What We’ve Been Up ToAcademics Group co-chair Dr Philip Hammond has been researching and developing a history and critique of ‘intersectionality’ – Who needs ‘intersectionality’? – which is based on a presentation he gave at the last Academics Group meeting. Hammond goes back to the original work by American scholar and UCLA professor Kimberlé Crenshaw; considers the changing politics of intersectionality; analyses its weakness; and considers how it has moved from the margins to the centre. Meanwhile, there are limited tickets left to our screening of The Great American Race Game, followed by a Q&A with the director, on July 1st (see below), and we are looking forward to your reactions to what is a revealing piece of work.
News NuggetsNews from Planet America. The latest craze is for psychological sado-masochistic home entertainment. All it takes is to be filthy rich, have loads of time and a taste for vegan twice-cooked aubergine and you too can indulge your ego and reflect on what a good person you are for cleansing your mind this way. “Beam me up, Scottie!” Alternatively, you could splash your undeserved riches on therapy from someone who loves to hate white people but doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. In a week in which Bristol has put its Colston statue on display and been accused of glorifying mob rule by Save our Statues, the town of Hartlepool is playing safe by “explaining” its monkey statue. It says something about the current state of our society that the town feels it needs to do this. It also says something about our society that the public shaming of those whose youthful transgressions have been ‘exposed’ through the agency of Twitter is gathering pace. How grateful some of us must be that the unforgiving cruelty of the Twitter spotlight had not been invented when we were young – at least our juvenile mistakes were not held against us for the rest of our lives. Meanwhile, in the world of football, various commentators, including the England manager, have explained that anyone booing the gesture of “taking the knee” must be racist because, even though ‘taking the knee’ is practised by BLM organisations who espouse Marxist philosophy, it is wrong to think it means that when performed by English footballers. Clearly, Gareth Southgate must be a prime candidate for an American dinner of vegan twice-cooked aubergine. Let’s face it, he can afford it, even if the booing fans cannot. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill takes on the real meaning of the woke elites’ horror at fans booing England’s football stars ‘taking the knee’. He argues that these fans want to stop the culture war, yet Southgate, Gary Lineker, et al resent fans’ temerity in calling into question their moral authority. Picking up on the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter ‘inspiration’ he notes:
“that’s what the kneeling is increasingly all about – it’s a knee on the metaphorical neck of the gruff, unenlightened little people who make up football’s fanbase”And finally, Dummy of the Week award goes collectively to those students at Oxford University’s Magdalen College, who have removed a portrait of the Queen as she is “colonial”. Magdalen College president Dinah Rose has defended them as follows:
“The MCR, an organisation of graduate students, has made a decision about its own common room. That is their affair. Magdalen stands by our students’ right to free speech and autonomy.”Bless their little cotton socks, they will grow up one day. If you are vexed by the rise of The Woke University, read Cieo thinktank boss Joanna Williams on how this institutional model has replaced educational goals with a mission to inculcate particular values (which we have also précied for you) and you may wonder how any academic can cope!
DDU UpdatesThis coming week we have a regular Monday meeting (June 14th) and an Academics Group meeting on Tuesday (June 15th) – drop us a line if you would like to attend.
Old wounds have been re-opened as a result of the recent conflict in Israel and Gaza. There have been several anti-Semitic incidents, including this one at Glasgow University, and students at other universities have also reported incidents. It seems that the much-vaunted anti-racist strategies are not working.
Having alienated many of its members, including Dame Maureen Lipman, and expressed strong political support for the Palestine case, Equity has now apparently woken up to the fact that it has also been supporting anti-Semitism and has issued a statement.
Universities are also struggling to contain their own trend towards draconic trivia. The Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, Stephen Toope, has now withdrawn the guidance which aimed to control facial movement and expression as part of their code of conduct. According to the Daily Telegraph, some of the fellows are in “open revolt”. Not before time, perhaps.
There is some good news from California where a plan to decolonise mathematics has been rejected. The idea was that concepts of right and wrong answers should be abandoned as too colonial.
Another school has been taken over by the pupils, or the adults behind them, as they seek to enforce their own particular world view on everybody else and use the claim of “Islamaphobia” to silence those with different views. Joanna Williams argues that school should not be proxies for political battles of wider society. And the head of Allerton Grange School should be commended for teaching pupils that wearing symbols is no substitute for ‘talking to people and discussing it and articulating your message.’
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has challenged Robin DiAngelo to a debate over her contested theory of white fragility. Whether Ms DiAngelo will have the requisite lack of fragility to take up the challenge remains to be seen.
