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

Harvard issues most self-abasing antiracist statement ever

April 10, 2021 • 12:00 pm

Not enough time has passed for us to understand why the tide of “progressive” political excess has risen so quickly. Yes, it accelerated after the death of George Floyd, but there are reasons why Floyd’s death unleashed what was already waiting to happen. I myself don’t really understand the phenomenon of “Wokeness”, and why so many people seem to have been driven mad.

Nobody wants to think of themselves as racist, but now we are told that not only are we all racists, but that we’re unconscious of that fact, and that the very structures of government, politics, and universities have racism embedded in their bones and sinews. And in this we’re all complicit. Some of this is true, as the voting rights bills suggest, and it behooves us to find the truth in all the shouting around us.

But the excesses—the shaming, the demonization, the self-abasement, the rush to judgment in every act, the drive to efface the past—often make me despair of the whole enterprise of antiracism, at least as conducted according to the Tenets of Critical Race Theory. It’s not so easy to separate the genuine inequalities that need to be fixed with the cries of the “progressive” left that we need to tear down the whole system and hand over political power to them.

But we can pretty much brush off extreme cases of self-abasement, so common in university “declarations” like the following. Harvard’s Medical School has a Program in Global Surgery and Social Change, and its goals are admirable: to extend what progress the “first world” countries have made in surgery to what they now call “the global South”: those countries with lower standards of living and insufficient medical care. Here are the program’s goals:

The Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) is a collaborative effort between Harvard Teaching Hospitals, the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital and Partners In Health (PIH).

Our strategy is two-fold:

  1. Global surgical systems strengthening through Research, Advocacy, and Implementation Science, using the framework of the Lancet Commission on global surgery. You can learn more about the Lancet Commission on global surgery on the PGSSC Resources page.
  2.  To produce leaders in Global Surgical and Health Systems through Research, Advocacy, and Care Delivery. Through the Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellowships and research associate positions, it aims to empower surgeons, surgical trainees and medical students around the world with the skills they need to improve the health of some of the world’s most impoverished people.

That is all well and good, but then the Program got mixed up in the anti-racism business, and in a pretty strident way, and issued this statement, which I reproduce only in part.

Racism murders. Racism destroys. Racism dehumanizes. We live in a racist world and all play active and passive roles in perpetuating racism: the system of prejudice and discrimination based on the ambiguous social construct of race backed by unequal and unjust power dynamics. Racism is inherent to every aspect of our lives; it is woven into the fabric of society and consequently its effects interface with our work as the research associates, fellows, and faculty at the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change. Therefore, the absence of conspicuous racist actions is not enough. We must be actively anti-racist. We absolutely, unapologetically denounce our wretched racist system and its proponents without exception.

Racism systemically places higher value and opportunity in the hands of a specific race, and as a direct consequence disadvantages another racial group. It is this benefiting of one group to the detriment of another that has led us to focus on anti-racism. The work of antiracism is allied to that of anti-discrimination and the evaluation of inequities based on gender, sexual orientation, caste, religion, ability, tribal affiliation or socioeconomic status. However, given the distinct relationship of racism, colonialism, and global health, we in the global health community have a moral imperative to shine a bright light specifically on racism within our sphere.

Racism is inherently linked with colonialism. Our work in global health is rooted in colonialism, which provided power to white Europeans through subjugation and exploitation of others. Colonialism subsequently allowed for the creation of the construct of race to justify the dehumanization of those the colonizers exploited. This practice has lived on in global health through the racist belief that those same colonial powers possess medical knowledge that is superior to that of the cultures they denigrated. Consequently, global health is built on a foundation that, at its core, is antithetical to the principle of shared human dignity and respect. Affirming our commitment to anti-racism also affirms our commitment to being anti-colonial.

Academic institutions in high income countries are complicit in and the product of centuries of historic institutional colonialism and racism with over-representation of white voices that are heard on a global scale. We interact with a diverse group of international partners, but cannot truly be equitable partners until we acknowledge and address the place of power and privilege from which we operate.

