A national reckoning on race, John McWorther writes, has brought to the fore a loose but committed assemblage of people given to the idea that social justice must be pursued via attempts to banish from the public sphere, as much as possible, all opinions that they interpret as insufficiently opposed to power differentials.
This episode represents a pattern in the letters, wherein it is white students who are “woker” than their Black classmates, neatly demonstrating the degree to which this new religion is more about virtue signaling than social justice. From the same well is this same professor finding that the gay men in his class had no problem with his assigning a book with a gay slur in its title, a layered, ironic title for a book taking issue with traditional concepts of masculinity—but that a group of straight white women did, and reported him to his superiors.
Overall I found it alarming how many of the letters sound as if they were written from Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. A history professor reports that at his school, the administration is seriously considering setting up an anonymous reporting system for students and professors to report “bias” that they have perceived. One professor committed the sin of “privileging the white male perspective” in giving a lecture on the philosophy of one of the Founding Fathers, even though Frederick Douglass sang that Founder’s praises. The administration tried to make him sit in a “listening circle,” in which his job was to stay silent while students explained how he had hurt them—in other words, a 21st-century-American version of a struggle session straight out of the Cultural Revolution.