College orientation as described by the New York Times: good, questionable, and bad

Increasingly I see, in the New York Times as well as other major media, articles taking a Regressive Left point of view, or at least reporting uncritically on that ideology without criticizing it elsewhere to provide some journalistic “balance”.

An example of a problematic article was one by Stephanie Saul in the Times two days ago: “Campuses cautiously train freshmen against subtle insults“.  Reporting on the training (some would say “indoctrination”) that many incoming university get about microaggressions, diversity, sexual behavior and so on, Saul offers a mixture of good, questionable, and bad stuff.

Let me first say that while some kind of orientation is necessary for students, many of whom were sheltered and are now away from home—for good—for the first time. And yes, that training should help students not only navigate the confusing maelstrom that sweeps up new students, but helps them deal with others who are different from them. All too often, though, it does involve a kind of indoctrination in behavior that they should learn on their own. For example, in some places students are asked to play the role of minority students, and then are vilified by other students (yes, yelled at and called racist epithets) so they can experience what ostracism or oppression is like. Or they are exposed to lists of “microagressions”—some truly offensive, some bizarre (see below)—and told not to commit them (remember the “social justice” placemats handed out at Harvard that the University, embarrassed, later revoked).

In other words, in many places first-year orientation is directed towards inculcating students with certain ideologies and behaviors, although the effort is meant well. Yet I see this as somewhat is demeaning, for the college is continuing the role of parents whom the student has just left behind. As Jon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff have suggested, perhaps orientation should include some information about Cognitive Behavior Therapy to help students deal with the many psychological challenges they’ll face (see their discussion here).

Saul’s article is a mixture of good, bad, and questionable advice, much of it dispensed by Sheree Marlow, the new “chief diversity officer” at Clark University (many universities are hiring for such positions now) and an African American.  I’ll divide up the advice, and the guidance purveyed in the article, into the good, questionable, and bad bits.

GOOD

While the concept of “microaggressions” can be overly broad, there’s little doubt that an onslaught of unthinking comments made to minorities, which may be well meant but are actually demeaning, can erode their well being. The article gives a list of these comments (below), and I find them all offensive and to be avoided:

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-7-35-31-am

All of these are cringeworthy, and some bespeak bigotry while others bespeak simple thoughtlessness. The question is whether students need to be given lists of these, or whether they should learn instead to call other students out if they say something hurtful. The latter, after all, is the way we learn to avoid offending others in a normal, non-college context.

But not all “microaggressions” should be accepted uncritically. Here are two.

One are “microaggressions” like the utterance, “I don’t see color”—said by someone who is claiming that they don’t consider someone’s ethnicity when talking to them. That might, in fact, be true, and reflects Martin Luther King’s famous dictum that we’re supposed to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Now, however, we’re told that we always not only see color, but change our behavior when we do—that all white people (but not others) are bigots, at least to a degree.

Here’s one more, an “environmental microaggression”:

“What’s an environmental microaggression?” Ms. Marlowe asked the auditorium of about 525 new students. She gave an example. “On your first day of class, you enter the chemistry building and all of the pictures on the wall are scientists who are white and male,” she said. “If you’re a female, or you just don’t identify as a white male, that space automatically shows that you’re not represented.”

I see this every time when I go to the hospital where the Dean’s office is located. Lining the walls are pictures of every medical school class from the 1940s on, and you can see the mixture changing over time. Early classes comprised all white males; there were no blacks, and few Jews or women. Now things are improving, and it’s heartening to see that. Still, if the famous chemists from your university, who are commemorated on the walls, are all white, is that really a microaggression? Yes, that whiteness surely reflects biases of earlier times, but still. Take it as a measure of how far we can still go, but not—as Marlowe seems to be telling the students—as an insult to your identity.

Other good stuff:

In addition to diversity sessions, many campuses train students on exactly what constitutes sexual consent as well as how to intervene when they see fellow students drinking excessively or poised to engage in nonconsensual sexual behavior.

Students do need to learn, I think, what constitutes sexual harassment and rape, both from the University standpoint and from the legal standpoint. Many first-years are sexually inexperienced, and do need to learn about consent. Things that they might think are fine could actually be infringements on somebody else’s autonomy, illegal, or Title IX violations.

QUESTIONABLE

Here’s some advice that I’m not completely down with:

And don’t say “you guys.” It could be interpreted as leaving out women, said Ms. Marlowe, who realized it was offensive only when someone confronted her for saying it during a presentation.

. . . Ms. Martinez, a sophomore transfer student, also realized that she, too, was guilty of microaggressions, because she frequently uses the phrase “you guys,” she said. “This helped me see that I’m a microaggressor, too.”

I hear “you guys” most often coming from women, not men. If one person considers it offensive but the majority of other people find it innocuous, are we supposed to accept and defer to the one person who finds it offensive? That’s a matter for discussion. But it’s clear that Marlowe, by uncritically branding relatively innocuous phrases like “you guys” as microaggressions, wants to imbue many students like Martinez with a sense of guilt and undeserved entitlement. We simply cannot police every word that people utter.

And this:

Another subset of microaggression is known as the microinvalidation, which includes comments suggesting that race plays a minor role in life’s outcomes, like “Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough.”

The role of race in life’s outcomes is undeniable, but I’m not sure it’s a college’s duty to inculcate in their students the narrative that oppression is universal and will affect everyone in a minority group. In other words, I’m not sure I want a constant emphasis on ethnicity, race, gender, or whatever, so that students, both white and nonwhite, both male and female, become conditioned to view the world through competing narratives of oppression and victimhood.

Here’s something that’s always puzzled me:

But, Ms. Marlowe said, while it is sometimes difficult to identify a person’s racial or ethnic background based on appearance, she does not believe that gives license to people like Rachel A. Dolezal, the white woman who claimed to be African-American while working for the N.A.A.C.P. in Spokane, Wash. “You can’t say you’re black if you’re not, historically.”

This seems to fly in the face of liberal views about gender: that if someone feels as if they are members of a gender that doesn’t correspond to their biological sex, you should accept their own designation. A man, for example, even if bald and bearded, can claim that “he” feels as if he is a woman, and should be called a woman and treated like a woman. The same goes for trans men.

