White Windmills

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.

  • “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?

According to the other Murray, Susan Murray, as well as the kidz at Evergreen, it is, indeed, and it compels re-education.

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.

20 thoughts on “White Windmills

  1. wilbur

    I’d never heard of Evergreen State College before the other day. The opening statement on their website is “Evergreen is a progressive, public liberal arts and sciences college located in Olympia, Washington, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.” I didn’t need to read any more.

    If that sounds flippant to you, you’re right. So I read on. Interestingly, President George Bridges has posted a statement on their website which includes:
    “Over the week, a few members of the Evergreen community have used traditional and social media to malign, mock, or misrepresent those with whom they disagree.
    While the majority of students, faculty, and staff are fully engaged in the teaching and learning work of the college, a few are on a destructive course of action that hurts themselves and gives a distorted and false impression of our community.
    This behavior is wrong and must stop. It does not represent us, and we will not allow it to define us. ”

    So when they kick these individuals out of “the Evergreen community” I’ll begin to believe he means what he says.

    1. SHG Post author

      If only they didn’t catch it on video. Kinda like the cops before vid, when no one was ever tuned up for the fun of it.

    2. Sol Wisenberg

      “So when they kick these individuals out of ‘the Evergreen community’ I’ll begin to believe he means what he says.”

      Wilbur apparently assumes that, in speaking of “the few…on a destructive course of action,” the Dean is referring to the protesters. After reading Weinstein’s Op-Ed in today’s WSJ, I think he is referring to Weinstein and company.

  2. rsf

    I wish that these “protesters” would have their names associated with their conduct. When they started looking for employment and realized that their prospective employers were googling them and finding this nonsense we might see some behavioral changes. On second thought, they would probably just repeat their conduct and rail against the evil employers.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s tempting to dox the lil darlings, but bear in mind that they’re still children. Children do foolish things.

      1. phv3773

        Anger obliterates reason. It’s not that they are thinking incorrectly, it’s that they are not thinking at all. With luck, at least a few will realize that to change the world, they have to channel their energy into something more productive than yelling at a dean.

        1. SHG Post author

          Yelling at a dean is easy (especially when he incentivizes it). Being effective is hard. They aren’t ready for hard. They may never be.

      2. rsf

        That’s a fair point. Also, a substantial portion of the blame for their conduct lays at the feet of those who have encouraged and enabled this behavior. These children have been mislead and taught to act in a fashion that is counter-productive to a functioning existence in a society. The problem I have is that I don’t know how to teach them that these actions are unacceptable, and that their actions have consequences, without some authority figure (parents/teachers/dean/etc.) imposing such consequences. What to do about snowflake syndrome?

        1. SHG Post author

          We all do what we can, bearing in mind that they’re not evil but ignorant and indoctrinated. One of the reasons I expend as much effort as I do on academics (particularly to note how they may ultimately be devoured by their own creations) is to try to make them consider the realist consequences of their Utopian endeavors.

          If they “get it,” perhaps they will use their good offices to infuse some thought into the kids. Then again, the few profs who have tried have been burned at the stake for their efforts. The least we can do is lend them a hand and appreciate their efforts.

          We may not be successful, as with Don Quixote, but still we try.

  3. B. McLeod

    Time for a few dozen expulsions, I would say. Leaving aside the stupidity of trying to address perceived racism with more racism, the students need to learn that their “progressive” crusade cannot (or at least should not) be allowed to disrupt the college’s primary, educational mission.

          1. B. McLeod

            Football’s still the roughest thing on campus, and the kids there still respect the college dean.

  4. Patrick Maupin

    They’re trying this Orwellian stuff in France, too. A black-women-only festival was announced, the Paris mayor explained that’s racist, and then “Social media users slam mayor’s call for a ban as attempt to prevent black feminists from organising against racism.”

    1. SHG Post author

      Why do you white cis-het males not get it? Black women are marginalized, so they can’t be racist and can only be victims of this misogynist racist mayor.

  5. Frank Miceli

    We’re too tolerant. What they’re doing is wrong. Unopposed, they think it’s right. Hence it spreads, undermining education.. There are good lessons for us from the 60’s. Example: Fr. Hesburgh at Notre Dame spoke publicly against the war. But at a certain point he concluded that what was being accepted as legitimate protest violated the integrity of the University. In a letter to the entire campus community he spelled out his 15 minute rule. Coercive or physically threatening protestors would be given 15 minutes to meditate. If they didn’t stop they would be suspended, on the road to expulsion. Not long after, protesters tested him. Angered by a campus recruiting visit from the Navy, they took over the main administration building. They were suspended for a semester and the ringleaders were expelled. Protests continued, but peaceful now and civil.

    1. Billy Bob

      Stop making sense. You’re getting better, Frank. Lucid at 1:36 a.m. Remarkable! A little insomnia never hurt anyone.

  6. F5

    This is obviously a performance art piece. The people in the video are showing how silly a twitter mob response to a fairly benign statement would be ridiculous in real life.

    This live enactment of course has all the hallmarks of twitter controversy we have come to expect.

    * A fairly benign statement by a person of privilege challenging a non-privileged person or group
    * The statement is characterized as some form of hate speech
    * A growing crowd emerges as the topic trends
    * Statements that aren’t germane to the controversy. The intent of the statements isn’t to say something meaningful but rather generate likes (applause)
    * Demands for the center of the controversy to be fired or punished in some way
    * The organization that employs the person will issue some palliative statement

    I expect that a smaller group will then respond that the statement doesn’t go far enough.

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