ever claimed that Richard was great in getting his points across in a tweet, which is why he often has to issue subsequent tweets, like the second one above.

Let’s “unpack” the first tweet.  First, many of us know the story of Rachel Dolezal, who pretended for several years that she was black, rising to positions of authority in the Spokane, Washington NAACP. She had felt she was black for many years, attended a historically black college, and then simply told people she was black, adopted a black persona as well as darkening her skin, and was an activist in antiracist causes. Her parents (who had adopted several black children) eventually “outed” Dolezal, and she was fired from her position and has been widely shamed.

I’ve always felt some sympathy for Dolezal because her narrative, at least, does parallel that of transsexual people. I don’t think she was lying to gain anything (indeed, if you assume a black identity, Critical Race Theory tells you that you’re losing your privilege and will be oppressed). Rather, as best I can see, she actually felt that she was more black than white. That’s confirmed by an article in the Guardian, which says this:

As she wipes away the tears, it’s hard not to think that she deserved a little of the humanity she has shown to others. Yet behind the pain is a determination not to be forced from the identity she has embraced.

“I really feel it hasn’t affected it at all because I wasn’t identifying as black in order to make people happy or make people upset or whatever. I wasn’t seeking fame. I was being me,” she says. “Of course, it’s affected me in really practical ways of not having a job. It’s really difficult to navigate public spaces. It’s been incredibly hard for my kids. There have been some real experiences, but one of them is not how I identify changing.”

Far from it. Her answer to her critics is to name her unborn son after Langston Hughes, the African American poet and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

Yes, race is not sex, but there are parallels between Dolezal’s “race dysphoria” and the “gender dysphoria” of transexual people. In both cases you have a cognitive dissonance that causes psychological pain. In both cases you don’t have a choice about how you feel. The source of the dysphoria may have different origins, like hormonal causes for transsexuals and cultural dissonance in transracialism, but in both cases it manifests itself (if you believe Dolezal, which I do) as profound dissatisfaction with your persona and a desire to assume another identity. To do that when you’re white, you have to lie about being black, for you can’t get surgery or hormone treatment to assume another racial identity. But have some charity: it’s not “pretense” or a “lie” in the usual sense: you’re dong what you must to resolve the psychological pain you feel for feeling a identity different from what biology has vouchsafed you.

The parallel between transgenderism and transracialism was the subject of a big fracas a while back, when in 2017 feminist philosopher Rebecca Tuvel from Rhodes College published an article in Hypatia (“a journal of feminist philosophy”) called “In defense of transracialism“, noting the parallels between transracialists like Dolezal and transsexuals.  Tuvel was excoriated, just as Mehta has excoriated Dawkins, for being transphobic.  But Tuvel’s article was a philosophical one, as she wasn’t even sure that Dolezal’s “transition” was genuine. And Tuvel did say this:

You can read about the article and the upshot here and here. Tuvel was immediately demonized, the journal apologized, vowed to tighten up its review standards, and then the journal’s editor and eight associate editors resigned. But the article is still up, and that is excellent. Such discussion is valuable and should not be suppressed.

What irked people about Tuvel’s piece is that it seemed to them that, despite the parallels, it’s fine to want to change your gender but not at all okay to want to change your race. To me this is a distinction without much of a difference, and the reasons people want to make it a difference speaks powerfully about the hegemony of race above all traits. It’s simply not okay to assume the identity of a black person when you’re born white, even though you’re giving up “privilege”. (It is, however, apparently okay to make the opposite racial transition: the familiar “passing for white”, even though that isn’t based on dysphoria but an attempt to gain social and economic advantage).  Many of us have defended Tuvel’s article, including Russell Blackford and other philosophers.

Hemant, however, doesn’t even mention Tuvel’s article. Instead, he vilifies Dolezal for lying and calls Dawkins a “transphobe”:

In 2015, Dolezal became the subject of controversy when it became public knowledge that her parents were both white. That alone wouldn’t be an issue except that, until that point, she had flat-out lied in public about having a Black parent. She passed herself off, on paper, as Black. She already benefitted from the privilege of being white, but decided it wasn’t enough. When confronted about it, she said she self-identified as Black… and it’s that comment that has made her infamous.

She wasn’t simply vilified for identifying as Black (whatever that means) so much as lying about it to gain some kind of edge in her professional career.

Trans people, on the other hand, aren’t changing genders just for the hell of it. They sure aren’t doing it because it gives them some kind of advantage in society. More to the point: They don’t “choose to identify” as the other gender as if it’s some kind of light switch; they are the other gender. If they undergo surgery or take hormones or request a change on their driver’s license, it’s to correct a mistake, not because they wanted to be another gender on a whim.

So back to Dawkins. He’s comparing a liar, whose lie he passes off as genuine, to trans people, whose truths he dismisses. He’s comparing race to gender, as if they’re the same thing, in a way that allows bigots (including right-wing Christians) to use his words as a weapon against trans people. He also defines trans women as “men [who] choose to identify as women” (and vice versa) when that’s not the case at all.

It’s not merely a question. There’s nothing to “discuss.” It’s transphobic rhetoric — red meat for conservatives — that someone who supposedly values reason should know better than to promote. It’s as if he watched the whole J.K. Rowling debacle and thought I want to get in on that.

This is uncharacteristically unempathic of Hemant, toward both Dawkins and Dolezal.  I don’t think Dolezal was changing racial identity “for the hell of it”; I think she felt she was born in the wrong race and wanted to do something about it. It was not a “whim” or a “light switch.”