Here we see the familiar denouncement of racism (seriously, is there any rational person who doesn’t already denounce it?), the chest-beating and self-abasement, and the accusations that all of us are complicit in perpetuating systemic racism. And, like Ibram Kendi, it argues that it’s not enough to refrain from being racist, but we must all actively work, and work in a certain way, to be “antiracists”. Whoever is not antiracist, says Kendi, is racist. It is as if there is only one issue in the world on which we should be working.

Now eliminating global inequality in medical care is an excellent goal, but I fail to see how these kinds of statements will help solve the problem. What we need is the kind of recognition of moral deserts that got Dr. King and his associates the civil rights laws they sought. Why shouldn’t we be helping others who are human and suffer in ways we understand? What we get instead is annoying hectoring, coupled with the strange declaration that promoting global health in Harvard’s way is racist because the practice of medicine in First World Countries is more advanced than in underdeveloped countries. (The fellowships given out by Harvard’s programs are, after all, spent learning at Harvard.)  I call your attention to goal #2 of the program given above:

To produce leaders in Global Surgical and Health Systems through Research, Advocacy, and Care Delivery. Through the Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellowships and research associate positions, it aims to empower surgeons, surgical trainees and medical students around the world with the skills they need to improve the health of some of the world’s most impoverished people.

This is the exportation of Harvard-style medicine to other countries. Isn’t that the conscious promulgation of “superior medical knowledge”?

This is, of course, a species of medical colonization, for who determines what skills medical workers in poorer countries need? It’s not colonization in the sense of taking advantage of poorer nations, but it’s colonization in the sense of believing that one indeed has “medical knowledge superior to that of the countries they  [once] denigrated.”

There’s a lot more, as well as three subsections swearing what Harvard will do to promote antiracism in various areas, including “People,” “Culture”, and “Civic Engagement”, which itself has two sub-subsections, “Academia” and “Economic Injustice”.  Here’s the Academia part.  I reproduce it because I think it’s misleading about the degree of racism in academia, at least in my experience:

AcademiaWe acknowledge the role that academia plays in perpetuating structural racism. Academic excellence requires equity, yet despite statements denouncing prejudice, many academic systems are fraught with biases. Notably, it is often Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are expected to be, and inevitably are, the most engaged in issues of structural racism in academia. This engagement results in activities and efforts leading “diversity, equity and inclusion” initiatives that are not traditionally valued in academic promotion criteria. This reality highlights the need for a paradigm shift in two ways – who shoulders anti-racism efforts, and how anti-racism work is valued and supported institutionally to ensure that personal and professional goals are being met. We will engage in the broader academic system, outside of our specific purview of global health, to catalyze meaningful change in the culture of academia.

Anybody familiar with academia will sense the tension in this statement.  And I’ll finish by adding that inequities (differential representation of groups) in academia does not constitute prima facie evidence for structural racism present in academia now.

McWhorter: Excerpt 6 from “The Elect”

March 31, 2021 • 12:30 pm

John McWhorter’s published the sixth installment of his upcoming book, The Elect, and you can read it free on Substack by clicking on the link below. But do consider subscribing.

This section is about the recent saturation of America with the history of slavery and its sequelae, which, McWhorter maintains, is just an intensification of what most people knew for several decades. He cites the popular t.v. series “Roots”, the movies “Django Unchained,” “12 Years a Slave,” and various books and museum exchibitions, though it’s clear that the pressing of slavery upon us has been intensified since the death of George Floyd. But the existence and horrors of slavery are not a secret, nor was the slaveholding of people like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

A couple of excerpts:

Ta-Nehisi Coates urges “the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage.” But this is the divorcé who can’t stand seeing his ex have a good time. To tar today’s America as insufficiently aware of slavery is more about smugness and noble victimhood than forging something new and needed.

To wit: is there any degree of saturation that slavery could reach into the American consciousness that would satisfy The Elect, such that they would allow that a battle had been won?

Yes, a degree of saturation that would mandate reparations for African-Americans, like the ones just enacted in Evanston, Illinois. But we’ll talk about that on another day.

