Monday, November 23, 2015
America’s Cultural Revolution Reaches Amherst
General Jeffery Amherst's alleged but unproven blanket warfare raised yet again
In dismaying news for a troubled alumnus, America's politically correct student revolutionaries have not bypassed Amherst College, as shown by a November 12-13 sit-in at the college's Frost Library. Amherst events provide a case study of modern academia's leftist domination with grave implications for academic freedom.
The student protesters issued a statement befitting the Maoist demands for self-criticism of China's Cultural Revolution Red Guards, although no cannibalism has yet occurred at Amherst. The protestors decried Amherst being "complicit in oppressive organizations" against the "systematically oppressed" and demanded statements of apologies from Amherst's Board of Trustees Chairman and President Biddy Martin. Although "only a part of short-term healing," this apology would address Amherst staff, students, and alumni who had suffered the modern lament of lacking a "safe space for them to thrive while at Amherst College."
Unbeknownst to many at the "Fairest College," these individuals endured a catalogue of horrors of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latin racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.
While no institution is perfect, such sins and any corresponding inability of the Amherst College community to thrive are not immediately apparent. A campus statue commemorates Amherst alumnus and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher while a captured Confederate cannon in a college building recalls Amherst students who fought in the Civil War. Amherst's Charles Drew Memorial Culture House carries the name of another alumnus who was a medical pioneer and, like civil rights legal pioneer Charles Hamilton Houston, is among Amherst's distinguished African-American graduates. The first Japanese graduate of a Western institution of higher learning, Joseph Hardy Neesima (Amherst Class of 1870), initiated Amherst's longstanding relationship with Japan.
Not an Amherst alumnus, but the college's unofficial mascot, Lord Jeffery Amherst, the 18th century British commander-in-chief in North America, is the current object of scorn for the college's would-be betters. Amherst's conquest of Canada from the French endeared him to American colonists, including those who named the Massachusetts hometown and namesake of Amherst College. In a 1763 letter exchange, though, Lord Amherst suggested dissemination of smallpox-infected articles among "disaffected tribes of Indians" for their "Total Extirpation."
The Frost protesters demanded that Martin condemn the "inherent racist nature of the unofficial mascot, the Lord Jeff," memorialized in the school fight song and the private Lord Jeffery Inn next to the college. According to the protesters, this condemnation "will be followed up by the encouraged removal of all imagery" pertaining to Lord Amherst (perhaps even including his portrait in the college's Meade Art Museum?).
"Some people believe that drawing a parallel between Jeffrey Amherst and Adolf Hitler is going too far," a Native American student in the 2014 Amherst College class once said, "but for me and many other Native people, Amherst is our Hitler."
Yet the reality of Lord Amherst's offending letters during Pontiac's Rebellion, a conflict involving several Indian tribes in the Pennsylvania colony and Great Lakes area, is more complex. While Indians seized several British outposts, 600 settlers sought protection at Fort Pitt with its garrison of 125 soldiers on the site of modern Pittsburgh, then enduring the deprivations of a siege by 1,000 Indians. Historical evidence indicates that the fort's commanding officer, Captain Simon Ecuyer, independently implemented Lord Amherst's scheme with indeterminate effect.
"The Fort Pitt smallpox episode is just one example of the degree of hatred that animated both sides during Pontiac's Rebellion," a Pennsylvania historical society writes.
Once celebrated by colonists and Indians alike for its peaceful intercultural relations, Pennsylvania had become a killing ground in which each side became convinced that its future rested on extirpating the other. Indians raided British posts and settlements...burning homesteads, taking captives, and torturing and murdering soldiers and civilians. British colonists and soldiers retaliated with equal brutality."
The "British were willing to use biological warfare against their Indian enemies," the historical society writes objectively without Hitler hyperbole. The fact that several British officers like Ecuyer independently considered smallpox stratagems demonstrates that Lord Amherst possessed no unique cruelty. Indeed, evidence indicates that the British tried to weaponize smallpox against rebels in the American Revolution, a tactic that recalls medieval military uses of animal carcasses.