In general I agree with this. But why are races different? Dolezal, as far as I can see, really did feel she was African-American, and even darkened her skin and fixed her hair to fit in as a black woman (that’s analogous to the surgeries and other changes that trans people undergo). Why can’t she be regarded as black? What is the difference between feeling you’re a woman if you’re a man, like Caitlin Jenner, which is laudable, and feeling that you’re black if you’re white, which is seen as reprehensible. Perhaps someone can explain it to me in the comments. What does “historically” black mean as opposed to “historically female”?

Finally in the “questionable” category, the Times argues that universities that don’t give students this kind of orientation may lose funding:

Fresh on the minds of university officials are last year’s highly publicized episodes involving racist taunts at the University of Missouri — which appear to have contributed to a precipitous decline in enrollment there this fall.

“That closes your doors,” said Archie Ervin, the vice president for institute diversity at Georgia Institute of Technology and president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. “If you have sustained enrollment drops and disproportionately full-paying students such as out-of-state, the state legislature can’t make up the gap.”

I think it’s a valid hypothesis to claim that Missouri’s decline in enrollment came from the bad reputation it got for overly paternalistic behavior and over-the-top social justice activism, not from fear of racism. The Melissa Click episode, for instance, in which a faculty member was fired for trying to “muscle” a photographer away from a demonstration, put Missouri in particularly bad odor (she just found another job).  The “bad odor” didn’t come from the perception of racism, but from the perception by parents and students of regressive and extreme protests against racism that might diminish a student’s learning experience in college.

BAD

Two things here:

A freshman tentatively raises her hand and takes the microphone. “I’m really scared to ask this,” she begins. “When I, as a white female, listen to music that uses the N word, and I’m in the car, or, especially when I’m with all white friends, is it O.K. to sing along?”

The answer, from Sheree Marlowe, the new chief diversity officer at Clark University, is an unequivocal “no.”

Seriously? The university wants students to feel like racists because they’re singing along to songs (often by themselves), written and performed by blacks, that contain the word “nigger’? Are you supposed to not sing along, or simply remain silent when the “n-word” is sung? I can see some hyperoffended students calling out this behavior as “cultural appropriation”—I do not agree, as it’s an appreciation of culture—but not as an enabler of racism.

Finally, this:

Ms. Marlowe said she questioned the validity of the concept of reverse racism, arguing that racism is a system in which a dominant race benefits from the oppression of others.

This is the shopworn assertion that “racism equals power plus privilege.” Ergo, blacks can’t be racist towards whites, nor Hispanics towards blacks. I don’t agree. Racism is simply bigotry towards people who belong to another “race” (or, if you reject the concept of “race”, towards members of another ethnic group). Anybody can be a racist, and the concept of “reverse racism” has little meaning to me. To claim that only white people, for example, can be bigots against members of other groups is not only empirically untrue, but an attempt to change the meaning of a term so that “the oppressed” are immune to accusations that tar others. It’s paternalistic.

You can argue this stuff out in the comments below; as for me, I’m going downtown to have a big steak for lunch.

137 Comments

  1. GodlessMarkets
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Not much here to disagree with, though I am grabbing a cheeseburger; a steak seems to dinnery.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Same here, I can’t disagree. Just ate an Italian seasoned roast beef sandwich.

    • Kevin
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      After reading some of these highlights from the NYT I may have to grab a bowl of spaghettis and join the rest of the babies.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        I eat jello and ice cream when I’m stressed.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 1:58 am | Permalink

        Chow mein and fried rice tonight. Cultural appropriation be buggered.

        cr

  2. Posted September 8, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    “The same goes for trans women.” Do you mean trans men here?

  3. somer
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I wonder what the college PC police make of an Air China passenger notice about London in Chinese and English telling Chinese London is normally safe but to beware of “Indians”, “Pakistanis” and “blacks” if they visit areas with substantial populations of these groups/ethnicities.

    • flemur13013
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      A Chinese “birth tourism” website advertised that Chinese birth-tourists would be able to stay in “white” neighborhoods.

      This is quite interesting:
      “Chinese Girl in the Ghetto”:
      http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/90407/chinese-girl-ghetto-jamie-glazov

      • somer
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 3:10 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the article. As the author notes, hostility against Chinese in the west from non White minorities is ignored. Also in some places even by the majority non European population. For example in Indonesia where the Chinese were imported by the Dutch in colonial times, but these days are a small minority, most of whom are poor, and given a hard time by the majority and officially discriminated against in flight entry declarations)

  4. Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    This is the shopworn assertion that “racism equals power plus privilege.” Ergo, blacks can’t be racist towards whites, nor Hispanics towards blacks. I don’t agree. Racism is simply bigotry towards people who belong to another “race” (or, if you reject the concept of “race”, towards members of another ethnic group). Anybody can be a racist, and the concept of “reverse racism” has little meaning to me. To claim that only white people, for example, can be bigots against members of other groups is not only empirically untrue, but an attempt to change the meaning of a term so that “the oppressed” are immune to accusations that tar others. It’s paternalistic.

    This one drives me crazy.

    One (black) parent at school I know went through the halls, yelling at the top of her lungs that, “I hate all white people!”

    And that’s not racist? Yeah, right! Post-modernist bullshit!

    • Robert Seidel
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      A Chinese friend told me that during his PhD, his black professor favored black candidates, giving working group subsidies to them exclusively instead of making an equal split, stuff like that. So, bigotry plus power, right? I’d love to hear the spin on that one.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      Of course an identifiable racial group can be racist against any other identifiable racial group. Racism is maximally invidious, however, when it’s exercised by those with the power and will to enforce it institutionally — whatever their race.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:58 am | Permalink

      “(or, if you reject the concept of “race”, towards members of another ethnic group).”

      What exactly is the difference between “race” and “ethnic group”? When it is asserted that “there is no such thing as race” what exactly does that mean? There are stable genetic differences between different ethnic populations that give rise to phenotypic traits that everyone recognises and people from these groups self-identify as being members of this or that race/ethnic group. Are we simply saying that “race” carries a historical baggage of oppression and discrimination and “ethnic group” does not and so is a preferred term or are we saying that they have different meanings?

