Scores of dead white men glared back at them from the walls of the college dorm. The thought that some of these esteemed alumni could have actually owned their ancestors have apparently haunted the dreams of some of the privileged, elite students at Yale so much that they took to the yard in protest. The dorms at Yale, they declared, are no longer a ‘safe space’ for black students.
Not far away from Yale’s New Haven, Connecticut campus, in rural York County, Pennsylvania, a twelve year old kid is dealing with the usual cruelties meted out by middle school kids, compounded with an extra dose of racial hostility. Fed up with the ongoing bullying, he writes an open letter to the school demanding redress:
To Whom It May Concern:
Yesterday on the football bus coming from our football game a kid … started saying racist things to me…he told me 200 years ago my ancestors hung from a tree and after he said that I should I hang from a tree. That made me super mad, so in the locker room I told him not to call me n—-r or that I should be hung on a tree…I’m tired of boys messing with me because of my skin. I’m at my boiling point with this. Please do something about this because when I bring it to the office/principle you do nothing about it and I’m tired of the racism.
These two fragments represent in microcosm the state of racial relations faced by a new generation of black Americans. On the one hand, they are evidence of the immense progress that has taken place in the country over the past sixty years or so. The very fact that there are significant numbers of black students at elite universities is a testament to that progress. And the fact that a twelve year old boy attending a public school in a predominantly white Pennsylvania county has openly voiced his frustration speaks to his expectation that the grown-ups in the room must exhibit better leadership. That’s progress too.
But we have regressed in some ways too. At the University of Missouri, students demanded (and received) the resignations of University Administrators, who they perceived as being inadequately responsive to their complaints about racial hostilities on campus. But their need to be coddled was so strong that even the ouster of the university’s President and Provost were not enough. Their list of eight demands included the creation and ‘enforcement’ of a “comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum throughout all campus departments and units, mandatory for all students, faculty, staff and administration.” Despite commanding the university to implement mandatory ‘inclusion’ curriculum, the black student activists then proceeded to ban white students who had joined in their protests from some of the planning activities, citing the need for a black-only space for ‘healing.’ It begs the question of course, given all of the recent hostility, whether any white students felt injured and also need healing, rather than more divisiveness and hostility. One wonders how, at a University which is over ninety-percent white, black students hope to be able win friends and influence sustainable change using such immature tactics.
A group of ‘poor,’ ‘righteous,’ and indignant black students at Dartmouth took us back even further. They actually invaded what should be the safest space of all at a University – the library. They barged into the library as other students were studying and actually assaulted white students, hurling despicable racist epithets which have been widely publicized and do not bear repeating. It goes without saying that this group of rash, immature youngsters need to immediately issue apologies to the students they harmed, and seek to make amends. Or they need to be suspended or otherwise appropriately disciplined by the University.
At the end of the day, these recent incidents are not really about attempting to achieve more inclusion or redress of age-old racial wrongs. It is about the ‘offended’ generation expressing its inherited right to be coddled, entitled and accorded a group privilege based on the assumed mantle of victimization. They have grown up on a steady diet of liberal media hogwash that finds a bigot behind every door to achievement, a racial slight in almost every utterance which challenges their world-view, whether it was intended or not. But above all they have come to expect that the world owes them something. And they have not yet come to grips with the reality that much of life is about striving to correct the infelicities in our own character.
The belief in an engineered “equality” to the exclusion of freedom of thought and speech leads inevitably down the road towards fascism. Engineered exclusion was attempted by Hitler, who failed miserably. The engineered equality attempted by Stalin wasted scores of millions of lives. The appeal to authoritarian intervention to guarantee outcomes almost always leads to disastrous consequences. Real equality doesn’t mean everyone gets the same things, or even has access to exactly the same opportunities. It means that no institution – whether government or university – is biased in favor of one group or another. As the lessons of history have taught us, “Equality” without freedom is utterly useless.