Lord Amherst had particular grudges against Native Americans, although there is no record of his in belloextermination musings ever affecting the various Indian tribes with which the British often traded, negotiated, and formed alliances. Inflated reports of Indians killing and scalping British soldiers in French captivity during the 1757 Fort William Henry massacre outraged him and the rest of British North America. While deplorable, Lord Amherst's hatred found echoes centuries later in American icon Theodore Roosevelt.
"I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians," he declared, "but I believe nine out of 10 are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the 10th."
Such historical nuances are unlikely to find a fair hearing among the Frost protesters who demanded a vague "zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech." They particularly condemned posters placed on campus with statements such as "All Lives Matter" and "in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech." The "racially insensitive" students involved should "be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.
Martin's call in a statement largely sympathetic to the protesters to "protect free speech while also establishing norms within our communities that encourage respect" is cold comfort under the circumstances. Absent rigorous respect for intellectual freedom, the Left's sacred cows such as LGBT agendas and non-Western faiths like Islam will go unchallenged while aspects of Western civilization like Lord Amherst will endure the strictest of scrutiny. The noxious ramifications of such biases extend well beyond the idyll of elite institutions like Amherst, a fact that should provoke alumni and parents to exercise adult supervision over increasingly infantile students.
A Conservative Student’s Take On the Recent College Protests
Can liberalism defend itself from its progeny? This question is rarely considered by liberals themselves. But after seeing the disturbances on America’s campuses over the last couple of weeks, they would be well-advised to start.
Universities are supposed to be bastions of liberalism. Liberal administrators have insisted for decades that they know how to craft an environment free of hatred and bigotry.
Under their beneficent control, America’s campuses would nurture a belief in universal human dignity that undergirds the traditional liberal worldview. Multiculturalism and affirmative action were stepping stones aimed at vindicating the most important value of all: tolerance.
The Definition of Intolerance
Of course, tolerance that proceeds in only one direction – “tolerance for me, but not for thee” – is the very definition of intolerance.
Yet that intolerant conception is now accepted as correct by some leftist students nationwide.
The results have been predictably disastrous.
The left has perverted the liberal idea of tolerance by combining it with the perverse politics of identity and power. Too afraid of being labeled racists by campus radicals, the liberals have largely given up fighting for their own professed principles: democracy, equality under the law, equality of political rights, and the rule of law.
The drive to reduce “inequalities” in pursuit of “social justice” on campuses now takes precedence over every long-standing right cherished by liberals, most especially the freedom of speech.
Today’s students are willing to trade freedom for comfort. They will end up with neither.
How Did Things Get so Bad?
Identity politics, which is diametrically opposed to individualism and freedom, is now ingrained in the fabric of our universities. The sorting of students into “oppressors” and “oppressed” starts at the beginning of the contemporary college experience.
Those sorted into the “oppressed” category are exhorted to bring up their “marginalization” at every opportunity. Most of them cannot describe how they have personally faced substantial racial, ethnic or other discrimination (because few have).
So instead, they dutifully recite talking points about the “structural oppression,” “white supremacy,” and “systemic racism” allegedly faced by their identity group.
When conflict erupts, the “oppressed” are entitled to do as they please. If they behave well, they are praised for restraint in the face of injustice. If they behave badly, even violently, the “system” is blamed, and they are absolved of all responsibility.
Those sorted into the “oppressor” category usually consist of people who are some combination of white, heterosexual, Christian, and male.
Their highest calling is self-flagellation. They are required to condemn their own “privilege” and denounce the accomplishments of themselves and their families as unearned and unjust. They are to apologize for their identity group at every opportunity.
Those who try to think for themselves are denounced for their heresy as traitors to the cause of collective liberation. Those who insist on following any kind of moral principle or precept – which will necessarily offend some people – are deemed intolerant and demonized.
