About a year ago the Daily Beast wrote a piece called “The University of Californa’s Insane Speech Police,” which described UC President Janet Napolitano’s “invitation” for deans and department heads in the UC system to attend a seminar on
suppressing free speech “fostering inclusive excellence”. These seminars were held at 9 of the 10 University of California campuses, and included a list of “microaggressions”: phrases that should be avoided because they constitute “verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
Some of these are indeed offensive (“You are a credit to your race” or “I am not a racist; I have several Black friends.”) Others, however, can be construed offensive only if you’re a Pecksniff, including these phrases whose use shows that “a White person does not want to or need to acknowledge race”:
- “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
- “There is only one race, the human race.”
- “America is a melting pot.”
- “I don’t believe in race.”
These are more problematic, for at least two of them would have been endorsed by Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, and another—”America is a melting pot”—is intended to be a phrase of comity, where diverse people can share rights and liberties, and exchange bits of each other’s culture, leader to a rich national “culture.”
But the “melting pot” phrase has now become a “microaggression”, and the only reason I can see is because we’re supposed to not only remain balkanized by ethnicity, religion, or ideology, but admit constantly that we are balkanized. The phrase is inoffensive.
Well, not to everyone. One professor in Florida has not only banned the “melting pot” phrase from her classroom, but threatens to penalize students who use it.
You’re only going to see reports on this from sites like the conservative Washington Times or the even more conservative Campus Reform, but if you think they’re lying because they’re right-wing sites, provide me documentation to the contrary. Please to not discredit a story just because your ideology disagrees with that of a source. I’ll assume what the sources say is true because they provide documentation.
To be brief, I’ll excerpt Campus Reform:
Students enrolled in Art Appreciation at the University of Florida risk losing credit on assignments if they use the phrase “melting pot” in class.
Professor Pamela Brekka told Campus Reform that she has reprimanded students for using the term in the past, and even withheld credit from those who used the phrase on assignments, because in her opinion, “melting pot” is a term that “signals a Euro-White Colonial standard, point blank, period.”
The course itself, entitled Art Appreciation: American Diversity and Global Arts, fulfills UF’s general education requirements for both the “Diversity” category, which requires three credits for graduation, and the “Humanities” category, which requires nine credits.
The course syllabus, obtained by Campus Reform, describes the class as “an introduction to the visual arts from a global perspective with an emphasis on diversity in the United States,” adding that “to facilitate this process we will assimilate and use discipline[-]appropriate terms.”
According to Brekka, you MUSt to recognize that America is neither a soup nor a stew, but a SALAD. No soup for you!
Brekka told Campus Reform that she doesn’t want students to use the phrase “melting pot” because it is not an accurate description of diversity in the United States, asserting that “the reason we put less emphasis on the way cultural groups are alike is because of the historical disadvantages minorities have had compared to the white majority.”
She believes diversity in America can more accurately be described with a salad metaphor.
“It’s the difference between a soup and a salad…in the salad, the flavors remain distinct,” she explained. “Your romaine lettuce retains its flavor, the tomatoes retain their flavor, and so on. They are all living happily in one bowl.”
Brekka admitted that in past courses she would deduct a partial point if a student used “melting pot” in an assignment, although she also said it was not a “strict policy.”
Yet Campus Reform’s documents, apparently obtained from a student, shows that it does seem to be a strict policy. Have a gander at the policy and the Authoritarian Leftist ideology these students must obey—or get a lower grade.
On several online course modules, through which students submit assignments, a statement reads, “DO NOT EVER USE THE PHRASE ‘MELTING POT’ IN THIS CLASS. IN THIS CLASS WE CELEBRATE DIVERSITY, NOT SAMENESS.”
I remember the wonderful phrase that Martin Luther King used in his “I have a dream” speech:
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Whatever happened to that? Is that no longer the day we want?
Now when we say Dr. King’s phrase, we’re committing a microaggression! As noted above, you’re a bigot every time you say, “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
But what’s the alternative? To say, “When I look at you, I always see color”? I suspect the alternative is something like this: “When I look at you, I see a black person, and acknowledge that therefore you have traits X, Y, and Z because you have been oppressed. And with that I recognize my privilege.”
Now I can appreciate the need to recognize bigotry and inequities based on “race”—although saying you don’t believe in race, which used to be a sign of ideological Leftism, has now become a microaggression! So yes, in that sense you can “see color” and recognize how it plays out in American life. We can’t eliminate these inequities without recognizing their existence. But they don’t have to be recognized every single time we interact with someone of a different ethnicity!
I’m not going to play by Professor Brekka’s odious rules. I will continue to try to judge people by their character and not their pigmentation, and, above all, I still believe in an America that can welcome people of diverse backgrounds, because—and maybe this sentiment is outdated and sappy—I think that’s been a major factor in whatever greatness America can claim.
UPDATE: Reader Pliny the in Between has a cartoon take on this fracas: