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Great Awokening, 5

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.

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4 Comments To "Great Awokening, 5"

#1 Comment By Tikhon On June 7, 2019 @ 8:33 am

The fact that you re-post a photograph from Steve Sailer, an avowed white suprematist, speaks for itself.

#2 Comment By abl On June 7, 2019 @ 11:02 am

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.

That’s exactly and entirely wrong. There is plenty of room for disagreement in the social justice community, including from white cys-men and women. Anyone who has spent any significant time in one of these communities can vouch for this: I can think of hundreds of instances in which a member of a perceived oppressing community respectfully disagreed with the exact consequences you would hope for (e.g., their disagreement was treated seriously and they were given respect).

But it’s also entirely incorrect that simply standing quietly while someone else speaks constitutes “listening” in any meaningful sense, or that any disagreement, no matter how obtuse or disrespectful, is worthy of attention. If I stand by quietly while someone tells me a story of personal racism, and then respond in a way that effectively ignores and delegitimizes their experience, that may well be because I haven’t really listened.

Did Christakis and Weinstein quietly let others speak? As far as I can tell, yes they did. Did they really and truly listen? Well, that’s less clear — and is something that is particularly difficult to evaluate without being there and talking with them. The fact that they respectively spent hours letting others speak is a good first step, but isn’t necessarily reflective of their listening.

This board is full of responses, but listening is a somewhat more scarce good around these parts. Listening doesn’t require reaching full or even partial agreement, but it does require reaching an understanding.

#3 Comment By John Drew On June 7, 2019 @ 3:12 pm

I think the April 9, 2019 anti-white tirade is a much better indicator of how dissent is treated by the proponents of identity politics, especially when it comes to black on white attacks. As I recall, the following exchanges seems to be more representative.

SO: This is white liberal s***.

IB: This is the s***, the tears…

SO: Because nobody wants to talk. Because you had a lot of questions. You had a lot of questions. And I’ve had classes with you. I know what kind of d***heads you are. I’ve had political science with you. It’s s*** that opens up all a yo white moderate f***ing liberal bullshit. I know the type of person you are. So what do you want to say?

WH: I haven’t taken a poly sci class here.

SO: I wasn’t talking to you.

WH: I’m sorry.

What was most notable about this exchange was that the statements of the CARE Now activists went completely unchallenged. None of the College Council members except for the courageous TW even pushed back on the verbal abuse directed at the white students. After the tirade was over, the College Council’s reaction was to call into question its own entirely reasonable procedures.

To me, this exchange illustrated that there is a culture of open antagonism on campus, a culture which is viciously biased against the interests of young white men.

I would remind readers that abl has a bad habit of making bold absolutist generalizations based on questionable methodology. He says he can think of “hundreds of instances” where white critics were treated respectfully…but tellingly doesn’t name one. This is the same fellow who once carelessly told us he had revealed “…literally every single deleted comment available from the author view” when in truth he had only reviewed 1% of the available data.

We see the same culture of open antagonism on campus when white professors are told to shut up and check their privilege, or when students making anti-Semetic remarks are able to stop the recognition of a student group whose only fault is its desire to celebrate Israel. There is a deep sickness at Williams College. Pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t going to make things better.

I applaud Dr. Paul for his gentleness, thoughtfulness, insight and raw personal courage. Thank God the school has people like him on-board.

#4 Comment By 0xEph On June 7, 2019 @ 3:20 pm

I would remind readers that abl has a bad habit of making bold absolutist generalizations based on questionable methodology. He says he can think of “hundreds of instances” where white critics were treated respectfully…but tellingly doesn’t name one. This is the same fellow who once carelessly told us he had revealed “…literally every single deleted comment available from the author view” when in truth he had only reviewed 1% of the available data.

This is all easily verifiably false. It’s genuinely perplexing to me why you so willingly destroy your own credibility when there is nothing at stake for you here—other than, maybe, that abl adds nuance to an issue that you insist in seeing in comically black and white terms?