And Dawkins did not, as Hemant claims, “deny the basic humanity of transgender people”. Granted, Richard could have used some better language when he said that “some men choose to identify as women”. Though that’s literally true, the word “choice” implies a frivolous decision rather than a psychological imperative. (We have no “free choice” in such matters anyway.) And Richard could have been a tad more sensitive when saying “you will be vilified if you deny that [transexual people] are literally are what they identify as.”  Yes, he’s correct in that statement, but there are nuances here, as we’ve discussed several times on this website. In most ways transssexual people can be regarded as members of the gender they assume, but not in every single way.

At any rate, the idea that Dawkins is denying the humanity of trans people is defused by his “clarifying” tweet, and even without that I don’t see where anyone’s “humanity” was denied. I see a bit of an awkward tweet and a wokeish overreaction by Hemant.

Indeed, Hemant gets so worked up in his post that he almost demands that CFI get rid of Dawkins as a board member (his emphasis):

Here’s a more pressing question: What is the Center for Inquiry going to do about this?

When Donald Trump banned trans people from the military, CFI’s president denounced it by saying “We stand proudly with the transgender community as an ally in the fight for equal treatment.”

Well, the foundation that Dawkins began is now a division of CFI. Dawkins is on CFI’s Board of Directors. In the past, when one of CFI’s affiliates posted a transphobic comment online, the organization acted quickly to take it down and reiterate its support for the trans community.

So what will they do now? Do they stand with Dawkins, who mischaracterizes trans people and suggests that those who reject trans identities are unfairly maligned, or do they stand with trans people?

At this point, they don’t have the luxury of choosing both.

The next-to-last paragraph is a gross mischaracterization of Dawkins’s argument, I think. It is true that people who raise arguments against the acceptance of say, transsexual women as completely identical to biological women are unfairly maligned (viz., J. K. Rowling), and the “unfortunate” word “choice”, which is technically accurate, should be interpreted charitably, not as an attempt to denigrate transsexual people.

These days, a more charitable attitude is needed by many of us, but especially by the censorious Left, which seems gleefully eager to pounce on awkward tweets or even purely innocuous statements and deeds (i.e., wearing Hawaiian shirts!), and then damning the transgressors for good. This kind of reaction will not produce social progress. And it’s sad to see that Hemant, at least in this case, has joined the ranks of the Unempathic Offended.

h/t: Barry

Wendy Kaminer on free speech, compulsory race and bias training, and why they’re related

March 25, 2021 • 9:30 am

Because the “progressive” Left brooks no criticism, if you’re against the pernicious form of anti-racism promulgated by the people John McWhorter calls “the elect,” or are worried about the divisiveness and hatred that, ironically, is promulgated by Critical Race Theory, then you wind up finding yourself in bed with some unsavory people—as if you had a drunken assignation with someone who, by daylight, is repugnant. And by that I mean some of the more extreme conservatives.

So it’s a bit of a relief to find an ally in someone with impeccable liberal credentials, who’s advocated for free speech, women’s rights, and who was a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union for years. I’m speaking of lawyer and author Wendy Kaminer, who is only two days older than I am. I’ve read several of her books and always found her not only liberal, but levelheaded and clear in her thinking. And her article in a recent Tablet, on the invidious nature of compulsory race and bias training (a piece that would never, of course, appear in the New York Times), should be read as the views of a left-centrist.

Click on the screenshot to see the article (scroll down after clicking):

The answer to Kaminer’s question is “probably not,” for, as she argues, even left-wing judges would be loath to deny to whites the same kind of protections against racially based opprobrium that they would give to blacks. Just as one cannot force black people to get training to overcome any bias against whites, and be criticized in a group because of their skin color, so the reverse must hold as well, regardless of one’s admirable intentions. Nor can the government, at least in public institutions, “prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” (This is a quote by Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson in a case which prohibited schools from forcing students to salute the American flag.)

Yet such forced profession is precisely what bias training, as described by Jodi Shaw, intends to do: compel its consumers to admit to their biases and racism, even if they don’t feel they’re bigots. Kaminer describes the case of Jodi Shaw, which we already know about. Although her complaint is against a private school (Smith “College”), Shaw’s upcoming lawsuit could be based on “state and federal workplace discrimination.”

Kaminer also details a case brought by a Nevada student against his charter school, and I haven’t described this. Here’s Kaminer’s summary:

High school senior William Clark and his mother, Gabrielle, are suing Democracy Prep, a Nevada charter school, for punishing William, subjecting him to a hostile educational environment, and threatening to deny him a diploma for refusing to participate in mandatory social justice training. The curriculum, titled “sociology of change,” declared that “reverse racism doesn’t exist,” and required students to “make professions about their gender, sex, religious and racial identities”; it then “subjected those professions to interrogation, scrutiny, and derogatory labeling,” Clark’s complaint alleges. William, a light-skinned, mixed-race student, is the only apparent white student in his class, and his various identities, including his Christianity, categorized him as an oppressor: According to the curriculum, he had an “inherent belief in the inferiority” of others and was instructed to “unlearn” the principles instilled in him by his mother, a conservative Christian.

The Clarks are seeking an injunction in federal court allowing William to graduate, deleting his failing grade for the course, and demanding monetary damages. They invoke his rights under federal equal education guarantees (Title VI and Title IX) and his First Amendment right against compelled speech. . .

Given the intransigence of CRT advocates, it will take lawsuits like these to force them to stop the indoctrinations. And it’s helpful for those of us who hold views that could get us tarred with phony “racism” epithets to nevertheless make our cases, rationally. As Kaminer notes in the video below, many students indoctrinated in this stuff simply haven’t learned how to argue rationally, and just hurl names or yell instead.