      I am absolutely in agreement with the notion that racism is wrong and that everyone, irrespective of their ethnic make up, should have the same opportunities to succeed in life and should be treated equally in all areas of life, including by the law. We do need to recognize different ethnicities, though, for various reasons. For example, if society is to be fair for all we need to be able to recognize if some ethnic groups are disadvantaged in one way or another before we can rectify it. As another example, I believe that different ethnic groups have slightly differing susceptibilities to different medical conditions so provision of adequate and appropriate health care may also require recognition of ethnicity.

    • somer
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 3:22 am | Permalink

      Kens point is very relevant. In the context of the article – indiscriminate and zealous policing of free speech it infantilises people, shuts down the investigative and learning ethos of the higher learning institution – and in the wider public sphere stifles constructive debate and proper public information about the issues. I also doubt it does much to encourage respect or active support for minorities or disadvantaged groups. I know someone who did several years of school exchange in a rural part of Idaho about 12 years ago. The teachers were respectful to black students on the school campus but off campus refused to even acknowledge them.

    • Cindy
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      There is a video out there of a Chinese girl being accused by black students of being racist because she had the gall to be upset because a black person told her to go back to China.

  5. Geoffrey Howe
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Let’s just accept that Racism = Prejudice + Power. Fine.

    If I get attacked by a mob of black people threatening “Whitey”, then how is that not racism? I was targetted for my race, by a group of people who had power over me, by virtue of their numbers.

    Oh, it must be systemic? And somehow our culture is systemically racist against blacks in spite of electing a black president? Okay, fine again, I can go along with whatever definitions for words you like.

    But please do tell me what the word is for when black people use non-systemic power to attack white people for being white. Because that IS still a bad thing, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

    • Kingasaurus
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Also, who gets to make the determination exactly when the ill-defined “systemic racism” has disappeared from the culture to the point where it ceases to be an issue?

      Can we quantify that, or is it just one of those subjective things that certain people will see occurring in perpetuity, no matter the data?

      • Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        The BBC ran a story yesterday about a Chinese airline warning tourists to avoid areas of London populated by blacks and Pakistanis.

        Can Chinese people be racist?

        • Posted September 8, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          Oops, somer already mentioned this above.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 9, 2016 at 1:57 am | Permalink

          Was the warning justified?

          Ans, is it racist to suggest that an ethnic group (such as chinese) might be racist?

          cr
          … just finishing his culturally (mis)appropriated chow mein and fried rice

  6. Kingasaurus
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    —“And don’t say “you guys.” It could be interpreted as leaving out women, said Ms. Marlowe, who realized it was offensive only when someone confronted her for saying it during a presentation.”—–

    Another reason why this is nonsense is that – in the last 30 years or so – the word “guys” has changed to refer to any group, no matter its makeup. I’ve often observed a woman sit at a table full of only other women, and say “How are you guys doing?” It’s commonplace, and it’s done with little to no thought. It’s just the way the language has changed, and the likelihood that the change is related to an increase in sexism or the “Patriarchy” is BS.

    Is commonly calling a female performer an “actor” a micro-aggression because we used to call them “actresses”, and “actor” was reserved only for men? No, it’s just been a cultural attempt to eliminate the gender-specific words where they don’t seem relevant anymore.

    The word “gals” has almost completely disappeared, to the point where my teenage children had never even heard of it.

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      We also have female priests, not priestesses.

      A ceremony performed by a priestess sounds far more inviting.

      • Richard
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 4:12 am | Permalink

        Not if you are being sacrificed by her… 🙂

        • Posted September 10, 2016 at 3:40 am | Permalink

          Maybe in the short term…

          Half-year kings and all that.

          /@

    • Johan Richter
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      I think the oldest use in print for guys to refer to a group of only women is from the 1930ies.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      “It’s just the way the language has changed.”

      I don’t suppose that one will hear a group of ladies addressed as “gentlemen” any time soon.

      I look forward to the time when a group composed solely of males is addressed as “gals” or “ladies.” On the other hand, in earlier times Marine drill instructors were predisposed to sweetly address recruits as “ladies,” eh?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        People often talk about actual time to complete tasks as “man hours” so I’ve changed it & refer to it as “lady hours”. I find this really funny mostly because the word “lady” is a societal rank. I’ve even got others doing it now.

        • Filippo
          Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

          People often talk about actual time to complete tasks as “man hours”

          Perhaps it should be “human resource” or “human capital” or “servant” hours, eh?

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

            I prefer “actual time” vs “elapsed time” but lady hours is okay too. 😀

      • Posted September 10, 2016 at 3:43 am | Permalink

        In my previous firm, about 16 years ago, our manager used to address the technical staff, all males, as ”ladies” all the time.

        /@

  7. Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Mark Schierbecker, the autistic student who stood up to Melissa Click, and who was reduced to tears when forced to apologise for his ‘white privilege’ at Skepticon (by his own public relations rep), then ridiculed by Rebecca Watson at Skepchicks, now identifies as female.

    That means she is, and has always been (according to current SJW dogma) female, making Click, Skepticon, Watson and Skepchicks retrospectively guilty of transmisogyny, the worst form of mysogyny.

    Privilege – or lack of it – is like an auction in which ‘identity’ is just an opening bid that can be trumped at any point.

    • Jim Smith
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      I’m beginning to believe that there is a SJW disease where SJW males are so low on the SJW totem pole (see what I did there?) that by claiming to be transgendered in one step they go from the bottom of the pecking order to the top. The case of Daniel Muscato comes to mind. IMHO, he is a self-hating male and that is all this psychologically spineless person is. Sorry for my having a spine ableism.

  8. Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    My university induction was being given advice on which pubs to avoid if you didn’t want to be stabbed and the sage advice to find a dealer who wouldn’t rip you off and stick with him.

  9. Rob
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    A term perhaps related, that I’m hearing so often these days is passive-agressive. It seems people are being labeled as passive agressive for innocuous statements or even saying things in a way that annoys others. It does seem a way to dismiss ideas and people without ever engaging in the idea being expressed. (Taking offense when none was intended.)

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Also, ‘intent isn’t magic’. So context and clarifications can be dismissed out of hand.

      Unless you are a lawyer or a philosopher, almost every utterance you make will be underdetermined. So anything can be twisted into its opposite.

