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 6.
Speaking with anti-racists and engaging terms such as racism and violence involves entering an interpretative thicket. When the boundaries of racism expand to include the statements Make America Great Again (Skidmore College) and It’s OK to be white (Bates College, the latest of dozens of examples of this form of trolling) and the dictates of cultural appropriation forbid white people from teaching yoga (University of Ottawa) and performing Indian dance (American University), one despairs of ever extricating oneself from the entanglements of meaning.
Indeed. Again, if I wanted to make trouble at Williams, I would first put up a bunch of posters “It’s OK to be black.” Nothing bad would happen! Then, in the same locations, I would put up posters “It’s OK to be white.” Williams would melt down, as Northwestern has under former Williams President Morty Schapiro’s leadership.
Also, recall the saga of The Taco Six.
Sadly, I don’t know nearly as many of the details of the Taco Six (fall 2014) as I should. (See here for excellent discussion and debate.) I think that the students were never “punished” by the College except to the extent that they were threatened/tortured by the Dean’s Office. (In many of these cases, the process itself is the punishment.)
Woke culture came to Williams before the Fall of 2014, but the Taco Six is still one of its earliest and clearest manifestations.
More from Paul below:
Hate crimes, one hopes, are the most likely site of broad agreement. In 2016, the US Department of Education reported 458 on-campus or residence hall hate crimes on the basis of race among some 12.8 million students at the country’s 4945 public and private non-profit, four-year degree-granting college and university campuses. 95% of these campuses reported no racially motivated hate crimes at all, which suggests that claims of widespread racial violence have been considerably exaggerated. Just 1% of campuses reported racially motivated hate crimes involving physical harm against persons or property—larceny, assault, burglary, robbery, etc. The remaining 4% reported only acts of destruction/damage/vandalism (e.g. graffiti exhibiting bias) and/or intimidation (e.g. threatening posters or speech). Even if we include intimidation in the category of physical harm, just 3% of campuses had even one such incident in 2016. Consider further that, according to political scientist Wilfred Reilly, 15–50% of all hate crimes in the United States are hoaxes or false reports, with campus hate crimes at the higher end of that range. Thus, even the 3% of four-year degree campuses reporting even one racially motivated violent hate crime is almost surely an overestimate. This is not to say that the 400 genuine racial hate crimes each year are irrelevant or simply the price black students, in particular, must pay to be educated. However, such rare and almost always anonymous occurrences, vigorously investigated by campus authorities, cannot stand as evidence of an institutional culture of anti-blackness.
To anti-racist activists, however, reported hate crimes are only the visible tip of the racial violence iceberg. Beneath officially reported hate crimes are the more pervasive bias incidents. In 2016, over 230 US colleges and universities operated bias reporting systems. While few maintain much transparency, the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor publishes a bias incident report log online. In July–December 2017 alone, 60 racial bias incidents involving students were reported on campus or online. During all of 2017, the campus reported just three racially-motivated hate crimes to the Department of Education. This is clearly a tremendous difference. Unfortunately, the University of Michigan’s relatively open reporting system gives little if any information on the content of biased speech or action and usually no information at all on the race of bias targets. Prior to being sued in 2018 for violating students’ free speech rights, the university’s Bias Response Team claimed “the most important indication of bias is your own feelings,” making agreement on the definition of bias likely impossible. Thus, even from this rich data source, it is difficult to draw any reliable conclusions. Interestingly, a 2016 campus climate survey conducted by the university found that self-reported discrimination on the basis of political orientation was more prevalent than on the basis of either race or sex. The university does not even collect incident data on experiences of political bias.