While Kaminer, who says she’s an “old fashioned liberal,” is a bit worried by having to associate by groups that are on the extreme right, she nevertheless lays out her views, to wit:

We don’t always enjoy the legal right to act on our convictions, but we should enjoy an inalienable freedom to harbor and express them. Anti-racism programs that aim to compel students and employees to “unlearn” their beliefs, and internalize new, ideologically mandated self-images, violate fundamental freedoms of speech and conscience. The likelihood that they’ll succeed mainly in promoting self-censorship and insincere self-flagellations doesn’t mitigate their intolerance of dissent and intrusive authoritarianism.

Does structural racism exist? I believe so. But sending white people to mandatory thought reform camps seems more likely to impede than advance efforts to redress it. Do many, maybe most of us, harbor unconscious biases? Probably. But they’re not the business of our teachers or employers, much less our legislators.

Social justice/anti-racism trainers who disagree and consider me a racist are free to evangelize, and those white people eager to prove their allyship are free to submit voluntarily to their preaching. Others should be free to debate and reject it, in schools and workplaces, without suffering retaliation. It doesn’t matter if the cause of anti-racism trainers is just, when freedom of conscience is at stake: “Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good as well as by evil men,” Justice Jackson wisely wrote in Barnette. “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters.” Of course anti-racism training refuseniks don’t risk extermination, but they do risk the loss of educational opportunities and employment on account of their race—as the cases of Jodi Shaw and William Clark make clear.

Can white people suffer race discrimination? Apparently. Discrimination is the resort of people in power, as social justice warriors correctly assert, and they hold power in compulsory anti-racism trainings and the structures that support them. As mere human beings, they’re not above abusing it.

Here’s a six-minute video from FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) giving Kaminer’s views of free speech, offensiveness, and bullying (the social-media form). You may have heard these views already, but it’s good to hear them reinforced.

Another reason for opposing this mandatory (as opposed to optional) training, is that it doesn’t seem to work, with any changes quickly disappearing with time. The article below (surprisingly, from The Guardian) suggests that there are better and more permanent ways to improve race relations in and out of the workplace, including voluntary training, training developed locally rather than sourced from the outside, and focusing on positive rather than negative consequences (e.g., lawsuits).  And there are more mechanistic changes that seem to work:

Once that information is found, tried and tested methods can create change. Having a system where managers train people to move up through the ranks, rather than relying on an ad-hoc promotion system works well, particularly for women. Putting in “special recruitment structures” – which basically means you no longer recruit exclusively at historically white colleges, but also approach historically Black universities, or engineering programs with lots of women in them, also works well.

Mentorship programs that are open to everybody – so that women and people of color get mentors even if they’re at the lowest levels of a firm – are also a good way to ensure talent can rise.

“We know what kinds of systemic changes promote diversity. Pointing the finger of blame at managers, and trying to adjust their individual bias, they just don’t work. So, to me, it’s just, it’s crazy that companies are still doing these things,” explains Dobbin.

So is diversity training just a money-maker, I ask Kalev?

“Most diversity training doesn’t work. Most of it is not for free. So you can do the 1+1,” she says.

 

McWhorter’s new excerpt from “The Elect”

March 23, 2021 • 1:30 pm

It’s good of John McWhorter to make almost all of his upcoming book The Elect available for free on his website, though if you read him a lot you should subscribe, and I expect I will. His book, as you probably know, takes the view that anti-racism, as practiced according to the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is in effect a religion, with all the accoutrements thereof.

This excerpt is one of his best, and he says things about black people that only a black person could, for while he can be accused of being a “self-hating black”, that charge won’t stick very well. This chapter is on how black culture has damaged black success, and how white people—either through patronizing blacks or having pushed them politically in various directions—are complicit in having contributed to such a black culture.

It’s a provocative argument, and I’ve read some of it before in Thomas Sowell’s books, but some of it I have to take on “faith”, as it were: particularly the stuff about how white Marxists were urging blacks to behave in various ways some decades ago. I’ll give a few quotes. The issue is the black-white achievement gap in schools, which McWhorter doesn’t blame on immediate and current structural racism (the Ibram Kendi view), but on black culture: specifically, a culture in which opprobrium attaches to “acting white” (i.e, striving, studying, and achieving). That culture, says McWhorter, may have been caused by racism, but is now self-perpetuating, and crying “racism” is not the way to eliminate disparities.

. . . I taught at Berkeley back then, and must note a black undergraduate after the ban was legalized who told me, outright, that she and others working at the minority recruitment office were afraid that black students admitted without racial preferences would not be interested in being part of a black community at the school. It was the baldest affirmation of the idea that being a nerd isn’t authentically black that I have ever heard: May, 1998, circa 4 PM on a weekday afternoon.

It is sentiments of that kind, as well as self-involved white guilt and its lack of genuine concern with black people’s fate, that conditions the fierce allegiance to exempting black students from the level of competition other kids have to deal with regardless of their background. The data on the calamities the mismatch policy creates are now overwhelming, and yet are indignantly swatted away or swept under the rug because they are inconsonant with announcing one’s awareness that racism exists. The result: black undergraduates and law students in over their heads nationwide as an influential cadre of people intone lines about “dismantling structures.”

McWhorter also claims that both Ta-Nehisi Coates and Nikole Hannah-Jones have said either wrong or despicable things and haven’t been called out for it, which McWhorter sees as patronizing. In Coates’s case it’s that the first responders at the World Trade Center on 9/ll  were just ‘menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could—with no justification—shatter my body.” Opprobrium? None.

For Hannah-Jones, McWhorter says this:

Black journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones insists that the Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery. She got a Pulitzer for it. The 1619 Project included more, indeed, but the claim about the Revolutionary War, and the resultant redating of America’s birth to 1619, was the main thing that attracted so much attention to it. Hannah-Jones would have won no prize for a series without that central claim.

