The Unbearable Whiteness of Being
There can be little doubt that the modern university, in its obsession with race, gender, and sexual orientation under the rubric of "social justice," has violated its core mandate, which, in the words of Matthew Arnold from Culture and Anarchy, is to familiarize readers and students with "the best that has been thought and said." The Academy has turned Arnold's maxim on its head, instructing students in the worst that has been thought and said – and done. The curricular fetish of "social justice," which is destroying the university as an institution of higher learning, continues to metastasize.
Indeed, the university as a social and cultural institution is a slow-motion train wreck picking up speed: equity hiring, affirmative action, anti-conservative and overt leftist politics, the "diversity and inclusion" myth on which the academy prides itself, groupthink, speech codes, snitch lines, trigger warnings, safe spaces, microaggressions, the attack on academic freedom – the list goes on.
The bogus issue that has recently acquired major prominence in the quagmire of campus politics is "whiteness," especially the "hegemony" of straight white males and their champions, guilty, apparently, of every conceivable ill that has bedeviled the world since the first silverback descended from the trees. This is merely a prime manifestation of the reigning hysteria on college campuses, in particular its mephitic obsession with race. "The toxic racial climate of colleges looks to be perpetual," warns Scott Greer in No Campus for White Men; anti-white ferocity "remains established as an unchallenged dogma." There is no campus for some white woman as well. Witness the current vendetta against distinguished University of Chicago medievalist Rachel Fulton Brown.
The author of a blog post "Three Cheers for White Men," a committed Catholic and a lover of Western civilization and its Christian foundations, as her many books confirm, Fulton Brown has been vilified as a Nazi and a hater. For daring to defend Western Christendom as the source of many of our most cherished values of sex equality and respect for individual worth, she has been targeted by a mob of professors of literature, history, and medieval studies who are determined to destroy her professionally, writing an open letter to her university, festooned with 1,500 signatures and stating that she is a disgrace to the history department.
The University of Chicago in 2005 (credit: Ibrahim Old).
The intent of the open letter is clearly to have Fulton Brown fired or at least disciplined. She is reviled as a white supremacist spreading hetero-patriarchal desecrations. The profanity hurled against her on Twitter by a presumably cultivated professoriate is unprintable, fit only for the lower depths. As Richard Mitchell aptly wrote in The Graves of Academe, "[t]he prodigious monster is down there."
Naturally, the fact that the entire infrastructure these gutter academics take for granted – the electrical grid that lights their libraries and offices, the buildings in which they sit and type their treatises, the roads they drive on and the planes they fly in, the Twitter feeds and Facebook posts that facilitate their frenzied denunciations of those they deem beyond the pale, the medications that keep them going, the food they put on the table, the table they put under the food, the vintage wines they sip in the faculty lounge, the plumbing on which they rely, the physical and technical maintenance that enables them to survive, the accessories of any sort they assume as given – indeed, just about everything is due to the labor, ingenuity, risk, and entrepreneurial innovation of mainly straight white males of European and American provenance and to the uniformly despised capitalist enterprise. As my wife Janice Fiamengo vividly points out in her recent Fiamengo File video on the issue, the hypocrisy is astronomical.
In focusing on the Fulton Brown fiasco, I will surely be accused by detractors of cherry-picking, but any observer willing to do the research will find that the entire cherry orchard is tainted, scarcely a healthy drupe to be found. Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders, for example, derides such reports of university malfeasance, claiming, "To mistake a colourful anecdote for a measurable trend is a basic scholarly mistake." The instance I've cited, however, is not anomalous, but symptomatic. Saunders should know better. The mistake is his, either an expression of profound ignorance or a deliberate lie.
As Milo Yiannopoulos writes in a major defense of Fulton Brown, an inquisition is underway led by an army of self-proclaimed "arbiters of moral taste, determined to rid the field of infidels." They are intent on "burning the witch." Fulton Brown's heresy is her affirmation that the study of the Middle Ages "is fundamental to understanding how the Christian West emerged, and how dramatically its character differs from other cultures," which explains the current moral panic about white supremacy presumably associated with the period. "But the most absurd dimension of it all," Yiannopoulos continues, "is that nothing associates the Middle Ages with white supremacy more than journalists and academics shrieking about it."
In his seminal volume White Guilt, black scholar Shelby Steele deplores the consequences of what he calls dissociational thinking, the academic tendency to dissociate excellence and truth from a marketable conception of social virtue and justice and to regard race and ethnicity – non-white, of course – as meritorious in themselves. Excellence has become irrelevant as whiteness has become sinister. Dissociation, he concludes, "is a power that always works by eroding the quality of the host institution" while creating a "vacuum of moral authority at the center of American life."
To be white, Christian, and proud of one's heritage is now the kiss of death. Rachel Fulton Brown, an excellent scholar and a woman of high moral character, is the most recent victim of the dissociational bigotry that governs the university environment. She won't be the last.
Note: Academics wishing to sign an open letter by the National Association of Scholars defending Fulton Brown can find it here.