That Klavern in Williamstown
All of this was against the backdrop of an outbreak of peak collegiate stupidity here at Williams. The school invited Michael Bloomberg to be a commencement speaker. This is hugely controversial on the left. A bunch of students and faculty are furious because Bloomberg supported stop-and-frisk policies in New York. Hence, these kids are passing around flyers comparing Bloomberg to a slave-holder or some such. One professor told me that perhaps as many as 150 members of the faculty might turn their back on Bloomberg on graduation day. And everywhere there is a lot of talk about how Williams is a “white supremacist” institution. Gotta love a thoroughly liberal liberal-arts college being called white supremacist by the very same black kids it admitted for an excellent four-year education. Dumbest. White. Supremacists. Ever.
Or maybe not. As everyone knows only the really racist, super-clever-Klanny-type schools invite Angela Davis to speak on campus (with none of the controversy Michael Bloomberg elicits). Nothing says White Power more than fêting a radical champion of Black Power.
On Aggressions, Micro and Macro
Last night, after my talk, a student made a great point about all of this insanity. An ethnic minority himself, he explained how exasperated he is with a handful of mostly black kids going around screaming how anyone who disagrees with them are “racists,” “white supremacists,” etc. That’s bad enough, but what really bugged him was the double standard these kids want.
Let me explain. The leftwingers — racial, gender, feminist whatever — all subscribe to this “micro-aggression” claptrap. This is the latest term of art for the same political-correctness spiel we’ve been hearing for decades. A “micro-aggression” is when you unintentionally say something (allegedly) insulting or insensitive that only an incredibly sensitive and politically programmed person would immediately take as a sign of oppression. Wikipedia tells me that “microinvalidations” are “communications that subtly exclude negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person and their social identities.” It offers an example of such a microtravesty: “White people ask Latinos where they are from.”
This of course raises the question of whether Sonia Sotomayor is a Wikipedia user or author. As Rich Lowry (Praise Be Upon Him) notes in his column, she makes a great deal of hay about these horrible affronts to human dignity, on the strange assumption that they had anything to do with the legal question before the court.
So here’s the double standard. According to the doctrine of microaggression, if I innocently ask a Latino, “Where are you from?” I am committing some grave, bigoted, thought crime that the Latino has every right to be furious about. But when some lefty screams at me that I am a white supremacist racist blankety blank based on nothing other than some conjured offense drawn from Marcusian hogwash and hooey, I am not only supposed to stand there, take it, and feel guilty about it — I’m also supposed to repent of my evil ways. Asking a Latino “Where are you from?” might be a faux pas — or it might be a friendly way to start a conversation! But as far as aggressions go, it seems awfully micro, even nano, compared with being called a racist because you asked the question.
Funny story: Recently, the Dalai Lama visited AEI (Big hitter, the Lama). I was out of town for it, but Ramesh Ponnuru attended his talk. At one point, His Holiness turned to Ramesh and said something like “You’re from India, you know what I mean” (not exact quote). Ramesh replied, “Actually, I’m from Kansas.” Then Arthur Brooks apparently quipped something like, “Don’t worry your holiness, everyone in Kansas looks like Ramesh.”
Now, I think that’s all hilarious and utterly harmless. But apparently, what Ramesh should have done is stand up, point his bony finger of condemnation at the Dalai Lama, and scream in his best Cotton Mather voice “Microaggressor! Burn him!”