    • Michael Day
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Couldn’t there be a better term than “microaggression”? It seems that with many of these examples, people are certainly being thoughtless, but it seems to me that there is really no “aggression”, even with the “micro” qualifier.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:11 am | Permalink

        I do love the idea of ‘passive aggressive’. The thought that just by sitting here and existing, I could piss off thousands of people who richly deserve to be pissed off (or maybe pissed on?) is enormously appealing. I’ve got a little list…

        As for ‘microaggression’, the SJWs have so extended the term that almost any innocuous action can be branded a microaggression. So my conclusion is that the world works by microaggression. Microaggression makes the world go round. For every microaggression there is an equal and opposite microaggression. If you’re not microaggressing you’re dead.

        cr

  10. eric
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Saul’s article is a mixture of good, bad, and questionable advice, much of it dispensed by Sheree Marlow, the new “chief diversity officer” at Clark University

    I thought Saul did an excellent job. I doubt Ms. Marlow can complain about misrepresentation, and Saul herself avoids any editorializing. The article is written in a completely deadpan “I describe, you decide” style. And yet, nevertheless, Saul paints a (correct, IMO) picture of political correctness and left-leaning indoctrination out of control.

    I thought it was a great article. I fully agree that Ms. Marlowe’s advice is sometimes bad to the point of ridiculous, but the way the article is written, I don’t at all see either the NYT or Ms. Saul specifically as endorsing that advice. Sometimes, the best thing you can do to fight against a position is just hand the proponent of it the microphone. I don’t know what Ms. Saul’s take on this whole situation is, but I feel like that’s what she did here.

  11. Posted September 8, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    For me the saddest part is the student with a question who says “I’m really scared to ask this”. That perfectly demonstrates how the Authoritarian Left causes even good, well-meaning people to feel scared, to feel guilty for imagined transgressions, and to self-censor.

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      After scaring people, you can manipulate them as you like.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Regarding that particular question, there was no follow-up question to the effect, “Is it OK for non-white passengers to sing that word in the song?”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:18 am | Permalink

        If you own an original edition of Agatha Christie’s 1963 whodunnit ‘Ten Little N*****s’, (in which, AFAIK, no African-Americans feature) is it okay to read it? Or should one destroy it and obtain the identical but retitled edition ‘And Then There Were None’?

        (I notice that second-hand volumes with the original title seem to fetch quite a price on Amazon UK, doubtless because of relative rarity. Gotta love the irony)

        cr

    • Cindy
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Yep. It is called JAQING OFF aka “just asking questions”. I have been banned from SJW blogs and have seen others banned for the thought crime of not arriving 130pct ideologically pure.

  12. flemur13013
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    “What are you? You’re so interesting looking.”

    I’ve seen that microheresy before, but with “Where are you from”, a question I was asked several times in Mexico – they thought I was Iranian (nope).

    It’s a hypocritical complaint since (all? most?) universities ask students “what are you” when they apply, so the admissions department knows whether to discriminate against an individual, or for that individual, based on “what” they are.

    And I suppose telling a white nonwoman “I never would have guessed that you were a scientist” is A-OK, because white nonwomen are tough and can take it.

  13. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I guess it’s okay to carry on with sexism toward white women though. So go ahead and act surprised if you encounter a white, female scientist.

    Maybe I’m bitter. Going through some really rough stuff at work with sexism toward me and it’s actually caused me to feel depressed even though I’m lucky to have leaders recognizing that it’s happening.

    • charlize
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      A new brand of sexism against white women that might be creeping into the mainstream by now is a backlash to what is seen as sanctimonious and undue whining by the ladies over-claiming sexism which has lead to witch hunt style incineration of certain men’s careers e.g. Larry Summers hounded out of Harvard, Matt Taylor’s shirtstorm comet landing, elevatorgate™ etc.

  14. Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    sub

  15. DrBrydon
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    “You are a credit to your race.” Do incoming college freshmen routinely say this? It was old when I was young.

    I think we would have called an error in behavior through ignorance a faux pas. These are crimes of manners, which is to say offensive, not offenses. They are called “aggressions” to imply violence, but it is not violence (and aggression is a term of international law). People are trying to make a Federal case out of what is just plain, old-fashioned rudeness.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      I’m going to start saying it to my white friends. 😀

    • flemur13013
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      “You are a credit to your race.” Do incoming college freshmen routinely say this?

      I’m pretty old and have never heard anyone say it.

      But!

      Google “the first black” (with quotes) returns multiple lists of black individuals who are credits to their race, but “the first Asian” returns articles about Asian history and immigration.

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      “These are crimes of manners, which is to say offensive, not offenses. They are called “aggressions” to imply violence, but it is not violence (and aggression is a term of international law). People are trying to make a Federal case out of what is just plain, old-fashioned rudeness.”

      Excellent point. I think this is a tactic used to employ a victim narrative in the growing victim culture. Aggression implies intent whereas rudeness is simply ignorance, or a failure to have been taught to be polite. Being aggressed upon also allows you to respond aggressively. It’s much easier to claim you’re the victim of aggression than rudeness, and easier to get to the label of harassment, or abuse from aggression than from rudeness.

    • eric
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Rudeness, or simple misunderstanding and mistake. These efforts seem to want to ‘level’ every social infraction, treating them all as equally (and very) bad.

      IMO part of what it means to live in a civil society is to accept that not everyone around you is going to understand things from your perspective, and to accept as part of life that you (and they) will make communication mistakes of misunderstanding or perspective on occasion. Its going to happen, because none of us are mind-readers. Treating every single such misunderstanding as if its a terrible grievance really ignores this point.

      I guess what I’m saying is, don’t cry wolf over a swarm of mosquitos biting you and your flock, even if they really upset you. Because they’re not a wolf.

  16. bluemaas
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    When All in a room of persons .do. know a common language that could be spoken but, for the entire time that All of the persons are in the room during conversations (in a public class or in a private gathering), the vast majority of persons in that room choose to speak a language that All of the persons in that room do not know nor understand (even a little bit), then

    i) is that an (passive ?) aggression or a discourtesy or a rudeness or something not nice ? or

    ii) is that okay ?

    Blue

  17. John Nunes
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait until yoctoaggressions are the next in thing.

    • Michael Day
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      We’ll have to work our way through nano-, pico-, femto-, atto-, and zepto-agressions first. Sheesh!

