Does Any of This Campus Turmoil Have to Do with Race?
Allow me to generalize: no. The answer is no.
No, Yale is not a hotbed of racism. Neither is Dartmouth. Neither is Columbia. Neither is Princeton. No reasonable person of color on any of these campuses really believes that he suffers interminable racial discrimination sanctioned by such institutions. The best inducement to cathartic rage the Ivy Leaguers can find is strips of black electric tape on some old portraits (unclear whether it's a hoax) or the last name of one of the more progressive Democrats in history.
You know you're desperate when your slogan is "We Will Not Surrender to Six Strips of Black Tape" or "Woodrow Wilson Was a Racist!" When you're fighting adhesives or people who died ninety years ago, you will quickly learn: to agree to fight such a battle is to lose it by default. By this I do not justify vandalism or voting for Democrats, neither of which I do.
No, there is not a climate of bigotry poisoning the air at the University of Missouri. That's where a gay black student council president and a hunger striker with a multi-millionaire father teamed up to get a few people fired and a whole country obsessed with their campus until Paris fell apart on international TV. The high point of the Mizzou Affair was of course a swastika traced in ostensible human excrement, which for some reason the press failed to recognize as likely anti-Jewish, not anti-black.
No, blacks and Latinos are not particularly interested in "safe spaces" or "trigger warnings." These pseudo-therapeutic phrases sound very much like (because they are) the type of babble heard from wilting suburban white girls. Not the types of suburban white girls who get black belts in taekwondo and later vote Republican, mind you, but rather the types who usually accuse black and Latino men of "bullying" and go on to intern at "women's centers" on leafy New England campuses.
No, blacks and Latinos have nothing to gain and zero interest in Title IX or equal access to bathrooms and showering facilities for transgender individuals. Blacks and Latinos, with their long and ignominious history of dealing with inspections, surveillance, and disciplinary proceedings, have no abiding interest in hiring more people to "investigate" anything, never mind the phantasmagoric "bias incidents." Show me a black or Latino man who wants to go into a bureaucrat's office and answer personal questions across a Formica desktop, and I will show you a fool.
No, black and Latino men do not want Title IX administrators meddling in their sex lives, either to explain a basic concept like "consent" or to play pretend-police on important matters like sexual assault. If a rape charge is involved, serious due process may be the only thing standing between your average black man and a miscarriage of justice. (Lest you forget, recall that charges of sexual aggression were the stock and trade of paranoid racists in days gone by; from lynchings to Emmett Till, it was always a climate of protecting women from rape that was most ripe for targeting of men of color.)
So what in Heaven's name is all this racial talk about on campuses?
The long list of campuses that have been staging grounds for anti-racist demonstrations, ranging from cacophonous finger-snapping at every mildly confident statement made by slam poets in favor of boycotting Israel to screaming at people in the library, is so long that we don't have time here to summarize all of them. Google is handy and always a great resource for catching up. The stories of Occidental, Claremont, Minnesota, Kean, etc., etc. are really the same drama I've written about using the mythical name "Gaslight University." It goes something like this:
- On some college, photographers or videographers document a group of students, containing a disproportionate number of black and Latino youths, congregating somewhere and screaming about something.
- The conservative press quickly disseminates the story with scorn and disapproval for "kids these days," reviving some of the semi-forgotten debates about affirmative action, The Bell Curve, and nostalgia for when post-pubescent boys went to boot camp.
- The liberal press rushes in for damage control, publishing some winsome and sympathetic piece reminding the readers of Salon and Mother Jones that racism is really bad, and "civil disobedience" and "the protest tradition" ought to be regarded as beautiful things. Unlike the conservative press, the liberal press usually provides none of the particular details about the supposed "protest," such as the student demands for random people to be fired as collateral damage for having done (literally) nothing, or the fact that many of the beautiful protesters shoved, shouted down, and insulted bystanders. The liberal press is so happy over anything reminiscent of Woodstock, Stonewall, or the March on Washington that it doesn't feel pressed to update its boilerplate lifted from the Port Huron Statement to fit the current generation of radicals, who aren't doing Freedom Rides or shouting for withdrawal from Vietnam, but rather asking for a 60% increase in operational funds for some third-world activities center complete with ping-pong tables and vending machines.