An enlightened America is supposed to hold a public figure accountable for her ideas. On the issue of the Revolutionary War, Hannah-Jones’ claim is quite simply false, but our current cultural etiquette requires pretending that isn’t true — because she is black. Someone has received a Pulitzer Prize for a mistaken interpretation of historical documents upon which legions of actual scholars are expert. Meanwhile, the claim is being broadcast unquestioned in educational materials being distributed across the nation.

Few things suggest the encroaching permutation of The Elect into the gray matter of this country than how few see the utter diminishment of Hannah-Jones that this entails. White people patting her on the head for being “brave” or “getting her views out there,” rather than regretting that she slipped up and wishing her better luck next time, are bigots of a kind. They are condescending to a black woman who deserves better, even if the Zeitgeist she has been minted in prevents her from knowing it herself.

And a bit on a culture that McWhorter sees as damaged.

The story of how black inner cities got to the state they were in by the 1980s is complex and has nothing to do with blame. As I have not argued but frankly shown, a lot of it came from what genuinely concerned whites made poor black people do, during a period now forgotten and underdocumented, that ended up decisively grounding what it was to be black during the 1970s and 1980s, in ways those happy white Marxists never anticipated, as they were hoping the muh-fuckah was about to just burn down.

However, to simply term the issue as a “racism” that requires “elimination” now, simply solves no problems. For example, one might say that one cause of the problems was that the War on Drugs sent so many men to prison and left boys growing up in poverty without fathers. But to call the War on Drugs racist ignores that the laws it has been based on had hearty support from serious black people, including legislators as well as people living in poor communities. This time read Michael Fortner’s Black Silent Majority (Fortner is black). Are we really going to say that those black people were too dumb to see the “racism” in the laws they supported as helping make them safer in their daily lives?

The failure of so many thinkers to understand the difference between the effects of racism in the past and racism in the present has strangled discussions about race for decades.

I think the last sentence is pretty accurate, for you can see this conflation occurring constantly. I see it in those, for example, who claim that current structural racism in the sciences is why we have so few black scientists, as opposed to a “pipeline problem” that traces back to racism in the past. Although I’m not black, what I see in my branch of science is a constant striving and struggle to identify and admit or hire minority graduate students and professors. There is active anti-racism in this process, and thus the paucity of black scientists doesn’t seem to be due to present racism. (In fact, as far as NIH grants are concerned, the evidence is against that hypothesis.)

This is one of McWhorter’s best chapters and you should read the whole thing. If you keep doing so, subscribe.

 

McWhorter on Amanda Gorman’s translators

March 21, 2021 • 12:30 pm

In recent years there’s been lots of discussion about whether an author is “entitled” to write about genders or ethnicities to which they don’t belong, and it’s getting harder and harder to do that all the time. However, literature hasn’t yet discarded the idea that someone can enter into the imagination of a very different person and present their thoughts in a stimulating and imaginative way. If that weren’t the case, I as a reader wouldn’t be able to resonate with ethnic characters written by same-ethnicity authors, like Bigger Thomas in Native Son, nor would a black reader be able to resonate with James Joyce. To think otherwise presumes that people of a different group from you, say blacks, Hispanics, or women, are so homogeneous that only a writer from the same group can create such characters, or only a reader from the same group can understand them. In other words, it presumes a homogeneity of thought and imagination that people in any group deny—as they well should.

On the other hand, there are some experiences based on group membership that would be difficult to present unless you’d experienced them. Difficult, but not impossible.

And on this presumption is based a lot of cancelation. Now, however, it’s the translators as well as authors who are getting it in the neck. I’ve written previously (here and here) about how black poet Amanda Gorman was having her Inaugural poem translated into Dutch and Catalan, but the Dutch translator quit in the face of opprobrium while the Catalan translator was deemed unsuitable because he was neither young, black, or female.  In both cases case, a white translator, even if bisexual, was deemed genetically unsuitable to do the translation.

To nix translators on the same basis that you try to cancel authors is even dicier, as translation—and this is true of Gorman’s poem—requires more a sensitivity to language and rhythm than the need to have shared the poet’s experiences. Read Gorman’s poem and judge for yourself.

John McWhorter has a similar but far more thorough take on the kerfuffle than do I; as usual, he squeezes much more out of these situations than I can. And, as usual, I agree with him.  His analysis is free on Substack (but consider subscribing), and you can access it by clicking below:

As he so often does, McWhorter shows that the “Elect” (the name he’s given to the quasi-religious Pecksniffs who monitor this kind of stuff) are actually infantilizing Blacks, and he also shows how this behavior aligns with Critical Race Theory.

I’ll give just a few quotes. First he notes that Shakespeare has been translated into a gazillion languages, as has the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, and even Alice Walker’s The Color Purple has been rendered into 25 different languages—all without any kvetching.

But now with the kerfuffle about translating Gorman, McWhorter senses a change in attitude: American black writers are now especially untranslatable by whites:

The idea is that American blackness is a special case here. The legacy of white racism, and manifestations of white supremacy still present, mean that the rules are different when it comes to who should translate a black person’s artistic statements. Our oppression at the hands of whites is something so unique, something so all-pervasive, something so all-defining of our souls and experience, that no white person could possibly render it in another language.

This is a fair evocation of what our modern paradigm on blackness teaches us. Power differentials, and especially ones based on race, are all and everything, justifying draconian alterations of basic procedure and, if necessary, even common sense.

However, note how much this portrait diminishes, say, Gorman. To her credit, she was not the one who suggested the Dutch translator be canned. After all, are we really to say that this intelligent young human being’s entirety is the degree to which she may experience white “supremacy”?