      • John Nunes
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        Make the jump! Every effort now will serve to save humanity from itself.

      • eric
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        And ‘microaggression’ is itself an aggression, because it disenfranchises the victims of deci-, centi-, and milliaggressions. 🙂

        • John Nunes
          Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          Well, the libertarians have their “non- aggression principle”.

          But I’ve noticed how aggressive they are in promoting it.

  18. Keith
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I attended a presentation at work last year where the speaker, a young African-American male, argued that the social pressure he feels to turn the volume down on his car stereo in a parking lot is a form of microaggression. So I asked him why isn’t that something a person would do simply out of consideration for others in a public space?

    • Filippo
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      And what was his reply? “American Exceptionalism”?

      One is tempted to ask him if he is offended if someone turns down his stereo too low. Or maybe plays Mantovani or classical music. (I’m reminded of, “Mind if I NOT smoke?”)

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

        Play what you like, as loud as you like, I always say — but Mantovani, man? Now that’s where I draw the line …

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:24 am | Permalink

          Barry Manilow…

          cr

          • Filippo
            Posted September 9, 2016 at 4:58 am | Permalink

            No doubt, like Liberace he cries all the way to the bank.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted September 9, 2016 at 4:59 am | Permalink

            That one wins – by a nose.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

              Ooh that was cruel… 😉

              cr

            • Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

              Anti-semitic microaggression!

              • Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

                “Anti-semitic microaggression!”

                I was going to point that out as well.

            • Filippo
              Posted September 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

              Well, shall one enter ones closet and, unbeknownst to anyone on the planet, pray that the gentleman be delivered from the alleged infirmity of his nose, and be grateful that one has not been similarly proboscically(?)blessed? Or is that not sufficient?

              Who can sunnily bear with aplomb the response of a Cyrano?

              • Filippo
                Posted September 9, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, didn’t mean to embed.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

              Since the subject has come up – one has to mention Kenny Everett’s interpretation of ‘Barbara Strident’, which must blow everything else out of the window. Everett was never one to exercise restraint –

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pW87BM_3fw

              cr

              • rickflick
                Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:57 am | Permalink

                I’d never heard of Kenny Everett. It looks like he grabbed the microphone from Benny Hill’s dying hands before he hit the floor. 😎

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 10, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

                Well, they were both totally non-PC, but Benny tended more to the old-style pantomime humour and innuendo. Kenny was more towards the slightly anarchic brand of humour, taking advantage of video editing techniques. And utterly, totally non-PC, as a quick look at the odd clips on Youtube would show.

                cr

              • Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:32 am | Permalink

                And Kenny was partly responsible for the success of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, giving it early airplay when other DJs baulked at playing such a long single.

                /@

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:29 am | Permalink

                Very Kenny Everett!

    • barn owl
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 6:11 am | Permalink

      When someone, regardless of ethnicity or gender, has their car stereo so loud that the pieces of the vehicle are vibrating and rattling, I just assume that xe is engaging in public masturbation. The worst offenders are the ones who have all the windows rolled down when the temperatures are 95F+, or when it’s raining or very cold – then they obviously want to annoy others, or for you to know what they’re doing.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    … some advice that I’m not completely down with …

    Think you’re doing a little cultural appropriating right there, Jer. 🙂

    That’s Ok, my buddies and I have been appropriating all we could from black culture ever since we were kids and heard the radio waves carrying the Temptations & Smokey & the Four Tops come bounding out of the Motor City. That’s the advantage of living in a great melting pot.

    On the decreased enrollment at Mizzou, the problems there were triggered by some assholes in a pick-up truck screaming racist slurs at the black student-government president. You don’t need a course in microaggressions to know that that sucks.

  20. Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    My personal philosophy is to treat people as people, with everything else about them being individualising, but otherwise irrelevant.

    But I do think I’m ‘blind to gender’, and walls full of white men don’t bother me at all. Maybe because I see them as people first. So I have never felt excluded by such gallery walls, despite being female.

    I worry sometimes that this tendency to ferret out microaggressions and the like is actually encouraging racism and sexism. Because you need to first see sex (a wall full of male doctors) or race (a non-white scientist) before you can identify such characteristics. Whereas if you’re not racist or sexist, you’d just see people: doctors and scientists.

  21. nicky
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    ”Micro-aggressions need only micro-responses’. Can’t remember who said that, but it is quite an astute remark.
    However, the thing with ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘subliminal micro-rudenes’ is that if repeated endlessly they can indeed become tedious and demeaning, we should not be blind to that.
    That being said, many of the so called ‘micro-agressions’ considered would hardly qualify as such, IMMO.

    • Carey Haug
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Bill Maher asked shouldn’t micro aggressions make you micro angry?

  22. Christopher Bonds
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    “Chief diversity officer”? How about a “Chief Critical Thinking Officer?”

  23. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    The comment that anyone can make it if they work hard enough is one that’s always annoyed me, but I don’t see it as exclusively or even necessarily a racial thing.

    It annoys me because of the implication that someone who doesn’t succeed hasn’t worked hard or doesn’t work hard. There are all sorts of reasons someone may not have succeeded and often others see them as excuses without knowing the circumstances.

    Having said that I have to say that I’m a little surprised that people arrive at college or university in the US and they still know so little about their fellow human beings they have to be taught how to treat them with respect and understanding. Surely this is something you grow up learning how to do?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Filippo
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      “Surely this is something you grow up learning how to do?”

      Apparently not in every home. K-12 teachers make a monumental effort to teach character values. It doesn’t take with certain Trumps in training wheels. To paraphrase Darwin, some of us bear the stamp of our Philistine upbringing.

      • somer
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:16 am | Permalink

        +1 Agree with Heather though; effort is nearly always very important but, the idea that social background, environmental constraints or just plain corruption/unfair advantages don’t play an important role is just plain wrong.

    • Posted September 9, 2016 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! No, not everyone can make it if they just work hard enough. Racism, sexism, disability, neuro-atypicality, a background of poverty, and just a run of really bad luck can sideline hard-working people. It’s also a laughable comment in the US, where the honor of labor is a joke and we pay people based on specialized skills that can make money for someone else. That’s how capitalism works. Someone might be working their tails off at two different jobs and still need government assistance to eat all month.