This coming week we have an Academics Group Meeting on Tuesday (June 1st) where Dr Phil Hammond will be introducing a discussion on Intersectionality. Readings are available on request. We also have a joint Education/Arts-Culture group meeting on Wednesday (June 2nd). Drop us a line if you would like to attend either, or both, of these meetings.
There is no regular Monday meeting this week because it’s a Bank Holiday.
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NB – Correction, reference should be to Macolm, and not Michael, Gladwell.
DDU News Nuggets
Bristol has put its damaged statue of Edward Colston, along with some protest posters, on display whilst the debate about relics of the past and identity rumbles on. The Mayor has always phrased this as a decision for the people of Bristol where opinions remain divided. The wider arguments about race, contested history, and whether the mob should be free to decide also carries on.
This week’s prize for the silliest people goes to King’s College, London, where an apology has been made for the “harm” caused by showing a photograph of the late Prince Philip. We can only hope that the perpetrators of this ridiculous act will now fall on their own swords as recompense for the hurt they have caused the Queen by trashing her recently deceased husband, not to mention the rest of us who have developed hernias as a result of laughing at these clots.
The commentator, Rakib Ehsan, made a trenchant comment on this incident: “King’s College London apologising to its staff – grown adults – who have supposedly suffered ‘harm’ after being sent an image of Prince Philip. Being oversensitive and itching to be outraged are dominant features of the modern-Left intelligentsia. A pathetic state of affairs.”
Not before time, Minister Liz Truss is urging that government organisations stop paying the so-called pressure group, Stonewall, for their advice. Recently recorded as having given duff information to Essex University, this pressure group, which holds views on women that annoy many women who see this as a challenge to their human rights, is also raking in taxpayers’ money as an ‘equalities’ advisor.
In America, where everybody seems to know the price of everything, a protest has hit a difficulty in commemorating the massacre at Tulsa. The disputed matter is how much survivors should receive to attend the event.
In the New Statesman, meanwhile, Emily Tamkin is lecturing us all that we need to do more to express regret for this event – she appears to mean financial reparations. Precisely why people who were not responsible or involved should be asked to fork out is unclear and illogical, but that is the zeitgeist in New Statesman land.
The National Trust goes, it seems, from bad to worse. In an essay in The Criticmagazine, it is revealed that not only have they apparently done nothing to restore a building burned down on their watch, but at Penrhyn Castle they are paying a novelist to write twelve stories about her reaction to the troubled connection to slavery, whilst at Holnicote they have apparently broken the terms of the bequest. Not so much contested history as fiction and bad faith?
This coming week we have a regular Monday meeting (June 7th) – drop us a line if you would like to attend.
If you would like to join our DDU Arts, Academic or Education Groups please get in touch!
Some good news this week as we hear that the Law Commission has decided to NOT extend the reach of Hate Crime legislation into the privacy of our homes. We can rest at ease (for now) that dinner party arguments won’t end in criminal charges. Maybe the Law Commission has taken note of public submissions to their consultation? DDU’s submission can be read here.
The debate about statues rumbles on. Robert Jenrick’s plans to make full planning permission a requirement for the removal of public statues has met with disagreement from representatives from the City of London Corporation. Kate Maltby offers some reflections on both sides of the debate and concludes that while the past cannot be erased via removing statues, nor can we say that public statues are devoid of any political spin. Meanwhile, a researcher at UCL‘s project on the legacies of slave-ownership argues Jenrick’s proposals are anti-democratic. Many deny that there is a culture war, or that anything is at risk of being removed. Maybe they should have a look at Policy Exchange’s History Matters Project. Or read how some allegedly ‘public’ inquiries, such as the held by Oxford with regards to the Rhodes statue, are anything but, as one DDU supporter found out.
It is shocking that celebrating the philanthropic efforts of Captain Sir Tom Moore should have been met by some with cynicism and boorish, offensive comments. In Scotland a man faces criminal charges for his comment that the only good British soldier is ‘a deed one’. And in London, a clergyman, Jarel Robinson-Brown faced calls for his removal from post because of his reference to ‘White Nationalism’. Both are cruel and offensive comments, but Nick Buckly, MBE, speaking from personal experience, argues that neither should be criminalised. Nor should offence be grounds for calling for people to lose their jobs. As he writes, in the words of Ghandi, ‘An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind’.
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If you would like to join our DDU Arts, Academic or Education Groups please get in touch!