Watch out for the “Nobody said that” game. No, no one states that experience of white supremacy is all she is, but if we insist that her poetry can only be translated by someone who has experienced it, this means that the experience of white supremacy is paramount in our estimation of her. Example: we presumably don’t care if a white translator might be better at evoking other aspects of her such as her youth, her sense of scansion – what matters most is her oppression.

McWhorter goes on to discuss why blackness should “trump all questions as to artistic rank”, and finds it a rejection of “the intelligence inherent to art and its evaluation”.

And here’s an issue I raised earlier when I suggested doing blind translations of Gorman by a variety of translators and have a woke person conversant in the translated languages judge the renderings. You know that they’re not going to always pick out the black translator, much less the young black translator, much less the young, black, female translator!:

And finally, exactly what might a white translator get wrong? Where are the demonstrations of where a white translator of a black poet or novelist’s work slipped? And as to those who might dredge some up in response to my asking, what’s important is that in this controversy no one is bringing them up (at least to prominent view) and no commentators have seemed especially likely to have any examples on the tips of their tongues or iPhones. We are dealing in a hypothetical.

McWhorter winds up showing, as you’ve probably guessed, that this behavior of “The Elect” aligns with critical race theory:

This is how we are to process blackness according to the tenets of Critical Race Theory. A fashionable current among its adherents is to claim that their critics are merely misinformed churls seeking Twitter hits. But if CRT adherents cheer this decision about Gorman’s translators, they are showing that misinformation is not the only reason so many are devoting themselves to reining in CRT’s excesses. The grounds for firing these translators – and we can be sure, others over the next few weeks – are thoroughly contestable by thoroughly unchurlish people including ones who care naught about Twitter.

The grounds for these dismissals are a posture, handy for those with a need to show that they understand what white supremacy is, while turning a blind eye to their reduction of Gorman to a thin, pitiable abstraction. Onward indeed.

I still think that you can address this problem scientifically, using a variety of translators of different races, ages, ethnicities, and so on, and then have a Wokey person judge the translations for their conformity to what they see as Oppression Poetry.  Would a failure to pick out the “right” translators shut them up? I don’t think so, for Wokeness is immune to reason.

Sullivan on the Atlanta “hate crime”

March 20, 2021 • 12:00 pm

Yesterday I discussed the murder of 8 people, six of them Asian women working in spas, by accused killer Robert Aaron Long. What prompted me to write was the assertion, against all the evidence, that the crime must be a “hate crime” motivated by an animus against Asians. This, speculated many, was simply another in the rash of assaults on Asians in the last year, many of which seem to come from blaming Asian-Americans for the coronavirus.

What made this crime different was not only the lack of a “hate” motive—the accused perp told the police that he was trying to eliminate the temptation of sex, as he apparently, against his religious beliefs, sought sex from those two spas—but the fact that it was a mass killing. The mainstream media and college administrators immediately sent out messages of solidarity with Asians, as this seemed to be the last straw in a string of xenophobic violence.

It may well be true that the previous assaults were indeed “hate crimes”—it’s really hard to judge motive if the perp doesn’t admit it or there’s other evidence—but in this one there’s no hard evidence of bigotry, and pretty strong evidence instead of violence derived from a twisted, religion-inspired cognitive dissonance, with the murdered women being Asian because Asians provided sex in convenient spas. The crime itself is absolutely reprehensible, leaving the families and loved ones of eight people bereft. But it gets worse if the crime is sold as a “hate crime” when it’s not, for that gets an entire community of Americans scared and feeling ostracized. This is why the media needs to report responsibly, emphasizing the difference between what we know and what we don’t.  They did not.

As of now, we don’t have a really solid idea of motive, but what we know goes against the narrative that this was a crime of hatred and bigotry. Nevertheless, as I maintained, some people seem to want it to be a hate crime. In his big piece on the Weekly Dish, Andrew Sullivan goes further and argues that people want it that way because it fits a convenient narrative of “social justice”: oppression, divisiveness, and hatred.

Click on the screenshot to read his column, though it may be paywalled. (I subscribe.) Of all the Substack columns you can subscribe to, I find Sullivan’s and John McWhorter’s the best so far, as Bari Weiss is still finding her feet in this venue. Glenn Greenwald is too splenetic, and also seems to hammer the same few topics over and over.

Sullivan, who follows the “mainstream media” (MSM) far more than I, agrees that Long’s motive was unclear, but doesn’t point towards “hate”. And he uses the MSM’s slant in that direction to indict it for abandoning objectivity:

. . . this story has also been deeply instructive about our national discourse and the state of the American mainstream and elite media. This story’s coverage is proof, it seems to me, that American journalists have officially abandoned the habit of attempting any kind of “objectivity” in reporting these stories. We are now in the enlightened social justice world of “moral clarity” and “narrative-shaping.”

Here’s the truth: We don’t yet know why this man did these horrible things. It’s probably complicated, or, as my therapist used to say, “multi-determined.” That’s why we have thorough investigations and trials in America. We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case. Like the 9/11 bombers or the mass murderer at the Pulse nightclub, he took out his angst on the source of what he saw as his temptation, and committed mass murder. This is evil in the classic fundamentalist sense: a perversion of religion and sexual repression into violence.

We have yet to find any credible evidence of anti-Asian hatred or bigotry in this man’s history. Maybe we will. We can’t rule it out. But we do know that his roommates say they once asked him if he picked the spas for sex because the women were Asian. And they say he denied it, saying he thought those spas were just the safest way to have quick sex. That needs to be checked out more. But the only piece of evidence about possible anti-Asian bias points away, not toward it.