To hope that every American – white everyman in South Dakota, Indian-American Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Korean immigrant grandma, American-born Latina hospice care supervisor, daughter of Bosnian immigrants working on her social work degree, Republican councilwoman in Texas – will be wincing thinking about plantations while biting into their Independence Day weenie, even in a metaphorical sense, is utterly pointless. Pointless in that it will never happen, and pointless in that it doesn’t need to.

I can guarantee that psychologically, black America does not need their fellow countrymen to be quite that sensitized. A poll would reveal it instantly, as would just asking some black people other than the Elect ones, and the reader likely readily senses that. I can also guarantee that profound social change can happen without the entire populace being junior scholars about racist injustice. Such change has been happening worldwide for several centuries.

But Elect ideology requires you to classify what I just wrote as blasphemy, and claim endlessly that slavery is a big secret in America. . .To be Elect is to insist that America hushes up slavery. This is a falsehood. It endlessly distracts minds that would be better put to addressing real problems.

McWhorter goes on to say that he has no objection to removing statues and honorifics from Confederates or even from racist notables like Woodrow Wilson, but he draws the line at people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He highlights the problems, which many of us have pondered, with damning figures of the past by the moral standards of the present, and gives two examples:

In the future, being pro-choice may be deemed immoral. The celebration of any conglomeration of cells chemically set to become a Homo sapiens as “a person” may spread to intellectuals of influence and become as intelligentsia-chic as Electness is now. How do we feel about people of 2100 advocating that educators not celebrate the achievements of people in 2020 because they were not opposed to abortion?

Or, why are today’s Elect not roasting Barack Obama for his only having espoused gay marriage via “evolving”? Note that we are only to pretend not to understand history and circumstance when the figures are white.

. . . Obama was dissimulating as a thoroughly sensible political feint, and The Elect pardon Obama for it, allowing an “evolution” of a kind that could never rehabilitate other figures in their minds – i.e. Washington freeing his slaves. Apparently Obama’s (supposed) homophobia was okay because he is “intersectional” – as in, because his brown skin placed him under the thumb of white hegemony, it’s okay that he was homopho … but see? There is no logic here.

I’ll give one more excerpt and then pass on; there’s a lot more to read in the piece, including a thoughtful discussion of how Critical Race Theory and anti-racism affects people’s view of their “identity”, and why there are so few books by black writers that aren’t about race.  But I have tacos to eat, and miles to go before I scarf.

To be Elect is to insist that figures in the past might as well be living now, and that they thus merit the judgments we level upon present-day people, who inhabit a context unknown to those who lived before. As many kids would spontaneously understand, this is false. As to whether adults know something they don’t, I suggest trying to explain to a fifth-grader the case for yanking down the Lincoln Memorial.

To the extent that no one would look forward to having to kabuki their way through that, we know that this witch-hunting against long-dead persons is a distraction from doing real things for people who need help here in the present.

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.

 

The rush to judgment in Atlanta

March 19, 2021 • 1:30 pm

Everybody knows that Robert Aaron Long killed 8 people in Atlanta on Tuesday, 6 of them Asian women who worked at two spas. He apparently was on his way to Florida to engage in more murders, but was fortunately caught by the cops before he could kill again. As far as we know, he wasn’t motivated to kill by hatred of Asians (see below), but it’s early days.  We also know that there are reports that genuine hate crimes against Asians have increased dramatically, said to be a form of “retribution” for the coronavirus.

In this climate, people are already characterizing the Atlanta shooting as a hate crime, even though there’s evidence that if there was hate involved, it wasn’t against a “protected group” per se, but towards women at spas whom Long paid for sex. If this is the case, the murders were not attributable to the victims being Asian per se, but to their involvement in Long’s violating his strict religious upbringing and church membership, which forbad extramarital sex.  Long had reportedly been treated for sex addiction, and, at least to the cops, said he was trying to “eliminate the temptation.”  (If this is true, it would be a case of “religion poisoning everything”, since the killing would likely not have taken place without those prohibitions).  Under Georgia law, this probably wouldn’t be a hate crime, though of course sex addiction is NOT an excuse for mass murder! What’s at issue here is whether Long was motivated by anti-Asian bias or by a twisted cognitive dissonance caused by religion and sex—or both, or something else.

