More on what modern "antiracism" does to schools, or could not -- and some insight on the Kendi thing.
More on antiracist manifestos at universities, and also on the insights of a certain "Professor" Kendi levelled against me last weekend.
This just in …
In my Atlantic article about antiracism manifestos that threaten to destroy institutions’ basic missions as educational, I mentioned that the Dalton School in New York was considering transformative antiracism measures.
However, I have it on good authority that in fact, the damage was already done as of last semester. Here are some snapshots from Dalton, Fall 2020 from concerned parents who, because if they went public with their names they would be pilloried as bigots nationwide, are staying anonymous.
“Every class this year has had an obsessive focus on race and identity, ‘racist cop’ reenactments in science, ‘de-centering whiteness’ in art class, learning about white supremacy and sexuality in health class.”
“In place of a joyful progressive education, students are exposed to an excessive focus
on skin color and sexuality, before they even understand what sex is. Children are
bewildered or bored after hours of discussing these topics in the new long-format
“Why would anyone voluntarily send their children to be taught that they are guilty regardless of their decency and kindness? A school where they are constantly reminded of the color of their skin, not the content of their character. What Black parent wants the other children to feel sorry for their kid and look at them differently? We have spoken with dozens of families, of all colors and backgrounds, who are in shock and looking for an alternative school for their children.”
Now – The Elect (my term for the hyperwoke who are hijacking constructive leftist ideals in this nation) will claim that this sort of thing is exactly what education needs to be, and that white (or “white”) parents who object are displaying “fragility.” However, we get that “fragility” notion from one of the worst books ever written, as I have argued here. What Dalton is doing is a tragic and grisly subtraction of what education should be.
Btw -- I cannot resist noting that I hear, on good authority, that Prof. DiAngelo has claimed that she is the Neil DeGrasse Tyson to my astrologer. I will only say that quite a few, presented with the three of us, would find me more akin if only superficially to Tyson for certain reasons, and would also see her as much more appropriately deemed akin to an astrologer.
But I digress: another Elect response here will be that Dalton is an outlier case. However, I hear from many more places, and will hear from more in the wake of this post – and will share what I hear lustily.
This just in …
In the Atlantic piece I wrote of how “antiracist” protest shut down Bryn Mawr last semester. The protest actually spread to allied schools Haverford and Swarthmore. I have it on good authority that at Swarthmore, the President simply folded arms and said “no” to the protesters, upon which they basically folded in their tails and went away.
Why? Because the President is a black woman, Valerie Smith. This is key here: she knew she could respond to melodramatic performance art with the refusal it deserved because no one could call her racist. As in: the reason Kim Cassidy over at Bryn Mawr caved, snuff-video style, to the protests on her campus was because she was deeply afraid of being tarred as a racist on social media, along with attracting that same judgment to her institution. To wit: being black allows you to respond to this agitprop with basic sense, including affording these performance artists the fundamental respect of calling them on their bullshit.
This just in …
No – I do not mean that being against racism is, itself, bullshit. I mean that a certain strain of “antiracism” these days is, yes, bullshit. And on that, we must address that a certain Mr. (sorry, “Dr.,” as he so pointedly specifies in his Twitter handle) Kendi announced last weekend that I am of a piece with the Trumpian insurrectionists. This joins him calling me a racist who “’sort of’ should look at himself in the mirror” a few months ago when speaking at Harvard. (I liked the “sort of” hedge – he knew he was “going there,” and “there” he indeed went and should not have.) That is, my 20+ years of commentary on race is the work of a self-hating black bigot whose ideas are compatible with the right-wing zealots who stormed the Capitol.
I’m well aware that my writings hardly qualify as truth incarnate. However, this evaluation of my output and intentions is, in the end, evidence of poor reading. If I were the callow idiot Kendi implies, common consensus would have caught up with me long ago. But I’m still here after 20 years, if anyone thinks only white people like me they’re dead wrong, and all I can say is that I belong, complete with where I flub or could do better.
Kendi, though, reads for isolated words and single sentences rather than argument, for flavor rather than content. It is one more demonstration among many of his lack of familiarity with what people with doctorates, as well as people who write for the public and present themselves as thinkers, are expected to do.
It is of a piece with the fact that his “scholarship” is not based on sustained, original research utilizing close reasoning and being tempered through rigorous evaluation by peers over years’ time. Too, I am unaware of a single instance of Kendi actually taking a deep breath and defending one of his ideas, as opposed to batting away criticism as somehow inappropriate.
This does not, contrary to popular belief, mean that he is a megalomaniac or a huckster. However, it does mean that he is in way over his head. He strikes me as a deer caught in the headlights, and I don’t blame him for trying to make the best of that regardless. There is a certain mystique in his name, upon which we might consider that he was born Henry Rogers. Henry had no idea this fame was coming, and he’s doing his best.
But -- if it turns out that the deer in those headlights is a mean deer, and is going to say such gratuitously nasty things about me on a regular basis, I feel comfortable levelling some honesty about him. (I had Henry’s number a couple years ago, but was holding my tongue as late as this review last summer. But once he started slandering me I decided to speak out.)
Social scientists are familiar with what is called the matched guise experiment. Someone will record a passage in a standard American voice. When that recording is shown with a white man’s photo, it is processed as just “normal” speech; when shown with an Asian man’s photo, more than a few people process the recorded voice as having an “Asian” accent. A “white” voice played with a black man’s photo is processed as less intelligent and authoritative than that same voice played with a white man’s.
This is invaluable demonstration of the subtle biases pervading our society, but in its light, consider this.
Ibram Kendi is someone who, in the role of social scientist, proposes a “Department of Antiracism,” in neglect of a little something called the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Kendi’s insight on education, untethered to any engagement with pedagogical or psychometric theory, is that we should evaluate students on the basis of their “desire to know” rather than anything they actually do. This is a person whose most ready counsel to the public about interracial adoption is that white adopters might still be racists even if they don’t think they are.
Kendi is a professor who, in the guise of being trained in intellectual inquiry, bristles at real questions. He dismisses them as either racism or as frustrated responses to envy, as if he bears not proposal but truth. His ideas are couched in simple oppositions mired somewhere between catechism and fable, of a sort alien to what intellectual engagement in the modern world consists of, utterly foreign to exchange among conference academics or even Zooming literati. And on that, let us remember that he is also someone who, into the twenty-first century, was walking around thinking of whites as “devils” à la Minister Farrakhan.
Here’s the rub: The people who sit drinking all of this in and calling it deep wouldn’t let it pass for a minute if he were white.
There is, in short, a degree of bigotry in how this man is received by people of power and influence.
How to be an antiracist? Stop pretending about Ibram Kendi.