A Culture Of Hypersensitivity
We are now viewing the utter inability of liberalism to stand up for its own values. Modern American universities are no longer liberal models, but due to their restrictive and Orwellian environments, foster hypersensitivity and conformity.
The sense of victimization that these students feel is used to justify their nasty tactics. If you are on the wrong side of the social justice war, they will not stop at attacking your arguments. They will go after you personally – your job, your reputation, and your livelihood – to intimidate.
Not realizing that capitulation welcomes contempt rather than respect, liberal college administrators have capitulated and accommodated the radicals.
The radical left wants power, not justice. Liberals betray their own principles of freedom and equality under the law when they acquiesce to policies of racial quotas in the classroom and political censorship on the campus.
University of Missouri students demand a faculty that is a minimum of 10 percent black, and demand the addition of a mandatory “awareness and inclusion” curriculum developed by non-white students and faculty. They want to dictate the academic offerings of a university, with special treatment for their own racial groups. That is not equality.
Leftists are destroying liberalism. Universities are quickly gaining a well-deserved reputation as some of the least free institutions in American life.
The task is for conservatives, and true liberals, to stand up for America’s moral, legal, and political foundation.
Establishing classical liberal values in America required tremendous sacrifice on the part our forefathers. We are not about to see that legacy damaged by students who have no understanding of the source of their own freedom and prosperity.
Reflections on the revolution
That the American university is in crisis is a statement that now commands wide agreement.
What are students complaining about? That Yale and other elite universities are mired in outdated conventions and ideas, which exclude and discomfit students who don’t “fit the mold.” For conservatives, and even for many moderates, these claims are mysterious: There are few institutions in American life that are so utterly beholden to the left and its principal tenets. But that doesn’t seem to impress the radicals. And so what happens is that students’ particularized grievances — an “insensitive” administrative email, perhaps, or an alleged “white girls only” party or, at Mizzou, a “poop swastika” drawn in a public bathroom — are transformed into abstract condemnations of entire schools. A university’s “racial climate” — which can include anything and everything about it — is deemed insufficiently “sensitive” or “inclusive.”
Of course, nebulous accusations that an entire institution is “insensitive” are nearly unfalsifiable, especially when these charges are ultimately grounded in feelings or, as the phrase goes today, students’ “lived experiences.” Indeed, it sometimes seems that the unfalsifiable nature of so many of these muzzy claims is quite deliberate. It is virtually impossible to quarrel with feelings. Muddled language makes for muddled minds, and muddled minds make for easy, unanswerable indictments.
Our administrators, who ought to act with prudence and foresight, appear helpless in the face of these indictments. Consider President Salovey’s email to the Yale community this week. Without any fight or pushback — indeed, with no thoughts as to burdens versus benefits — he capitulated in most respects to the demands of a small faction of theatrically aggrieved students. Within his prolix “letter to the community,” there was but one good idea: a reduction in the student income contribution, which rather ought to be done away with entirely and replaced with something like the law school’s career options assistance program.
Aside from this, three main proposals stand out: the further funneling of resources toward the “intellectually ambitious and important fields” of race, ethnicity, gender, inequality and inclusion; the doubling of cultural house funding; and mandatory diversity training for faculty and staff, as well as new orientation programs that “explore diversity and inclusion.”
These are all bad ideas, for many reasons. But if President Salovey sees any downsides, one would never know it from his message. The only hint of reservation that can be found in Salovey’s email is his brief assurance that our commitment to eradicating racism and discrimination in no way “conflicts with our commitment to free speech.” Although one would hope that this assurance is valid, it is also largely beside the point.
What is wrong with Salovey’s plan for Yale, and the direction in which he is taking our fine university? The diversity behemoth is an enormous waste of academic time and energy. The cultural houses arguably contribute to campus-wide racial balkanization at least as much as they diminish it. Mandatory diversity training presents a grave threat to intellectual honesty and rigorous inquiry, because it assumes the truth of propositions that must ultimately be tested by empirical study.