What the media did, and it’s quite unbalanced, if not mendacious:

And yet. Well, you know what’s coming. Accompanying one original piece on the known facts, the NYT ran nine — nine! — separate stories about the incident as part of the narrative that this was an anti-Asian hate crime, fueled by white supremacy and/or misogyny. Not to be outdone, the WaPo ran sixteen separate stories on the incident as an antiAsian white supremacist hate crimeSixteen! One story for the facts; sixteen stories on how critical race theory would interpret the event regardless of the facts. For good measure, one of their columnists denounced reporting of law enforcement’s version of events in the newspaper, because it distracted attention from the “real” motives. Today, the NYT ran yet another full-on critical theory piece disguised as news on how these murders are proof of structural racism and sexism — because some activists say they are.

That last link, which appears to be a “news” rather than an “opinion” piece, is particularly invidious, as it blithely assumes that the killing was inspired by the intersection of racism and misogyny, when in fact it could have been something completely different.

And the woke weigh in:

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the most powerful journalist at the New York Times, took to Twitter in the early morning of March 17 to pronounce: “Last night’s shooting and the appalling rise in anti-Asian violence stem from a sick society where nationalism has been stoked and normalized.” Ibram Kendi tweeted: “Locking arms with Asian Americans facing this lethal wave of anti-Asian terror. Their struggle is my struggle. Our struggle is against racism and White Supremacist domestic terror.”

When the cops reported the killer’s actual confession, left-Twitter went nuts. One gender studies professor recited the litany: “The refusal to name anti-Asianess [sic], racism, white supremacy, misogyny, or class in this is whiteness doing what it always does around justifying its death-dealing … To ignore the deeply racist and misogynistic history of hypersexualization of Asian women in this ‘explication’ from law enforcement of what emboldened this killer is also a willful erasure.”

In The Root, the real reason for the murders was detailed: “White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect. Which means the only way to stop it is to locate it, isolate it, extract it, and kill it.”

Trevor Noah insisted that the killer’s confession was self-evidently false: “You killed six Asian people. Specifically, you went there. Your murders speak louder than your words. What makes it even more painful is that we saw it coming. We see these things happening. People have been warning, people in the Asian communities have been tweeting, they’ve been saying, ‘Please help us. We’re getting punched in the street. We’re getting slurs written on our doors.’” Noah knew the killer’s motive more surely than the killer himself.

I’m loath to quote too much of Sullivan, as you should read him on his site, not here (only $50 per year), but I’ll give two more excerpts:

What you see here is social justice ideology insisting, as [NYT editor] Dean Baquet temporarily explained, that intent doesn’t matter. What matters is impact. The individual killer is in some ways irrelevant. His intentions are not material. He is merely a vehicle for the structural oppressive forces critical theorists believe in. And this “story” is what the media elites decided to concentrate on: the thing that, so far as we know, didn’t happen.

And an analysis:

But notice how CRT operates. The only evidence it needs it already has. Check out the identity of the victim or victims, check out the identity of the culprit, and it’s all you need to know. If the victims are white, they don’t really count. Everything in America is driven by white supremacist hate of some sort or other. You can jam any fact, any phenomenon, into this rubric in order to explain it.

The only complexity the CRT crowd will admit is multiple, “intersectional” forms of oppression: so this case is about misogyny and white supremacy. The one thing they cannot see are unique individual human beings, driven by a vast range of human emotions, committing crimes with distinctive psychological profiles, from a variety of motives, including prejudices, but far, far more complicated than that.

There’s much more, including data suggesting that assaults on Asians in general do not reflect white supremacy (there are slightly more Blacks than Whites who assault Asians despite the numerical predominance of Whites), and a summary of how the media has degenerated:

But the theory behind hate crimes law is that these crimes matter more because they terrify so many beyond the actual victim. And so it seems to me that the media’s primary role in cases like these is providing some data and perspective on what’s actually happening, to allay irrational fear. Instead they contribute to the distortion by breathlessly hyping one incident without a single provable link to any go this — and scare the bejeezus out of people unnecessarily.

The media is supposed to subject easy, convenient rush-to-judgment narratives to ruthless empirical testing. Now, for purely ideological reasons, they are rushing to promote ready-made narratives, which actually point away from the empirical facts. To run sixteen separate pieces on anti-Asian white supremacist misogynist hate based on one possibly completely unrelated incident is not journalism. It’s fanning irrational fear in the cause of ideological indoctrination. And it appears to be where all elite media is headed.

Given the kind of coverage I’ve read, which made me angry, I have to say that Sullivan is right. This is one of his better pieces, and I don’t see much to disagree with. The fact is that this one crime hasn’t fit the narrative that people demand it to fit (something I didn’t say yesterday), and so they try to force it into the Procrustean bed of the CRT narrative.

 

U of C students agitate for a Department of Critical Race Studies

March 16, 2021 • 2:45 pm

As we used to say in college in the Sixties, “The students are revolutionizing.” In this case, here at the University of Chicago they are asking for—no, demanding—a department of critical race studies. Here’s the view of one student (shared by many) in this week’s Chicago Maroon (click on screenshot):

A quote:

The University of Chicago is renowned for its support of intellectual curiosity, and yet, somehow, the school lacks a department devoted to critical race and ethnic studies (CRES)—a department that would further investigate race relations during such a pivotal moment in history. In the summer of 2020, a #MoreThanDiversity campaign—launched by faculty affiliates of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC)—demanded that UChicago’s provost, Ka Yee C. Lee, set aside funds for a department dedicated to CRES. In December, Ka Yee C. Lee allocated funding to #MoreThanDiversity so that they could propose a CRES department, but allocating funds for a proposal does not mean that it will be approved or implemented to the extent that it should be. Students of color cannot feel at ease when campus administration tiptoes around the need for a department that would prioritize critical questions regarding race and ethnicity, which has been expressed by students and faculty numerous times. Despite the fact that establishing a critical race and ethnic studies department is crucial to conveying their supposed commitment to diversity and inclusion, the administration has unsurprisingly delayed conversations surrounding its implementation, especially considering UChicago’s role in upholding white supremacy.

