Social Justice? The Slippery Slope: From Awareness to Sensitivity to Guilt to Shame to Segregation

I'm ringing my bell again. I don't write to be a cynic or bearer of bad tidings. Still, I write with a sense of duty: To speak my truth, to promote peace, and to testify. I hope to achieve this, in part, by lighting dark corners of oppression and tyranny. 

Life is easier when I stay silent; but life is not better:





Living as a silent observer is not my life's calling. Or yours. So, if you're interested, read on. 

The social justice warriors on the progressive left live by this creed:




I, too, must stand, speak, and act. I write this post because 2016 has seen a sad proliferation of divisiveness and creeping segregationist policies in academia and on college campuses. And academia's influence on young people ultimately influences our society.

A very troubling event happened a few days ago at the University of California Berkeley. This university is 50 miles north of where I teach at San Jose State University. As a life-long resident in the Bay Area, I have watched UC Berkeley's activism for many years. Its reputation for student activism was birthed in the 1960's Free Speech Movement and in their protests against the Viet Nam War. Deserved or not, Berkeley was eventually nicknamed "Berserkely" because of its "anything goes" form of free expression. 

Oh, how the times have changed.

"Colored Only. No Whites Allowed"

Segregation is making a comeback. Today's Berkeley activists fight for opposite outcomes than that of their grandparents. In their demands for segregated "safe spaces for people of color," student protestors formed a human blockade in attempts to prevent white students access through the main gate. The video below is disheartening. Please be warned of the language:


https://milo.yiannopoulos.net/2016/10/sjw-human-wall-block-white-students/






Anti-racism in the form of segregation continues to gain traction. Segregated "safe spaces" are becoming the new norm on many college campuses because white students are emotionally "triggering" to students of color. UC Berkeley now offers self-segregated housing for African-Americans as well as other racial minorities. Meanwhile, students at UC Los Angeles have requested an "Afro-house" residence for black students while Louisiana State also offers segregated college dorms. For further information, you can access the Black Liberation Collective website and a few other articles on campus segregation. The hoodie pictured below was designed by an African-American college student and is actively marketed to fellow students.  


http://www.blackliberationcollective.org

http://www.dailywire.com/news/8259/poc-only-college-students-now-openly-refusing-live-james-barrett#

http://claremontindependent.com/safe-spaces-segregate-the-claremont-colleges/

http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/universities-are-embracing-segregation-again-just-dont-call-it-segregation

http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2015/12/what-do-we-do-about-self-segregation-on-campus-contd/418425/.








Furthermore, according to the Daily Wire, many students at Claremont College are celebrating segregation:

This idea was encouraged by a female Latina student, who said on Facebook that anyone looking for a roommate should contact her---but not any white people. The roommate invitation, she made clear, was 'POC (People of Color) only,' explaining, 'I don't want to live with any white folks.' When the post was called out by a fellow student for its clear racism, a female member of the Pitzer Latino Student Union employed the go-to leftist microaggression rhetoric, arguing that minorities are 'allowed' to exclude white people as a means of 'self-preservation. People of color are allowed to create safe POC only spaces,' she wrote. It is not reverse racism or discriminatory, it is self preservation. Reverse racism isn't a thing.'

Other students echoed her feelings:


...two resident assistants eventually got into the debate to defend anti-white safe spaces. One of the RA's, a Black Student Union member, wrote, 'White people have cause [sic] so much m-f--- trauma on these campuses....why in the world would I want to live with that? Bring that into my home? A place that is supposed to be safe for me?' The other RA, an Africana Studies major, blamed white people for creating a 'toxic environment' that requires minorities to 'protect themselves.' Here the post ends with the RA shutting down any further 'dialogue' on the issue: 'White people always mad when they don't feel included but at the end of the day y'all are damaging...and if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN!'' (Barrett, "POC Only: College Students Now Openly Refusing to Live With White People," 2016). 





How Did We Get Here? From Healthy Activism to Zealotry. From Opinion to Orthodoxy. From Secular to Sacred.