The proliferation of hyper-ideological “studies” majors takes us further, as Glenn Loury put it, “onto a slippery slope that slides down into intellectual mediocrity.” The growing amount of time Yale students spend thinking about racial injustice is taken away from acquiring useful analytic skills and concrete knowledge in a broad range of subjects vital to our world’s future, and from learning to think carefully, rigorously and quantitatively, including about race and social inequality. These shortcomings have little to do with threats to free speech.
The true crisis of the American university is one of cowardice and craven capitulation. If free speech is to have meaning, people must have the courage to speak. My suspicion is that many students and faculty agree with at least some, if not most, of these assertions. Yet few dare to say so. And even fewer will argue for their merits.
That refusal to speak up is unfortunate. Campus radicals see themselves as moral crusaders, as champions of a secular “social justice” creed. They are not nihilistic relativists without a point of view. Rather, they want the university’s authorities to accede to their vision, to accept their point of view and their grievances without resistance. But that presents the university with a true “teachable moment” — to show our so-called activists, gently but firmly, why their view of reality, of the university’s role and of what’s best for society’s future, is shallow, hollow and misguided.
H. L. Mencken once said that democracy tends to degenerate into a “mere combat of crazes.” He might just as well have said the same about the modern American university.
Do those who run Yale care to prove him wrong?
Blame the White Guy 2015
University group hosts "White Privilege" retreat
The University of Vermont recently held a retreat exclusively for Caucasian students so they could explore white privilege.
“Examining White Privilege: A Retreat for Undergraduate Students Who Self-Identify as White,” was the name of the three-day conference, as first reported by the website Campus Reform.
It’s a bit wordy for a t-shirt, in my humble opinion. They should’ve just called it “Blame the White Guy 2015.”
The retreat was sponsored by the university’s African, Latino, Asian, Native American and Bi/Multiracial Student Center — ALANA for short.
“It’s a new retreat specifically for white students to engage in building a stronger and inclusive campus community,” ALANA stated on its website.
The taxpayer-funded university would not tell me how the “free” retreat was financed. Typically, when you see the word “free” it means “courtesy of the American taxpayer.”
ALANA said the purpose of the getaway was for white students to “recognize and understand white privilege from an individual experience as well as the impact of white privilege on the UVM community and beyond.”
They also felt it was necessary for the university’s white students to “conceptualize and articulate whiteness from a personal and systematic lens.”
I have no idea what that means.
I’m also having a difficult time understanding what it means to self-identify as white. Is that someone who belongs to a country club, cuts the crust off his bread and doesn’t have any discernable rhythm?
ALANA provided testimonials from white privilege alumni who gave the retreat a thumbs-up.
It was a “great opportunity to talk about an identity that I had not previously felt equipped to comfortably discuss,” said one pale face.
I can only imagine the fun they must’ve had at — noshing on salmon and arugula in the mess hall, sitting around a campfire crooning Barry Manilow songs and sharing scary stories about how their pigmentation oppressed people of color.
As we all know, the only way to build a stronger and inclusive university campus is to shame the white children into acknowledging they are personally responsible for every imaginable evil that has befallen the world — from global warming to that episode of “Happy Days” when Fonzie jumped over the shark.
I was particularly intrigued by a series of questions they asked the campers: What does it mean to be white and how does whiteness impact you?
The other day I contemplated my whiteness while I was watching a “Dukes of Hazzard” marathon.
Truth be told, I do enjoy Hank Williams Junior and NASCAR and mayonnaise. But I also enjoy Tyler Perry movies.
Some folks might self-identify as black. Others might self-identify as white. But as for me, I self-identify as an American — a free man.
And I think that’s a privilege no matter what color you are.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:29 AM