      As regards the point about college-age students not knowing how to treat others with respect and understanding: I got my BS in 1980 and my MS in 2013. College changed a lot in the intervening years. Kids who’ve been able to do no wrong under helicopter parenting, or have been engaged with high school subcultures that give them a false sense of superiority, simply don’t know how to behave like adults. It’s not universal, of course, or even a problem with the majority, but there are enough of them to make life pretty unpleasant at times for fellow students as well as faculty.

  24. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    “… a credit to your race”

    Has anyone actually uttered this odious phrase since Floyd Patterson was heavyweight champ?

    “I don’t see color”

    I’m reminded of the answer Vince Lombardi, the tough-guy head coach of the Green Bay Packers during their 1960s heyday, gave when a reporter asked him how many black players were on his team: “I dunno; I don’t count my players that way.”

    Because of his tough-guy image, Lombardi has long been a favorite of certain rightwing politicians (dating back to Richard Nixon, and including the orange thing running as the Republican presidential candidate this year). What they don’t know is that, when the Packers’ black defensive end Lionel Aldridge got engaged to a white woman — back then, black Packers players stood out in Wisconsin like coal on a snowfield — he got pushback from the NFL saying the wedding might not be such a hot idea. Aldridge went to see Lombardi, who told him to marry whomever he pleased, that nobody from the league would screw with one of his players like that. I don’t give a damn if the rightwingers like Vince; I like Vince, too.

    I don’t know if the Lombardi anecdote had anything to do with it, but some rightwing blowhards, like Bill O’Reilly, have claimed this “I don’t see race” phrase as their own, usually in the course of griping about affirmative action. Stephen Colbert used to skewer this meme so thoroughly on his old tv show, I doubt incoming freshmen need college administrators to put them off it.

    • harrync
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      And he usually followed that up with something to the effect of “People tell me I am white, and I guess that is true, since I am rich and privileged.”

    • Kingasaurus
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      Lombardi was particularly sensitive to prejudice. As a younger man he was passed over for major college head coaching jobs because he was Italian-American, and he was dark-skinned enough that he was even refused entry to some white-only clubs in the South when whatever team he was coaching was traveling there. He never forgot those things.

      • Cindy
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        Italians were lynched by racists back in the day. They were seen as competition for jobs and they stood out with their darker skin and Catholicism.
        But Italians have always been white apparently and have always benefitted from white privilege!
        I also think that some Geeks were lynched too…

        • Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          Poles, Italians and Irish (and I think Greeks) have all been regarded as “non-white” by appropriate bigots in the US and Canada, which changed somehow. A friend of mine is of Irish ancestory and recommends a book (which I have yet to get to) _How the Irish Became White_, or something like that.

          Note that in the first three cases, there’s a religious thing: all are very Catholic (and then the exceptions in the first case are largely Jews, so then that kicks in …). So I wonder if there’s a confound.

          I know in Quebec there were a lot of Irish-French marriages a while back because of the religion (and class!!) thing.

  25. George
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    The big speech during the University of Chicago orientation is “The Aims of Education”. It lasts about ab hour. Commencement Addresses are limited to 13 minutes. This year’s speaker is Geoffrey Stone, the chair of The Committee on Freedom of Expression.
    https://provost.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/documents/reports/FOECommitteeReport.pdf

    Stone is a repeat, having also given the talk in 1995. I think he is the first repeat speaker. I assume UofC will be delivering a message that night.
    https://aims.uchicago.edu/page/past-speakers

    There are some great talks in there. I assume PCC(e) would not be thrilled with the 2003 speaker, Tanya Luhrmann. One of the best was given in 2002 by Andrew Abbott.
    https://aims.uchicago.edu/node/79

    Mine was by James Redfield in 1974. If only I truly understood what he was saying at the time.

    • Posted September 8, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Luhrmann! What the hell???

      • George
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        Well she was a chaired professor at the time. And it is not a bad talk.

  26. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    “When a nonwhite faculty member is mistaken for a service worker”

    Was it a similar microaggression when that daft old bastard Ronald Reagan mistook the only African-American in his own cabinet for one of the black big-city mayors attending a national conference? 🙂

    Seems to me, genuine “microagressions” come in two flavors: one where they’re the product of certain implicit cultural assumptions (where, for example, a cauk unthinkingly calls an adult nonwhite by his or her first name, in a situation where they’d probably use an honorific with a white person); the other, where it’s used knowingly, in an act of passive-aggression, as a plausibly deniable put down (where, for example, a white student asks an immigrant student “oh. where’re you from?” as a means of quieting the latter in a discussion about American culture).

    Such microagressions are wrong and should be avoided. But I wonder whether giving incoming freshmen instruction on the topic might not be self-defeating — the way corporate “sensitivity training” seminars have been shown actually to increase workplace racial strife. Somethings maybe college kids should still learn in the manner tried-and-true: by getting called out by their peers when they make asses of themselves.

    • filippo
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      “Somethings maybe college kids should still learn in the manner tried-and-true: by getting called out by their peers when they make asses of themselves.”

      I understand what you’re saying. Still, there are also times when the herd will pressure one to acquiesce and not to stand his ground, when standing his ground is the right thing to do.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I agree. But standing out from the herd is alone no guarantor you’re right or noble, either. Sometimes it just means you’re being a jerk.

        • darrelle
          Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

          My first thought was, “Or seeking attention at the expense of others.” But of course that is just one particular case of the more general category of “being a jerk.”

  27. charlize
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Just sampled some of Luhrmann’s stuff. Amazing to what heights academia (even prestigious institutions e.g. UofC) allows intellectual charlatanerie to rise unmolested.

  28. harrync
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    What I want to know is when are we going to end the constant micro-aggressions against atheists? Like that money they are required to use with the obnoxious “In God We Trust” motto. Or all those churches, synagogues and mosques reminding them that most of their fellow citizens still believe bronze age myths? Or a Pledge of Allegiance that pretty much explicitly expels them from being a loyal citizen? [This post inspired by Jonathan Swift.]

  29. Jim Swetnam
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I am also in agreement. Same with the steak. Professor Coyne is such a gourmand I have often wondered why he appears so slender.

  30. Filippo
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    “Dolezal, as far as I can see, really did feel she was African-American, and even darkened her skin and fixed her hair to fit in as a black woman (that’s analogous to the surgeries and other changes that trans people undergo . . . .”