Khadija Khan Speaks Out on World Hijab Day
On World Hijab Day Khadija Khan writes for the DDU that illiberal religious practices should not be shielded from criticism on the grounds of ‘Islamophobia.’ Khan argues compellingly that progressive members of the Muslim community suffer most when well meaning activists conflate criticism of Islamic ideology with bigotry against Muslim people. On World Hijab Day we shouldn’t forget that the hijab is not a matter of choice for women in many Islamic countries, such as Yasaman Aryani, imprisoned for sixteen years in Iran for removing her hijab in public on International Women’s Day.
“A hole in the heart of anti-racism training”
Chloe Valdary is an American writer and philosopher whose Theory of Enchantment courses seek to revitalise the compassionate teachings of civil rights campaigners like Martin Luther King. Valdary is seeking to forge a new meaning for the much-abused term ‘anti-racism.’ The Theory of Enchantment centres shared human experience, empathy for the uniqueness of each individual and encourages curiosity about difference, rather than assuming that character is determined by identity and shaming those who do not conform to prescriptive racial categories. Critiquing the approach of diversity trainings based on Critical Race Theory in an article this week, Chloe writes:
‘The worst thing a business or school can do is alienate its employees or students by treating people as political abstractions and making them feel insecure. Instead we ought to be asking ourselves how to create conditions that lead everyone to flourish. What is needed is an antiracism training rooted in a framework of abundance, not a framework of scarcity that puts white people into the reductive category of oppressor and black people into the equally reductive category of oppressed.’
Valdary’s work resonates deeply with the core message of Don’t Divide Us, embodied simply in the name we chose for our group. Anyone interested in exploring a unifying, humanistic approach to diversity can find information about the Theory of Enchantment here.
Launch of the Free Speech Champions Project
DDU signatory Inaya Folarin Iman launched Free Speech Champions this week, aiming to inspire young people to protect free speech and engage in critical discourse. The project will support campus free speech societies and facilitate fearless discussion on challenging issues. To quote Free Speech Champion Brad Strotten:
‘Censorship conduces nothing to the end for which it was framed. Shunned into silence, bad ideas, rather than becoming reformed, are confined to the solace of their own affirmation.’
The DDU are proud to support the Free Speech Champions and encourage our supporters to read more about their work here.
Critical Race Theory in Medicine
The Lancet this week published a concerning article calling for Critical Race Theory (CRT) to be embedded in the medical profession. The article claims that medical practitioners are part of the invisible power structures that CRT identifies as perpetuating ‘white supremacy,’ writing that ‘systemic racism is often embedded in policies and hegemonic Euro-American sociocultural frameworks.’ The article further informs us that global health networks ‘emerged as an enabler of European colonization of much of the rest of the world’ rather than, as is commonly understood, a means of ensuring that the maximum number of people have access to healthcare.
As is now commonplace in poor quality CRT scholarship, the Lancet article presents unequal outcomes between identity groups as automatic evidence of widespread, ‘systemic’ discrimination. While we must always take seriously the possibility that discrimination is at play when unequal outcomes are present, pre-determining the cause of a phenomenon in order to advance an ideological agenda is antithetical to the purpose of an evidence-based discipline like medicine. CRT is also hypocritical about which unequal outcomes it is concerned about, using the intersectional grievance hierarchy to determine which identity groups are deserving of support. While the Lancet article demands redress for the low number of women in global health leadership, it seems singularly unconcerned by the underrepresentation of men in fields such as psychology.
Across all professions, but particularly in fields where the best interests of vulnerable people are at stake, Don’t Divide Us would like to see practitioners helping all people in need, regardless of their immutable characteristics.
Is silence really violence?
A thoughtful piece by Jacob Reynolds will interest educators and parents concerned by the current trend towards politicised teaching. Reynolds reflects on the activist mantra ‘Silence is Violence’ and its implications for critical thinking and education. Describing the work of Hannah Arendt, who conceptualises thinking as the ‘soundless dialogue between me and myself,’ Reynolds evokes a moment that must be fondly familiar to many teachers:
‘Silence may be out of fashion, but teachers of all stripes will surely recognise that moment when a comment suddenly turns a pupil’s world upside down, prompting a visible retreat into this ‘soundless dialogue’ with themselves to work out what it all means.’
Demonising silence, Reynolds argues, reduces the space in which individuals contemplate action. Considered thought is the essential partner, not the opponent, of active progress towards social justice, and the slogan ‘Silence is Violence’ collapses this symbiosis into a simplistic binary. As Reynolds writes:
‘Silence then, is very far from being violence. As history has sadly taught us, violence swiftly follows when people insist that we silence ourselves and stop thinking.’