You might check out that last link about how we are, even now, upholding white supremacy. When a business-school professor invited Steve Bannon here a while back (he didn’t come), that was upholding white supremacy! We also upheld white supremacy when, in 1856, Stephen Douglas donated 10 acres of land to start the University. No matter that those acres are not part of the present University, nor that President Zimmer ordered the removal of two plaques honoring Douglas, saying this:

“Douglas does not deserve to be honored on our campus” because “Douglas profited from his wife’s ownership of a Mississippi plantation where Black people were enslaved.”

No, no, none of that counts. We’re apparently still upholding white supremacy, therefore we need a department of critical race and ethnic studies.

The article above adds this:

UChicago’s administration needs to reevaluate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially considering that their response to #MoreThanDiversity’s demands has merely been to fund a department proposal, refusing to fund the creation of the department itself or acknowledge its importance in dismantling racist systems. Critical race and ethnic studies serve to transform the conventional mode of thought surrounding race and give room for self-reflexive comprehension, so when the University creates obstacles for #MoreThanDiversity, they are also creating another obstacle for students to engage in transformative studies.

“Transformative studies.” You know what that means: it means ensuring that students who take this department’s courses will be turned into epigones of Critical Race theory. It means ensuring that, in the area of ethnic studies, only one point of view will be tolerated, taught, and accepted. You’d be a fool to believe otherwise.

Such a department would, of course, be an organ of propaganda. The University has rightly dragged its heels on this one, and refuses the other student demand to eliminate the campus police. But if such a department were founded here, it would mark the beginning of the end of our reputation for free and open inquiry—the features that still make the University of Chicago unique among American colleges.

More segregation in secondary schools

March 15, 2021 • 1:30 pm

Moses Brown School is a Quaker school in Providence, Rhode Island, serving students from pre-kindergarten through high school (12th grade). It’s my experience that Quakers are particularly susceptible to Wokeness, perhaps because they are eclectic and dedicated to service: traits that are normally great but can easily be bent toward the interests of Critical Social Justice.

At Moses Brown, this seems to be what has happened. Here’s a tweet from a former teacher who writes about education at Substack:

I have no opinion about the legality of this, though lawyers might. If true, it’s invidious, but we have to take this with a grain of salt, for it’s hearsay. Sanzi says she’s been told of the incident above “by more than one parent”, though nobody dares to speak out.

What is not at issue, however, is that the school, in having the upper-school students read the antiracist young adult novel The Hate U Give, about a black teenager’s reaction to a police shooting of her boyfriend and her increasing activism, is promoting segregation in learning.

The novel is a popular read for entire schools, and that is fine, but what’s not fine is dividing up the school into two racially distinct groups to discuss the book. As the letter below from school officials shows, they divided up the discussion into two “affinity spaces [using] framing that is appropriate for the BIPOC or White-identifying experience.” (Note one of the signers has the title of “Facilitator of Conversations about White Privilege and Allyship, already a signal of Critical Race Theory at Work.)

Here’s the school’s letter to upper school (presumably high school) families:

In the next three sessions, white kids discuss the novel from the point of view of “white saviorism, performative activism, and allyship” as well as “learning about the history of policing in the United States and its connection to police brutality against Black students today.”

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students, on the other hand, also learn about white saviorism, performative activism and allyship in one session, but then devote the other two sessions to breakout room discussions about topic proposed and facilitated by students.

In other words, although there are certain themes in common to the two “affinity groups”, they are handling the book differently, with no communication between the groups. Worst of all, there seems to be no plan to have white, blacks, and other minorities discuss the book together.

This is not a good way to educate students: forcing them to join others with similar pigmentation (except for the poor half Asian student) and then having race-specific discussions. When do black and white kids get to talk to each other? They don’t! Each “race” has five sessions with members of their group alone (white and BIPOC). And what this does is to simply divide up the school, and the students’ views, by race. It does not foster mutuality, fellow feeling, or the highly-touted but always neglected idea of “inclusion.” The worst way to overcome racism is to keep the races apart and allow each one to develop their ideas in isolation from the others. But of course we must realize that this bizarre form of separation is not intended to end racism. It is, ironically, “performative activism.”

What are euphemistically called “affinity spaces”, a term reeking of inclusion, are what used to be called “segregated spaces.”  Such is the madness that is afflicting our schools.

h/t: Luana

Amanda Gorman’s Catalan translator removed for having the “wrong profile”

March 11, 2021 • 11:00 am

Today I’m just going to report on things happening in a climate of Wokeness. I hardly need comment on them because they’re similar to things that have happened before. Take today’s posts as a documentation of the balkanization of society—and not just in America.

As I reported on March 1, a Dutch translator lined up to put the poetry of Amanda Gorman—who spoke at the Inauguration—into Dutch had to drop out after critics suggested it was inappropriate for a white person to translate the poems of a young black woman.  Even Gorman approved of the translator, who, though they were white (the translator uses plural pronouns), was also “non binary”. Shouldn’t that rung on the oppression ladder count for something in this crazy world? Nope; it’s all based on skin color.

Now it’s happened again. As the Guardian reports, a poet who was to translate Gorman’s work into Catalan was deemed unsuitable because his “profile” (read: skin color and perhaps sex or age) was wrong. In this case the translator was fired rather than quitting in the face of social (justice) pressure.

