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 7.
Racist violence on campus is said to go deeper still. Anti-racist activists claim its foundation is the very curriculum and pedagogy of the university: “the question of what counts as ‘good literature’ or ‘good art’ is not easily separable from feelings of exclusion from a majority culture of privilege and ‘value’” (Williams);
Check out that link! It goes to the Faculty-Staff Initiative Final Report of 2009 (pdf). These claims are not just made by some radical student fringe. They are core beliefs of many (most? almost all?) Williams faculty and administrators.
And maybe they are right! Certainly, if teachers have been telling non-white students (for their entire lives!) that Aristotle, Shakespeare and Dante are “white” and can’t really speak to the experiences and hopes of non-white people, it would hardly be surprising if those students came to Williams with “feelings of exclusion” toward Western classics. That does not strike me as a good thing.
How long until those names are sand-blasted off the front of Stetson/Sawyer?
Maybe we can keep Homer (brownish?) and Cervantes (Hispanic?) . . .
Side note: Had a conversation with some faculty about the Katie Kent ’88 and Dorothy Wang dust-up. Their comment was that if Katie had not been the one accused of racism, she would have been leading the charge against whomever was accused. Fair?
More from Paul below, and you really ought to read the whole thing!
white privilege is manifested in “white canons of fine art, literature, theory, and scientific thinking” (Evergreen); “research and academia have often emphasized and valued quantitative data, statistical information, and documentation through the written word. Our goals through our research are to push back on this systematic oppression through valuing our personal experiences, oral and creative histories, and the celebration of collaboration and community” (Brown University). From this perspective, all knowledge and all ways of knowing are racialized. Rather than speak of skepticism or empiricism or pragmatism, anti-racists would have us instead speak of white (or Eurocentric) epistemology, black (or Afrocentric) epistemology, Asian epistemology, etc. If different races have different ways of knowing, then in order to adequately learn, students require instructors of the same race. This is stated explicitly at Sarah Lawrence College where activists recently demanded that
Students of color should not be forced to resort to racist white professors in order to have access to their own history. It is crucial that the College offer courses taught about people of color by people of color [emphasis in the original] so that students may engage in and produce meaningful work that represents them authentically … The aforementioned classes must be taught by professors who are a part of the culture they are teaching about.
While such demands are most often seen in the humanities and social sciences, the sciences, too, are increasingly coming under fire for propagating racist violence through their pedagogy and epistemology. These arguments are brought together under the umbrella concept of decolonization, a broad project that first gathered steam in South Africa in 2015 and now spans the English-speaking world. Some of its advocates simply want to highlight the accomplishments of non-white scholars or revise teaching methods in order to reach different kinds of students. Others want a radical racialization of the institutional structure, curriculum and values of the university.