In previous posts, I have written about academia's increasing zealotry and sectarianism regarding its social justice and progressive ideology. Political correctness, hate speech, microaggressions, safe spaces, segregated spaces for students of color, cultural appropriation, colonialism, and white privilege are all terms that have been seeded, incubated, embedded, and normalized in institutions of higher learning. This doctrine is also spreading to lower education. The rising power of identity politics coupled with intimidation tactics used by social justice warriors have created a culture of offense and fear on university and college campuses. 


Joanna Williams, Education Editor of Spike, helps to explain this new anti-racism activism:


Today, identity politics is so dominant that talk of expanding universalism [inclusivity] appears hopelessly old-fashioned. The current generation of students scorn the notion of equality because they believe people only have interests in common with others who, at the most basic level, look like them. It is assumed that people with different skin color, gender or sexuality experience the world in a qualitatively different way, and can neither speak about, nor on behalf of, each other. Worse, different groups of people are pitched against each other, as if the very existence of some groups, particularly white straight men, is a source of oppression. The pervasive influence of identity encourages students to focus relentlessly on who they are. For all the appeals to radicalism, there is an assumption---evident in asking university applicants to check a box about their sexuality and select accommodation preferences accordingly---that as a 17-year-old is fixed. This conservative obsession with who you are, rather than what you might become, precludes experimentation. In both the U.S. and Britain, the demand for segregated accommodation is the logical outcome of identity politics meeting a campus cult of wellbeing that labels nearly all students as vulnerable and in need of protection. Segregated housing provides the ultimate retreat from campus life, a Safe Space away from people who are different to you' (The New Segregation on Campus, May 24, 2016).






I have also written about academia's religiosity and zealot-like fervor despite its insistence on all things science and secular. Due to academia's well-meaning but hyper-sensitivity toward marginalized groups, it has created its own godhead of racism, sexism, and trans-isms while shaming and "excommunicating" anyone who doesn't conform or show sufficient respect to its assigned idols.




Writer, Leonard Blair, in his article "This New Religion Is Causing an Existential Crisis at American Colleges and Universities," echoes my own concerns:

There's a new religion of fundamental social justice sweeping across college campuses is so alarming, intense, and dripping with such extreme liberal fundamentalism, it has created an existential crisis for American academia while punishing heretics with public shame. Says, Professor Jonathan Haidt of NYU, 'They are prosecuting blasphemy,' and he described how fundamental social justice is rapidly limiting free speech by cultivating 'sacred spaces' for issues supported by increasingly fragile students. 'Humans...are really good at making something sacred. Maybe it's a rock, tree...book, a person,' he said. 'We make something sacred, we worship it, circle around it, often literally circling... When you do that, you bind yourself together, you trust each other, you have a shared sacred object and you go forth into battle. When social issues like racism or sexism are treated as sacred,' he says, it becomes difficult to have honest conversations about them. So that's the basic psychology and as religion itself has been retreating and kids are raised in a more secular environment, then what takes the place of that? There are lots of sacred spaces. Fighting racism, a very, very good thing to do, but when you come to sacred principles, sacred, this means no tradeoffs. There is no nuance, you cannot trade off any other goods with it. So if you organize around fighting racism, fighting homophobia, fighting sexism, again all good things, but when they become sacred, when they become essentially objects of worship, fundamentalist religion, then when someone comes to class, someone comes to your campus, and they say the rape culture is exaggerated, they have committed blasphemy. They (many liberals) are really alarmed by what's happening. The illiberal left against the liberal left. It is this illiberalism on campus that has given rise to protest groups...and no one can say no to them. 


