Williams Political Science Professor Darel Paul writes about “Listening at the Great Awokening.” This is a brilliant article, worth reading in full. Relevant controversies at Williams include The Taco Six, Self-CARE Now, UL/Derbyshire, Green/Love Black Joy, and White Male Vigilantes. Alas, I don’t fully trust our busy readership to find the time to do so! So, we will spend two weeks going through the entire article. Day 5.
Thankfully, this seems to still be a minority response to requests for evidence. A more common one is that campus racial violence skeptics listen. Both at Yale and Evergreen, white male professors at the center of the campus storm were repeatedly told to listen and repeatedly accused of failing to listen. At Williams, all faculty have been encouraged to “be listeners. Talk less, listen more.” This is an exceedingly reasonable request. Before skeptics, in particular, speak, they should indeed first spend time listening to protesters. But many do listen. Nicholas Christakis spent hours on the Silliman College quad at Yale listening to (and speaking with) student protestors, and many more hours in structured listening sessions. Bret Weinstein attended hours upon hours of meetings of both faculty and students in which he mostly listened―and during which he was openly pilloried as a racist. So what exactly does listen mean in the context of the Great Awokening?
Via Steve Sailer, I think this photo captures what CARE Now has in mind for professors like Darel Paul.
From listening to a great deal of anti-racist discourse, my strong sense is that listen means two rather different things. Its first meaning is eminently fair and consistent with the everyday meaning of the word: to listen means to hear my story. Minority students and faculty are keen for white students and faculty to listen as they describe their experiences. Experiences are not only external and material but also, and even more so, internal and mental, and thus involve both actions and emotional reactions. Both together make up the story being told. To listen also includes doing so attentively with neither defensiveness nor interruption. I submit that every person of goodwill should do as much.
Agreed. But listening is a two-way street. I am happy to listen to you for X minutes, in precisely this manner, as long as you are willing to listen to me for X minutes. If you think that only your views are worth listening to, then . . .
Listen does not end there, however. A second meaning is attached to the first and follows in its wake. One heard this clearly on the Silliman College quad at Yale University in 2015. Students who were upset over Christakis’s defense of the position that students should police their own Halloween costume choices through “self-censure” and “social norming,” rather than submit to “bureaucratic and administrative” control asked for—and received—an apology for hurting their feelings and causing them pain. This was not enough. Students further demanded an admission from Christakis that both his wife’s original email and his own defense of that email were violent and racist. “Let us tell you if you’re being racist,” said one student. Another insisted, “Empathy is not necessary for you to understand that you’re wrong. Even if you don’t feel what I feel ever, even if nobody’s ever been racist to you―’cause they can’t be racist to you―that doesn’t mean that you can just act like you’re not being racist.” If Christakis had truly listened to those students at Yale, he would have accepted their definitions of racist and violent. He would have endorsed their interpretation of the world as socially normative. Because he refused to do so, one student concluded “all I see from you is arrogance and ego … You are not listening! You are disgusting! I don’t think you understand that.”
Exactly right. The way that CARE Now can be sure that you have really — truly and with empathy — “listened” to them is if you agree with them. If you don’t agree with them, then, by definition, you never really listened.