As I said earlier, it seems that many people are eager to cast this as a hate crime. I’m not going to engage in psychologizing about this because that leads one down some unsavory roads. But let me say that HuffPost, at least, has managed to cast Long’s visit to Asian spas as a form of racism (see article below)—even if he wasn’t biased against Asians. (He was “fetishizing Asian women”.) But it’s not clear whether Long even did fetishize Asian women or had sex with them because they were the only ones available at spas (perhaps he abjured prostitutes working the streets).

On the NBC Evening News the night before last, they interviewed an Asian woman, and asked her, as I recall, how she knew that the crime was based on bias when there was no hard evidence for that yet. She replied that it was based on “unconscious bias” that is part of systemic racism. In other words, she claimed that a hate crime was committed when the perpetrator didn’t even know he was motivated by hatred—but she apparently did!

These are not helpful claims, since all we know so far is what Long told police and what his friends say about his religious commitment.  It’s way too early to judge this as a hate crime, much less to send out alarms about a mass murder based on anti-Asian bigotry. If that’s not the case, it’s not helpful to scare people unnecessarily.

Here are the questions I asked about this, but haven’t yet answered and probably won’t. I’ll wait for the news to answer them for me (if they ever will!).

A. Is there really an increase in the proportion of hate crimes against Asians? We know that assaults and murders of Asians have increased, but have they increased disproportionately to similar crimes committed on non-Asians? As we all know, there’s been a huge increase in violent crime, including homicide, during the pandemic. I have seen no data on the proportionality in the news, though I’m prepared to believe whatever the data say.

B. What is the racial makeup of those who attack Asians? Long is white, but we’re not sure what his motivations were. I know that some of those who have killed or assaulted Asians are Black, but it’s actually surprisingly hard to find data on this. For several reasons, though, one wants to know who, exactly, is attacking Asians. The most important is that the attacks are said by some to be motivated by “White supremacy.” Yet if most of the crimes are committed by people of color, you can’t make that claim. Further, there’s a well-known animus against Asians among many poor Blacks, for the same reason that many blacks disliked Jews—they were merchants in underserved communities and thus were perceived as exploiting people of color.

C. If there is an increase in the proportion of assaults on Asians, is it because they are Asian per se, or because they are perceived to have money and property? But I am not sure if this question is relevant to the issue of a “hate crime”, and I don’t know how one could answer it except by taking the word of a criminal.

By the way, if you know the answers to questions A and B, by all means weigh in below.

Finally, and this isn’t related to the above but did strike me: are Asian women disproportionately concentrated in sex work in spas? This seems to be the conventional wisdom, but I don’t know the data. But if it’s true, I’d like to know why. Are they driven to this by poverty, is there really a fetishization of Asian women that would cause this, or is it some custom based on where immigrant Asians have found work, perhaps based on those women being exploited?

My point is not, of course, to excuse the accused killer, but to argue that we shouldn’t rush to judgment about why he killed—especially when the evidence we do have does not point towards bigotry. That knowledge is useful in judging the extent of bigotry-based crime, which is the first step in trying to stop it. It’s also important in making sure that we don’t unnecessarily escalate fears, making those of foreign descent feel extra scared or unwelcome.

_____________________

UPDATE: Here’s some data from 2018 on the proportion of different groups who were subject to violent crime, and the ethnicities of the criminal. These were tweeted by Wilfred Reilly. Now the data are three years old, and don’t reflect the uptick in crimes on Asians that’s said to have occurred. At least back then, Asians were not predominantly assaulted by Whites, but Whites, Blacks, and other Asians assaulted Asians with roughly equal frequency.  (h/t: Luana)

In 2019, the total population percentage of these groups from Census statistics were:

White: 76.3%
Black: 13.4%
Hispanic: 18.5%
Asian:  5.9%

 

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. . .