Below is a link to the rest of the article:
"We make something sacred, we worship it, circle around it, often literally circling. … When you do that, you bind yourself together, you trust each other, you have a shared sacred object and you go forth into battle," Haidt said.
When social issues like racism or sexism are treated as sacred, he says, it becomes difficult to have honest conversations about them.
"So if that's the basic psychology and as religion itself has been retreating and kids are raised in a more secular environment, then what takes the place of that? There are lots of sacred spaces. Fighting racism, a very, very good thing to do, but when you come to sacred principles, sacred, this means no tradeoffs," Haidt said.
"There is no nuance, you cannot trade off any other goods with it. So if you organize around fighting racism, fighting homophobia, fighting sexism, again all good things, but when they become sacred, when they become essentially objects of worship, fundamentalist religion, then when someone comes to class, someone comes to your campus, and they say the rape culture is exaggerated, they have committed blasphemy," he said.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/new-religion-causing-existential-crisis-american-colleges-nyu-prof-says-164502/#11gUdVPAH45YHP5m.9





This type of religiosity has become so orthodox that a politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars have formed a group called Heterodox Academy. Their website discusses the growing problem in regard to the lack of viewpoint diversity: "When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged." For more information, below is a link to their website:



Heterodox Academy shares my concern regarding academia's new religion. Scholar Chris Martin wrote an article entitled "The New Religion of Anti-Racism Can Turn Disagreement into Heresy." He quotes scholar John McWhorter who "noted the resemblance between religious fervor and anti-racist activism":

The new religion...is antiracism. Of course, most consider antiracism a position, or evidence of morality. However, in 2015, among educated Americans especially, Antiracism---it seriously merits capitalization at this point---is now what any naiive, unbiased anthropologist would describe as a new and increasingly dominant religion. It is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus and, among most Blue State Americans, more so.



Dr. Martin continues: 


One of the rituals of this quasi-religion is the acknowledgment of white privilege. It was demanded of the University of Missouri president. As McWhorter explains, 'The Antiracism religion, then, has clergy, creed, and also even a conception of Original Sin. Note the current idea that the enlightened white person is to, I assume regularly (ritually?), acknowledge that they possess White Privilege. Classes, seminars, teach-ins are devoted to making Whites understand their need for this.' Passionate beliefs on racial issues have created wicked polarization, with academics clustered at one pole. It also challenges university administrators, who have to deal with the fact that any push back against minority demands can seem sacrilegious to some. This is unfortunate because minority students can demand policies that might diminish the likelihood of inter-race contact and increase feelings of exclusion and permanent victimhood. The line between good passion and scary religious fervor can be blurry.... Real people are having real problems, and educated white America has been taught that what we need from them is willfully incurious, self-flagellating piety, of a kind that has helped no group in human history.... Can we make antiracism a negotiable issue instead of a sacred one on college campuses....where grievances can be aired, but where administrators do not fear a religious counter-reaction when they treat demands as negotiable rather than sacred.'"


For the full article (and similar articles and video) see the link below:


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/27/antiracism-our-flawed-new-religion.html

http://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/12/10/john-mcwhorter-joins-heterodox-academy/














We have reached a crisis point in education. If academia's Social Sciences and Humanities don't clean their own houses very soon using the disinfectant of intellectual diversity and free speech, these institutions are in danger of losing credibility---along with the ability to truly educate rather than propagate extremism and divisiveness. Additionally, academia is a microcosm that parallels this historical and troubling election year; we can all agree that our country has also reached a tipping point.


Where Do We Go From Here? The Power of Humility

Happy Halloween. We've decided she's the wicked witch. So, let's go on a witch hunt:

I don't know how to solve our problems. 

But knowledge is power. And that's a start. Hence, my posts to the public. 

I admire former Yale professor, Erika Christakis. Even more, I admire her sincerity and humility.





Several months ago, I wrote a post about Erika Christakis and her husband, Nicholas. They both taught at Yale and served as "associate masters" of Silliman College. On October of last year, Erika sent an email to students regarding Halloween costumes. She encouraged creativity and critical thinking rather than knee-jerk offenses over potentially offensive costumes. Below is the email:

https://www.thefire.org/email-from-erika-christakis-dressing-yourselves-email-to-silliman-college-yale-students-on-halloween-costumes/

Below are some student responses. In the video below they are confronting her husband as he defends his wife. (Be warned of the language.)


Both professors were forced to resign their positions at Silliman Hall. And they were both forced out of their faculty positions. 

