I don’t write much about the culture war because it seems that one side won, and it’s not my side. If my side is going to win, it won’t be through arguing. In the early 9th century the Patriarch of the Church of the East in Bagdhad had to defend Christianity in the court of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Obviously, he had to tread lightly. This was not a debate he was going to win. The goal was not to lose too badly. This is where I feel the ‘non-woke’ faction among cultural elites is. Just not losing is the victory. But in the long run, the Church of the East went into decline. If you even feign the shahada, the punishment for apostasy is social death.
So I don’t try to argue in public. Resistance needs to be in private because public attention is an invitation to get targeted.
But sometimes something so ridiculous comes on my radar that it warrants public comment.
Over at Bari Weiss’ Substack, she posted a piece from a teacher at an elite private school, I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated. This part jumped out at me:
Recently, I raised questions about this ideology at a mandatory, whites-only student and faculty Zoom meeting. (Such racially segregated sessions are now commonplace at my school.)
This seems crazy to me. Racial segregation? I wondered on Twitter how common this sort of thing is. It must be an aberration, no? Well, a friend who is faculty at Michigan State screenshotted an email he received (this is on a public page too).
We invite attendees to participate in an affinity group during the Student Success Spring Conference. Affinity (or caucus) groups provide spaces for people to work within their own identity groups. To advance racial equity, there is work for white people and people of color to do separately and together. For white people, an affinity group provides time and space to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding white culture and white privilege and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts. For people of color, a caucus is a place to work with peers to address the impact of racism, to interrupt experiences of internalized racism, and to create a space for healing and working for individual and collective liberation.
If you are “woke” you see nothing wrong with this I assume. And that’s fine, we understand each other. On the Last Day, we’re on different sides. There’s no possibility of meeting in the middle. No compromise. I’m marked as to who I am. You know me as an enemy or friend, and there’s really no ambiguity about that. And I will know some of you too! I call you friend now sincerely, but on the Last Day I’ll show you as much loyalty as I’ve received from you.
But what about the rest? There are many academics who find these racial affinity groups disturbing. But they are busy with research. Do they need the hassle of speaking out about these things? Enough. As my friend who sent me the screenshot said: this is being complicit. Other academic friends tell me there is a “hidden majority.” If there is, you are all weak cowards. You count for nothing. The insanity marches and you avert your eyes. Why are you devoting your life to truth, while not confronting the abomination suffocating your institutions? This is evil.
Evil is a strong word. Some of you who are not woke, but moderate, may argue like Abraham haggling with the angels that there is some righteousness in Sodom and Gomorrah. My feelings here are quite personal. I have small children of mixed racial backgrounds. Though the infractions are minor, we’ve encountered strange things in regards to the race of my children. Both my wife and I have been disturbed by requests to clarify our children’s racial identity by school authorities. The only way I can explain what’s going on is it’s like being a Jew in 1980’s Northern Ireland and being asked if your children are Protestant or Catholic. We’re not Christian, and race isn’t super important to our identities (unlike some people). Being asked even implicitly is an imposition and we don’t appreciate our children be asked to racialize themselves (I’m being politic, we were enraged).
But the real problem I have is the white affinity groups. I am not happy with the “people of color” affinity groups either, but in some way, these have been around since the 1960’s. The emergence of white affinity groups seems a nod to the re-racialization of society as the explicit text. The fundamental issue is simple: I do not want white people to think about their race. I do not want white people to think of themselves in racial terms. The history of white Americans thinking in racialized terms is not good for people who look like me. These fools are going to get us killed!
Taking activists who are nonwhite at their word rather than self-interest, they believe white examination and embrace of their racial identity will allow for true anti-racism and justice. My rejoinder is simple: you put far too much faith in the innate goodness of these white people. My wife’s grandparents were good people, yes, but I know for a fact they were opposed to integration. They were good people, but of their time. Most people conform and follow the spirit of the times. Don’t tempt fate to think you can tame the snake of racial identity. It’s evil among all races and all people. It is always with us, but it is sin. As a brown-skinned minority in a majority-white country, I do not want white people to think in racial terms.
More concretely I cannot tolerate resegregation in this country. It would separate me from those who I care about most in the world. It would possibly separate my own children from each other. Today their differences of complexion are matters of happenstance. Perhaps in the future, it would be more important? When on Sesame Street a character says “The color of our skin is an important part of who we are” I feel a cold wind blowing. The context is much more innocuous than some have made it out to be, but for some of us, skin color is an accident.
As a quick aside, this is where some white nationalists freak out and declare “see, his mask has slipped, he’s anti-white!” Fools, I’m brown. My opposition to your kind is on my skin. I was always against you, just like I’m against the Critical Race Theory Bolsheviks. I see you two as the same thing. I always have. I’m a brown-skinned man whose ancestors took the alien name Khan and adopted a foreign religion. I have relatives across the world as we scatter. My whole lineage screams cosmopolitan. It has for hundreds of years. This is my nature, constitutive to me. Since the Axial Age there have been symbol-manipulators who transcend nations and bind peoples together ideologically. That is me and my kind.
The way I differ from some of my kind is I do not expect most humans to be like this, nor do I think it is feasible that we should force others to be like us. Human societies need to operate at some sort of equilibrium so that extreme cosmopolitans (like me) and extreme localists can coexist. The liberal democratic compromises of the late 20th century were good. They established an equipoise for a pluralistic society. What is happening now is cultural radicalism is destroying the social capital and trust that liberalism needs to survive and persist. Once the capital is exhausted people will fall back on other identities. Religion is one possibility. But race is another.
And that is why I think complicity with racially segregated groups is horrible and evil. Most people have no deep beliefs. They have shallow conformities. It’s best not to reawaken affinities and identities that have been submerged and sublimated.
Finally, the universities need to account for themselves. The public fisc will face more stress in the near future. Those of us who feel persecuted by the radicalism bred on these campuses need to stop arguing with the new commissars and ask why we’re subsidizing their livelihood. We need change the course of history or it will run us over. This is not a plea. This is a fact.