    This reminds me – and do IIRC – that when Obama was first elected, certain members of a certain community questioned whether Obama was “black enough”? What are – who is competently positioned to define – the criteria for evaluating this?

  31. Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I admit, I did feel weird using “you guys” when addressing my teammates (equally split between males and females), but what do I use to replace it? “You persons of various genders”?

    • rickflick
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      How about ‘comrades’.

      • Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        That’s actually not bad, and for me it’s not even culturally appropriative.

        • Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          That depends. Is one able to culturally appropriate from various leftist movements from left libertarian to Stalinist communism?
          (Arguably the Soviets “culturally appropriated” from the various left libertarians to give “cache”.)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:36 am | Permalink

        ‘Comrades’? Srsly? Wouldn’t that get someone going about ‘reds under the bed’?

        (I don’t mind being called a socialist – or even a commie, though I’m not – but I wouldn’t use ‘comrades’ to people whose politics I didn’t know)

        How about ‘everybody’ ?

        cr

        • rickflick
          Posted September 9, 2016 at 6:09 am | Permalink

          Or just “y’all”.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

            As Barn Owl said, that could result in being mistaken for a Texan. 🙂

            cr

          • darrelle
            Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

            Grammar pedant moment. That’s just wrong. It’s “all y’all.”

            • rickflick
              Posted September 9, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

              Well if all y’all are going to split hairs…

    • barn owl
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      For a Texan, the solution is obvious: y’all.

      But then you run the risk of being labeled as an intellectually and culturally inferior Southerner. Redneck, poor white trash, etc. I experienced this in grad school to some extent, and mostly tried to ignore it.

    • eric
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      “Alright, everybody, let’s….”

      “Okay everyone, that’s all I have for this meeting…”

      “Folks, its time to…”

      For small groups, you can just dump the collective nouns altogether. “Alice and Bob, I’d like you to start writing up what we have so far. Charlie and Debra, keep researching the fluglebird…”

  32. Posted September 8, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    It seems clear to me that the term ORIENTation is in itself a microaggression, cultural appropriation, and racist. Wonder if the SJW’s jumped on this – at least Triumph the Insult Dog has!!

  33. barn owl
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    As an employee of a state university, I have to take a number of online training modules every year. Recently, a new mandatory training module appeared: Unconscious Bias. The content obviously originated from something called Project Implicit:

    https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/aboutus.html

    It was by far the most insulting and useless training module I’ve had to take, and it differed from all others in a few insidious ways: 1) you couldn’t advance the slides and just take the quiz at the end to pass, and you couldn’t override the narration (shut up and listen!), 2) there was no opportunity to give feedback on the module through a Likert scale or similar (check your privilege!), 3) there were poorly-designed pre- and post-tests (I suspect that this module is someone’s MS in Diversity Studies project).

    Anyway, the slides were full of postmodernist terms, such as microbiases and microexclusions that lead to microaggressions, as well as loads of stock photos of persons of color, women in hijabs, and people using wheelchairs. The bottom line is that all of us privileged cishet white people are full of biases and incipient microaggressions, and regardless of our protestations and demonstrable evidence to the contrary, we can’t deny any of this because it’s all UNCONSCIOUS. I think they should just tattoo “unconscious biases” on our foreheads and be done with it.

    • eric
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      you couldn’t override the narration (shut up and listen!)

      That’s really annoying. Like I think most people, I can read a lot faster than the speed of typical course-speak…but have a hard time concentrating on reading if the voice is going on in the background. Its just a far more efficient use of my time to mute a course and read the captions. It doesn’t mean I’m skipping it, it means I’m literate (…you frakking idiot course-designers… sorry for the macroaggression…no, not really…)

    • rickflick
      Posted September 8, 2016 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      Pretty amazing.

  34. Ken Pidcock
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Ergo, blacks can’t be racist towards whites

    Actually, this is pretty much true. Blacks can be resentful toward whites, but being racist involves the assumption that the target of your attitude is inherently inferior. That really can’t be said to characterize most anti-white hostility.

    • Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      “White men can’t jump”?

      (To borrow a phrase from 20 years ago.)

      • Filippo
        Posted September 10, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        “White men can’t jump”?

        So, is that held by the predominant majority to be unobjectionable?

  35. Posted September 8, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    This is a worrying trend. NPR recently did a piece that sounded like the regressive lefts idea of cultural appropriation. It was about tiki bars, and wondered if they were “exploitation. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/09/07/492974870/lets-talk-tiki-bars-harmless-fun-or-exploitation

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:51 am | Permalink

      I just read that article. To me, (English / New Zealand) the bar in the photo looks a little plastic and phony. My wife, who is a pacific islander and has never been taught about ‘cultural appropriation’, thinks the island mural on the wall is great.

      To put myself in a similar position, I just imagined a fake ‘English pub’ in Washington, complete with low ceiling, rough oak beams, a few Constable-style watercolours – how would I find it? Well, I’d disapprove on principle, but if it was sufficiently well done* I’d probably just enjoy the ambiance.
      (* e.g. real wood ‘oak’ not fibreglass)

      cr

      • eric
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        There are lots of good faux-Irish bars in the DC area; were you looking for something specifically British? (By ‘good,’ I mean they are enjoyable to sit in even if they probably aren’t authentic).

        In any event, restaurants really highlight the problem with the far left’s position. If you walk into any sort of ethnic or non-American food restaurant, and there’s an attempt at traditional decor, and you ask your leftist friend “is this pleasant or offensive?”, the answer should not be “it depends on who runs it.” Depending on the decor, some may find it offensive while others may not, but it seems untenable and irrational to claim that we must know who put it up in order to gauge whether we think its a social outrage or not. Yet that appears to be the position of the far left.

  36. Posted September 9, 2016 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    The injunction that it is wrong for someone white, even in the privacy of their car, to sing along with a rapper who himself is using the the “n” word in their lyrics reminds me of the sidesplitting “Only a Ginger” song by Tim Minchin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVN_0qvuhhw).

    Perhaps a reasonable sense of humour the best cure for any excessive obsession with microaggression.