Now, a year later, Erika Christakis has broken her silence since her resignation. She wrote a painful and poignant piece today in The Washington Post:


The right to speak freely may be enshrined in some of our nation's great universities, but the culture of listening needs repair. That is the lesson I learned a year ago, when I sent an email urging Yale University students to think critically about an official set of guidelines on costumes to avoid at Halloween. I had hoped to generate a reflective conversation among students: What happens when one person's offense is another person's pride? Should a costume-wearer's intent or context matter? Can we always tell the difference between a mocking costume and one that satirizes ignorance? In what circumstances should we allow---or punish---youthful transgression? 


She continues by outlining the devastating consequences from students and colleagues who ostracized her:

Nearly a thousand students, faculty and deans called for my and my husband's immediate removal from our jobs and campus home. Some demanded not only apologies for any unintended racial insensitivity (which we gladly offered) but also a complete disavowal of my ideas (which we did not)---as well as advance warning of my appearances in the dining hall so that students accusing me of fostering violence wouldn't be disturbed by the sight of me. Not everyone bought this narrative, but few spoke up. And who can blame them? Numerous professors, including those at Yale's top-rated law school, contacted us personally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously supported us publicly were admonished by colleagues for vouching for our characters. Many students confidentially spoke to us to describe intimidation and accusations of being a 'race traitor' when they deviated from the ascendant campus account that I had grievously injured the community.


She concludes with this humble but dire warning:

One professor I admire claimed my lone email was so threatening that it unraveled decades of her work supporting students of color. ONE EMAIL. In this unhealthy climate, of which I've detailed only a fraction of the episodes, it's unsurprising that our own attempts at emotional repair fell flat.I didn't leave a rewarding job and campus home on a whim. But I lost confidence that I could continue to teach about vulnerable children in an environment where full discussion of certain topics---such as absent fathers---has become almost taboo. My fear is that students will eventually give up trying to engage each other, a development that will echo in our wider culture for decades. My critics have reminded me that there are consequences to my exercise of free speech. Now it's Yale's turn to examine the consequences of its own stance: the shadow on its magnificent motto, 'Light and truth' ("My Halloween email led to a campus firestorm - and a troubling lesson about self-censorship," The Washington Post, October 28, 2016).

Can we call this terrible obliteration of two human beings for what it really is?

Hysteria.
Fanaticism.
Frenzy.
Madness.
Shunning.
Fascism.
Zealotry.
Hypocrisy.
Condemnation.
Persecution.
Shaming.
Bullying.
Dehumanizing.
Inexcusable.
Abuse.
Deplorable.

No one should have to endure such ostracism in any form. 

I will stand up. I will speak up. I will act. 

I will respond to incivility with civil dialogue and reasoning.

I will respond to contention with peacemaking (not peace-keeping).

I will stand up against oppression with appeals to replace forced compliance with choice, accountability, and free agency. 






I've come to truly understand how Nazism took hold of Europe. Nazi racism terrorized people. Their fear of Nazis caused ordinarily decent people to tolerate the intolerable. Today, we increasingly see the same principle, but on the other side of the same racist coin. Zealots and their antiracist dogma are causing ordinarily decent people to tolerate the intolerable. (Europe and Canada have increasingly restrictive strict speech codes due to Antiracism.) Furthermore, I can see the parallels to the Old Testament's Daniel who was thrown into the lions den because he refused to worship another's "idols." History continues to repeat itself. Once again, zealots would have us worship their human-created idols. And once again, people are too afraid to stand up. To speak up. And to act.

We have been conditioned for the last 20 years to believe that kindness and compassion equates to peace-keeping and self-censorship. Jesus Christ was compassionate and kind. He was also pointed, firm, and unafraid to confront and rebuke various brands of hypocrisy, tyranny, and oppression when He encountered it.

We live in a time where our silence is no longer an option. We need to speak out against any form of tyranny and defend others who are bullied and intimidated. It's scary. It's unsettling. It's risky. But to watch silently from the sidelines is not an option for me anymore.

Here's to civilly and courageously sounding our own trumps, 

Julie


No comments