Former Williams History Professor Eric Knibbs wrote “Against Race Theology, or: Williams College is Everywhere Now,” the most scathing attack on the culture that is Williams is years. (Hat-tip to John Drew.) Let’s spend a week going through the highlights of the article, centered around last year’s controversies about White Male Vigilantes, self-CARE Now and Green/Love Black Joy. Professor Knibbs will be responding to (some) comments here.

Knibbs concludes:

Now that Williams College is everywhere, it is worth asking what we can learn from this mess. Perhaps the most obvious is the principle of the high-low alliance, between woke junior faculty and student activists on the one hand; and the highest reaches of the administration on the other. Williams protests like this were coordinated, quietly but surely, by elements within the Williams faculty and particularly the administration. Twenty-foot posters denouncing white people are not the kinds of things that tend to emerge without institutional support. The diversity brigadiers at the bottom almost always end up demanding more administrators, and more power for the administration, at the top. The high and the low array themselves, naturally, against their common enemy in the middle, that is to say those elements with which the administrators are in competition for resources and authority, and who enjoy a regard and security that the lower side of the alliance covets. This common enemy is nothing other than the traditional stuff of higher education itself: the departments and rank-and-file tenured faculty. The American race protests, too, are supported in ways direct and indirect by powerful state and corporate elements, for their own purposes of defeating common, perceived enemies in the middle.

Above all, though, it is the total hollowness of the activists‘ ideology and their complaints that is most salient here. The message of the Williams activists in Spring 2019 had nothing in it that was true, or well-argued, or convincing, or even worth entertaining for a moment. At no point in this embarrassing parody of protest did the facts of what had happened matter at all. It didn’t matter that McPartland did the right thing, it didn’t matter that the memorialized professors, far from dead, were enjoying a semester of unearned leave, it didn’t matter that they hardly bothered to articulate a coherent, specific complaint at all. This didn’t matter to the activists, but it didn’t matter to the administration either. To the end people like Mandel pretended that their cause was justified.

What mattered in these protests was only the flat, atemporal tenets of Race Theology. Events on the ground were forced, however they might fit, into the prefabricated moulds of imagined heresies and an entirely mystical racism. This Race Theology is the very same collection of circular doctrines that all of the protesters are now repeating and spray-painting in cities across the world. These diverge more and more from reality, the more they are elaborated and repeated. This is not the ideology of the oppressed, but the official religion of a comfortable establishment, so confident in its power that it need not justify itself. In fact it is eager to find new ways of provoking and offending. The more ground Race Theology is ceded, the more it will demand. There’s no arguing against it, there’s no convincing or appeasing the race theologians. There is only an opting out of their religion. If enough people do that, they’ll lose their power and their political protection. So, in my small way, I opt out of their enterprise. That’s all.

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

If every professor who feels like Knibbs opts out, then what will remain? Where will Williams be in 10 or 50 years? Where will America be? The rest of Yeats’ poem is not cheerful.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I had trouble deciding how to end this post. My natural optimism argues that this is a phase, no worse than the 60s/70s, which will pass with time. Williams will always be Williams. The old man in me knows that more than one faculty member at Williams would look at a job application from Eric Knibbs (or me or anyone non-liberal) with a “gaze blank and pitiless as the sun.”

What do readers think?

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