- If the campus can survive its fifteen minutes of fame, the administration panders to what it assumed was a real student movement by moving around personnel and money in ways that have zero impact on black and Latino people anywhere. This involves, for instance, hiring a new bureaucratic sadist to serve as "equity and diversity" officer, allocating more funds for some cliquish cultural center run by a Talented Tenths of snobs, and promising to hire more minority faculty.
- While all of this goes on, minority faculty like Carol Swain and Robert Oscar Lopez are quietly driven out of their tenured jobs by white leftists (often LGBTs), with not a peep of concern from those screaming for more diverse faculty. When they mean diverse faculty, for Heaven's sake, they don't mean Christians. Ewww.
This Is All Proxy Warfare
It is important not to be fooled by all the outward appearances of these campus Chernobyls. First of all, a small percentage of students are involved in these shenanigans. Most are busy trying to finish their work or looking on in horror.
Second, racial minorities are simply being exploited in a gigantic bait and switch. It is usually not students, but rather provocateurs off campus or nestled in the administration who are behind the sit-ins, snap-fests, marches, and mass confessionals. The easiest way to prove this is by looking at the lists of demands. There is invariably a lot of bizarre attention paid to the misdeeds of some administrative position and calls for a reorganization of the bureaucratic leadership. "Fire the vice provost and promote the associate director." Students don't write stuff like that.
More often than not, the legal boilerplate is fitted toward catchphrases to push all the right buttons at the Office of Civil Rights: "hostile learning environment," "inclusivity," "free of intimidation," "safe spaces," "micro-aggressions," and "cultural competency." I've taught thousands of undergraduates. These are not words that sophomores and juniors in college, even at Princeton, come up with, organically. Somewhere behind the scenes, diversity consultants, lawyers, and organizers are spoon-feeding the terminology to them and hoping they don't screw up in front of a bullhorn somewhere.
And of course, somewhere in the demands, the gays and the transgenders magically appear. Payton Head, the gay black president of Missouri's student council, delivered his famous manifesto back in September, which was reprinted in the Washington Post. After talking about being called the n-word and lamenting the plight of Muslims being unfairly labeled terrorists, he called the world's attention to "being transgender and worrying about where to find a bathroom."
Maybe young men of color have changed since I was one, but I doubt it. Black and Latino people who worry about racism aren't really worried about whether transgender people can use the bathroom of the opposite sex. The line was thrown into Head's speech because he wasn't writing it for an uprising for racial justice. He was writing it, most likely, to ingratiate himself with politically connected and well-funded people tied to the LGBT lobby. Michael Sam also came from Missouri and got a phone call from President Obama. It's Head's turn now.
To exploit the dreams of black people is older than the cotton gin. The anguish felt by men of color because of the high-profile deaths of blacks in police custody is miles away from the worries about Bruce Jenner getting access to a ladies' showering facility. It is insulting to wed the latter to the former cause. But it is fully within the pattern of common behavior for protest hustlers to insult the very people they claim to champion.
Changing the name of Yale's Calhoun College, firing me for taking students to a conference at the Ronald Reagan Library, making sure that women with penises can shower next to women with vaginas, expanding the gay and lesbian pride center, and hiring more overpaid busybodies to investigate bias incidents and keep secret files on alleged bigots – none of this will change the angst and suffering of poor black communities across America.
So why is it all happening?
Very simple: there is an election coming up next year. Higher education is a hot topic because of bloated tuitions, ruinous student debt, growing scandals over bogus research, useless curricula, declining academic freedom, and the abuse of an underclass of adjuncts who do most of the teaching.
If we talk about any of these real problems, certain people will have to answer for their misdeeds. Among those responsible, we must count the administrators who have wasted money on administrators and saddled their alumni with debt, the Democrats who have used colleges as their racketeering right arm for decades, and corrupt caudillos of the sort we find peppered on any university campus.
They don't want to talk about how bad they've been for the last fifty years. They'd rather talk about racism. So they partner up with politicians, organizers, grant administrators, rabble-rousers, and garden-variety scum to draw up plans for lots of street distractions. Rile up the commoners. Make it about some racial issue that will get everybody furious and won't go anywhere or change anything. Fake a hate crime if you have to.
Just deflect. Don't answer real questions. And carry on.
Robert Oscar Lopez is author of Colorful Conservative: American Conversations with the Ancients from Wheatley to Whitman and Jephthah's Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family "Equality."