Universities on Racism

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Stanford University

Two recent incidents reveal the struggles college campuses are having finding a balance in how to manage racial issues in this age when the slightest offense can ruin lives, but real threats seem to go ignored.

At Stanford University, student Chaze Vinci has posted on Twitter several messages about race and gender. He has said that women should serve men, posted a picture of another student, Brock Turner, who had been convicted of sexual assault with the caption, “A woman always gets what’s coming to her,” put up a photoshopped picture of a Black student to make it appear that she had been decapitated, and another of a professor with red marks drawn through his image next to a guillotine. These posts, the last two in particular, constitute threats of physical harm. There are no grounds on which such threats should be tolerated. The First Amendment does not protect threats of harm against others.

There is a debate at Stanford over how Vinci’s Twitter posts ought to be addressed. Given their past reaction to others, I’m surprised that Twitter hasn’t closed his account, or at least there are no reports that they have.

Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne put out a statement describing Vinci’s posts as “ugly” and “disturbing” and said they will be addressed, but didn’t mention disciplinary action. Needless to say, this response was criticized as inadequate, and there have been several calls for Vinci to be expelled.

Of course Vinci should be expelled. Yes, some of the criticism of the university’s response has been somewhat over-the-top. Dr. Nikki Yeboah, a professor at another university and an author on racial subjects, said that, “We’re also looking at an institution that continues to protect students like this and that continues to protect Whiteness.” No, there’s nothing “White” about making threats against others, and to claim so is racist. But, that Vinci should be expelled is a no-brainer, and the university’s slow response has rightly made others question their commitment to keeping Stanford and its students safe, especially female and minority students. Everyone deserves due process, but in some cases the evidence is so overwhelming that due process need not take too long. Stanford needs to rid itself of the likes of Chaze Vinci, the sooner the better.

A second incident is the recently discovered staff training given at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA that delineates between those who are “privileged” and those who are “oppressed.” Basically, White, able-bodied, cisgender men between 30-50 who are Christian are “privileged.” Pretty much everybody else is “oppressed.” Yes, they actually displayed charts making these distinctions.

According to the article in The College Fix, “Over the course of the video, student employees of the university are asked to take some time for ‘self-reflection’ on the messaging, write their reflections down, and save those reflections to be looked over by their supervisors later.” Golly. Writing self-reflections on controversial matters that will be shared later with supervisors. That’s not intimidating at all. I wonder if I should be honest about how I feel about this staff training, or if I should write what I know my supervisors will want to read? I wonder if the sky is blue and if water is wet?

After completing the training, staff received emails explaining that they were not to share the training materials with others. Let’s just keep this racist, woke apologetics between us. A Youtube video that included the training materials has also been taken down.

Colleges and universities are struggling an awful lot with how to manage racial matters. It appears that there is no universally accepted strategy for addressing these matters. I understand the concern. As I said above, there are some examples where the slightest offense, real or imagined, leads to ruined careers and ruined reputations. Other examples, such as Stanford’s above, suggest that universities feel incapable of acting appropriately even when the appropriate action is obvious.

Activists, our media elite, and the politicians who exploit every opportunity, would like us to think that there are only two options for White people when it comes to racial matters. Either you are an ally, in complete agreement with organizations such as Black Lives Matter and theories such as Critical Race Theory, or you’re a White Supremacist in need of reform or removal. Happily, reality says otherwise. Reality allows for a variety of options, especially the option of responding reflectively and respectfully to individual cases as they come along, refusing to bend to the pressure of applying stereotypes or formulaic responses. Yes, there will be those on one side who insist that rights are being attacked, and those on the other who insist that racism is being tolerated. But, level heads and rational thought usually prevail, if only eventually.

I just finished watching a documentary about Sen. Joe McCarthy. Of course, I was familiar with the basics of his story. What I learned was McCarthy’s strategy of lying to keep ahead of his critics. As one historian put it commenting on his legacy, McCarthy would tell one lie, and by the time his critics had managed to find the evidence disproving his lie, McCarthy would have told three more. It was, as the historian said, an exercise in fatigue. McCarthy kept the lies and false accusations coming so fast and furiously that his critics simply couldn’t keep up. Another thing I learned was how much McCarthy was a creation of the media elites. Controversy, as they say, sells. And McCarthy was controversial, as well as charming, bombastic and great theater. The press loved reporting on McCarthy because they knew he would sell their papers. McCarthy began his faux campaign against Communist infiltration of the government in order to gain attention and political power. The media reported on his campaign because it sold papers. Had the media tempered their reporting with the meagerest moral consideration, McCarthy would never have morphed into the demagogue he was, and not so many lives, careers, and reputations would have been destroyed. McCarthy’s peers in the Senate and in other areas of government put up with him because they came to fear him. Critics of McCarthy would themselves be accused of being Communists and subpoenaed to appear before his Senate committee investigating Communist infiltration. Sometimes those accusations would stick, though not because they were true, but because the press played their role in reporting the accusations and enough people believed enough to destroy the accused.

Much the same scenario is being played out on racial matters. It’s almost impossible to defend oneself against charges of racism, and accusations of racism are made on the thinnest charges possible. President Biden has said that White Supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. That’s absurd on it’s face, but in the minds of many it stuck and to deny it or refute it makes one susceptible to charges of White Supremacy. Inactions like those of Stanford on a matter that represents a clear racist threat allows people to believe that racism is stronger and more entrenched in our institutions than it is, as is the constant reporting on every police shooting of a minority person, armed or otherwise, and the silence of reporting on police shootings of White persons, armed or otherwise, as well as the lack of reporting on other violence that represents a greater threat to the Black community than the police do. As such, a poll by Skeptic shows that those who identify as “liberals” believed that over 1000 unarmed Black men were killed by police in the year 2019, when the actual number was 12. Twelve is too many, of course, but think how it effects the mood of the nation when people believe that the police are killing as many as 1000 or more unarmed Black men every year. No wonder city councils have been effective in defunding their police departments. No wonder criminals are exploiting anti-police sentiments.

Back to the main point. Colleges and universities, those institutions that are responsible for educating our social elites with little prospect of meaningful employment and making sure they remain in debt for the greater part of their lives, have a responsibility to educate them in reality. This means teaching them that racism exists but does not permeate every aspect of our social, cultural, educational, and political institutions. Administrators need to respond quickly and boldly when real racist threats emerge, and show some back bone against those who demand that every manufactured offense be treated as if it represented a genuine threat to the minority community and general society. When reality wins, we all win.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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