There is a nobility in Cervantes’ Don Quixote’s quest to tilt at windmills despite the fact that we know he’s nuts and won’t win. It’s romantic to fight for a lost cause in the name of morality.
For the rest of his life, Unamuno urged his fellow Spaniards to practice quixotism, which meant adopting the moral courage necessary to fight for lost causes without caring what the world thinks. Today, when much of society and politics — both in and outside the United States — looks like a lost cause to a great number of people, we might do well to consider Quixote’s brand of lunacy.
There is an obvious flaw to the exhortation: morality is a highly subjective goal. Both sides of the same fight believe in the morality of their cause, and both may be right. They just don’t agree. That’s why claims of morality may be heartwarming, “without caring what the world thinks,” but unavailing as a metric for policymaking.
Following the outrage at Evergreen State College over whether Professor Bret Weinstein wasn’t social justice-y enough, the kids met with their dean. It produced some heated words that made the confrontation with Weinstein seem remarkably less delusional.
The meeting produced some screams, and ensuing applause, that raise an eyebrow or two.
- “FUCK YOU, AND FUCK THE POLICE!”
- “Whiteness is the most violent fuckin’ system to ever breathe!”
- “I’m tired of white people talking about what black and brown people need.”
- “These white-ass faculty members need to be holding HIM, and HIM, and ALL these people accountable!”
- “FUCK YOU [President] GEORGE [Bridges], we don’t wanna listen to a GODDAMN thing you have to say! No, you shut the fuck up!”
- “I’m tellin’ you, you’re speakin’ to your ancestor, all right? We been here before you. We built these cities, we had civilization way before you ever had … comin’ out your caves.”
- “You have the fucking nerve to, like, fucking dehumanize our (unintelligible)!”
What the police have to do with this is unclear, but themes appear through the rest of these outtakes. Aside from incomprehensibility, the focus is on the evil of whiteness. As reflected in the bastardized Herzberg theory, there is a difference between eliminating the detriment of racial prejudice and providing a benefit to a minority at the expense of the majority. It’s no sin to be black. Is it a sin to be white?
Now comes a friend from the left coast who has forwarded to me a May 17 invitation to the faculty from The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness at San Jose State University to participate in an eight-week re-education exercise professional development program on “Whiteness and Race.”
This eight-week indoctrination “professional development series,” the invitation states, “offers the opportunity for SJSU white-identified faculty to build their racial literacy through participation in a seminar focused on whiteness, white racial identities, white racism, and anti-racist practice.” Whiteness, the program description helpfully explains, “refers to hegemonic racial power that privileges white groups while subordinating racialized ‘others.’”
Still not clear about “whiteness”? Never fear, there’s more: “As an identity and performance, it is a position of racial privilege, a standpoint perspective, and a set of cultural practices that often remain unmarked. As an ideological and institutional structure, it is a complex web of discourses and processes that sustain racial domination.”
Colleges now have courses, often mandatory, for incoming students in cultural literacy. Some just require new students to sit through a lecture or video about getting along with others. Some require a full course to teach students . . . it’s unclear what they teach them, though many leave the course with extraordinary skills at using empty jargon, which is now called “critical thinking” even though it’s neither critical nor thinking.
Murray’s description of her course spans two separate aspects of “racial literacy,” white privilege and “subordinating racialized ‘others.’” The latter appears to address the detriment imposed on minorities (forgive me for not using “racialized others,” but I’ve never been adequately jargonized). Whether it’s worthy of eight weeks of indoctrination is a separate queston, but that academics should not oppress minorities doesn’t seem particularly controversial. Until, that is, the other aspect is introduced.
There is much to discuss about eliminating racism in society. Blacks aren’t all presumptively criminals, and thus worthy of being killed just in case, for example. But the flip side of Susan Murray’s indoctrination is Bret Weinstein’s effort to question whether apartheid is the answer. Or Paul Griffiths‘.
Calling it a “waste” and objecting to the “exhortation,” Griffith predicted “with confidence” that it would be “intellectually flaccid,” filled with “bromides, cliches, and amen-corner rah-rahs.” If it gets beyond that, he added, “its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual.”
What made their views unacceptable is that they were white men. As a student at Evergreen exclaimed, “Whiteness is the most violent fuckin’ system to ever breathe!” This view might be a bit overwrought.
If the goal is to end racial prejudice, to stop assumptions about minorities that end in their death at the wrong end of a cop’s gun, then this isn’t going to serve that purpose. Going beyond the detriment suffered as a result of prejudice to hating people for their skin color, pale though it may be, is tilting at windmills. When anyone raising questions about the moral quest for hegemony or harmony becomes the target of outrage, there is no hope of a solution.
It’s impossible to say what constitutes racism today in the hearts of angry young people. It’s very clear, however, that they are intolerant of any discussion about it where the majority offers a view, even if it’s supportive of the cause of eradicating the detriment suffered by minorities. Not only is this not becoming obvious to the students and their teachers, but it’s becoming increasingly impossible to discuss.
If it can’t be honestly and fruitfully discussed, then the only thing left to do is tilt at windmills, and hope the windmills don’t tilt back. It may fill some with the belief they possess moral courage, but they are delusional.