  37. Ariel Karlinsky
    Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Regarding the last paragraph (racism vs. bigotry, and can non-whites be racist) – I suggest listening to EconTalk (Russ Roberts hosts) with Mike Munger, a great episode:
    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2016/08/munger_on_slave.html

    The relevant quote:
    “Guest: Well, I think generally racism is a combination of bigotry and an institutionally privileged position. So, any person can be a bigot. Racism requires that the sense of racial revulsion that you feel is combined with an ability to impose that institutionally. So, sometimes you’ll hear a question, ‘Can a black person be racist in the United States?’ And by this definition, not very easily. It’s the dominant people who control institutions or who make choices about other people’s access”

    • Richard
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 4:45 am | Permalink

      So, given that the Ku Klux Klan don’t have any institutional privilege, they’re not racist? I wonder how that argument would go down? 🙂

      • Cindy
        Posted September 9, 2016 at 8:44 am | Permalink

        If the KKK travels to Angola, they will no longer be racist.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          I suspect they would no longer be alive for very long.

          (Oops, was that racist?)

          cr

    • Trond Evanger
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      That quote just seems to reiterate the definition with which Jerry has a problem. Maybe this is a common and useful definition in the social and political sciences, but that in no way forces everyone to accept and use it.

      The talk seems interesting, though. I’ll give it a listen.

    • Posted September 9, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      So, for example, the black President of an historically black college could be a racist on campus (if he’s bigoted and discriminatory against a white employee), but can’t be a racist when he leaves campus? How is this definition helpful? If someone asks if he is a racist, the answer would have to be, “yes and no, depends where he is.”

    • Ariel Karlinsky
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      I personally disagree with this definition, but since both Roberts & Munger can hardly be described as regressives – It’s interesting to hear. I whole heatedly recommend the entire episode (and the podcast).

      I think the main point of the distinction between bigot and racist is similar to the distinction between “bad thoughts” and “bad actions”. if you cannot discriminate and act on your beliefs your’e a bigot. if you act upon it, as part of an institution – your’e racist. If that definition fits – than of course non-whites can be racist. Obama can be racist. Collin Powell can be racist. Bobby Jindal can be racist. Nelson Mandela can be racist. I think “even” people like Louis Farrakhan can be described as racist (as he did hold quite a lot of institutional authority with the Nation of Islam).

      It’s similar to “abuse of authority” in a way. two people can have a romantic relationship in college if they’re both students – but if one of them is a professor, this can be considered an abuse of authority.

  38. Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    As far as the “you guys” comment goes, that’s more of a regional phrase. When I lived in the South as a kid, the phrase was always “y’all.” When I moved from the South to the North as a young child, I was very confused and thought people were confusing me with a boy. I, of course, learned that’s not what people meant. It was meant to mean the same thing as “ya’ll.”

    I’m not saying regional phrases can’t be prejudiced, but I think the intention behind the phrase matters. Here I see no problem with the phrase “you guys.”

  39. Posted September 9, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I’m not American, so not sure what a ‘service worker’ is – but I am a technician at a university in Scotland – is it considerd demeaning to be mistaken for one? Now that is offensive.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      I think ‘service worker’ means the janitor.

      But either way, that’s a bit offensive to technicians and/or janitors.

      Coming back to the original squawk – “When a non-white faculty member is mistaken for a service worker” – I’d say the offence, if any, depends entirely on circumstances. It could happen just as easily to a white faculty member. Not every prof looks like a prof. Professors Feynman and Brian Cox have been mistaken for rock musicians before now. 😉

      I once mistook a Catholic bishop for a janitor/priest (whatever they call the guy who opens doors and tidies up around the cathedral). Luckily, he was amused rather than offended.

      cr

  40. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 9, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    As Jon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff have suggested, perhaps orientation should include some information about Cognitive Behavior Therapy to help students deal with the many psychological challenges they’ll face

    Odd. If CBT is so wonderful, then why (1) restrict it to university students in their late teens, and (2) why not have training in the technique as part of the basic curriculum for school students?
    I’m pretty suspicious of head-shrinkery on general principles, but this sounds pretty weird, even by the pretty weird standards of the head-shrinkery fraternity. I suspect there’s a lot more controversy on the topic than is implied.
    Also …

    Students do need to learn, I think, what constitutes sexual harassment and rape, both from the University standpoint and from the legal standpoint.

    Again, why isn’t this in the general school curriculum, at about the age of puberty? Yes, I know, conservative parents, homeschooling, and god getting his patriarchal bits out in pubic again. But if sexual crime and misunderstandings and confusion are genuinely significant and financially expensive (got to cater to the universal metric of the conservative), then surely that is precisely what the public schooling system is there for. In precisely the same way, literacy and numeracy are necessary skills in modern society, so schooling was set up to cater to those educational needs. Same deal.
    This doesn’t happen – it seems that either legislatures are incapable of following an argument, or that enough of the legislators have ulterior motives for perpetuating the current situation. Do I detect the odour of rank hypocrisy in politics? Shocked – I tell you, I’m shocked.

    “You can’t say you’re black if you’re not, historically.”

    Define “black”. Of those states that did, which standard is accepted? I believe that some considered 1 part in 64 (which might well classify me as being black – one of these days I may be bothered to study my own genealogy) as the bar, others one part in 32, others an infinitesimal part of one’s ancestry (in which case, we’re all African). If you don’t have an agreed standard (and who are America, to agree a standard for the rest of the world?) then self perception is the only workable criterion. As for the question of which particular mucous membranes two (or more) people wish to rub together, who gives a flying fuck?

  41. Posted September 9, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Whether a non-white person can be racist definitely depends on which definition you use. Many progressive people are now using “racism” as as shorthand term for “systemic racism”; by that definition, it’s really hard for a non-white person to be racist, since by definition you’re outside the system.

    I find it pretty pointless to argue about it. Language changes; I’m far more interested in communicating clearly and understanding others’ views than I am in enforcing the dictionary. In my own writing and conversation, I pretty much try to always add the “systemic” qualifier, but I have more patience for extra words than most people seem to have. I’m quite okay with simply calling individuals who dislike someone purely on the basis of race (or other intrinsic characteristics) as simply a bigot.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 9, 2016 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      Well put! I’d entirely agree with that.

      (‘Censorship’ is another of those words that means different things to different people).

      cr


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