Click on the screenshot to read:

An excerpt:

The Catalan translator for the poem that American writer Amanda Gorman read at US president Joe Biden’s inauguration has said he has been removed from the job because he had the wrong “profile”.

It was the second such case in Europe after Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld resigned from the job of translating Gorman’s work following criticism that a black writer was not chosen.

“They told me that I am not suitable to translate it,” Catalan translator Victor Obiols told AFP on Wednesday. “They did not question my abilities, but they were looking for a different profile, which had to be a woman, young, activist and preferably black.”

Look at all the criteria he had to meet: age, sex, race, and degree of activism! If you read Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, “The Hill We Climb“, which is neither linguistically, intellectually complex, nor subtle, you’ll know that what’s required here is simply a sensitivity to poetry and the ability to translate from one language to another.

Not only that, but Obiols had already translated works from English into Catalan, including Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare—writers that are surely more difficult to tackle than is Gorman.

Obois was supposed to translate “The Hill We Climb” into an apparently standalone version, with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey, when he got word that “he was not the right person”. It’s not clear who made this decision. Obois didn’t go gentle, as opposed to the Dutch translator:

“It is a very complicated subject that cannot be treated with frivolity,” said Obiols, a resident of Barcelona.

“But if I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, black, an American of the 21st century, neither can I translate Homer because I am not a Greek of the eighth century BC. Or could not have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman.”

Yes, an obvious point, but a good one. Likewise, Ezra Pound would have been deemed unsuitable to translate old English and Chinese poetry into modern English, but he did a fantastic job: those translations are some of his finest work. Read “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter.”

You could find innumerable cases of translators who differed in ethnicity, age, race, sex, and so on from their subjects, but who did great jobs. Constance Garnett (1861-1946), an English woman, was and is still famous for her translations of Russian literature, and it was through her translations that I became acquainted with the works of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Gogol (she translated 71 books of Russian literature, and some of them were big ‘uns!). Her work is sensitive and poetic. But she was neither male nor Russian, so fie with her!

There are only two possible reasons for rejecting a translator in a case like this. The first is purely ideological: you have to find a translator that aligns with the writer for reasons of social justice, perhaps as a form of reparations or literary affirmative action. The second has to do with quality: one could claim that political/racial/sexual alignment is necessary to do a good job of translation. I think that reason has been amply disproven, leaving the first reason—the Woke one—as the only plausible alternative.

If you want more evidence, I propose this experiment: find a black female activist Catalan translator (good luck with that!) to translate Gorman’s poem into English, as well as a number of other translators: young Catalan white women, non-Catalan white women, old Catalan black women, Catalan women who are not activists, Asian women who speak Catalan but aren’t activists, and so on. Then put all the translations side by side in a blind study and see if neutral Catalan-and-English speaking observers, judging by the translation alone, can pick out the one poem translated by the wholly “appropriate” translator. I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t be able to do it.  And if that failed, it shows that you can’t argue that only the properly aligned translator can do justice to the original poem.  Clearly, the first explanation: compatibility with Wokeness, is more plausible. It’s also ridiculous.

I have yet to see a full explanation from the Translation Cancelers of exactly why differences in ethnicity, age, race, and sex are necessary for an Amanda Gorman translation. They just use the word “inappropriate”.

h/t: Jez

“Dear University of Vermont”: a Jodi Shaw equivalent at a different school

March 10, 2021 • 9:45 am

I was alerted to this video by the tweet of Jodi Shaw (below). Shaw, of course, was involved in a huge kerfuffle with Smith College, which first got publicized when she put up a video on YouTube called “Dear Smith College: I have a few requests.

Now there’s a Shaw equivalent at the University of Vermont: Professor Aaron Kindsvatter, who teaches about adult learning and mental health at the Unversity’s College of Education and Social Services. He made a nine-minute video below the tweet. You may have to watch it on YouTube, where for some reason it’s restricted by Kindsvatter himself. The video resembles that of Shaw, whose own videos probably inspired him, in saying that an atmosphere of anti-white racism pervades his campus—and in a very similar way that, according to Shaw, pervades the campus of Smith College.

Kindsvatter’s plaint mirrors that of Shaw: he’s calling out “discrimination against whiteness” at the University of Vermont, a stance adopted by some “desperate persons who need a group to hate.”  He’s worried that this ideology will find its way to hate groups, who will adopt its methods. I’m not sure what methods he’s referring to, however.

At any rate, Kindsvatter finds it hard to see how it became possible for people to denigrate anybody by their race “on such a progressive campus.” This was, he says, instantiated by a recent teach-in on “whiteness” in which “a number of social ills were associated in a causal way with people of a particular race” (he means white people).

He also learned that pushing back against anti-whiteness was “not okay”, and has learned that his University is instituting policies that will chill dissent, like adopting the official definitions of racism and antiracism from Ibram X. Kendi. He concludes that he would be considered a “racist” according to those definitions, which makes it difficult to dissent from University policy.

His requests, similar to those of Shaw.

1.) Stop reducing his personhood to a racial category in the teach-ins.

2.) Do not divide the university into groups of racial categories.

3.) Stop telling Kindsvatter that his values are “harmful” because he doesn’t adhere to the prevailing ideology.

4.) Do not present him with the alternatives of either accepting the policies of Kendi and DiAngelo, or being considered a racist (he says he’s read both authors “and did not find wisdom there”).

In the end, he says the University may be violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits “discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, and national origin is prohibited.” He calls for those who share his concerns to meet up and talk about it.

Is he, like Jodi Shaw, doomed to be toast? I suspect he’s going to get a lot of flak from the administration, but we shall see. Perhaps there’s another GoFundMe campaign in the future. . .