Illinois State University is now offering a “bystander training program on microaggressions” — and I could not possibly think of a more intolerable person to hang out with than someone who is a microaggressions bystander.
The purpose of the program, according to an announcement released last year, is for people to “be aware of microaggressions and be prepared to intervene” with phrases like “‘What do you mean by that?’ or ‘What you are saying or doing is offensive.’” The school is currently preparing for its rollout later this academic year, according to an article in The College Fix.
Look: It’s one thing to intervene on behalf of yourself if someone has said something that offends you. It’s completely another thing to feel like you need to intervene on behalf of someone else, especially when you have no idea whether or not that person is actually bothered.
First of all, it’s patronizing. For example: Language campaigns at various schools — the University of California–Davis, Macalester College, and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, to name a few — have identified “you guys” as being a microaggression on the grounds that it generalizes all people as men which is offensive to women. I, however, am a woman, and I’m not offended by it. Yep — if I were sitting in a group, and someone came up and said “Hey guys!” to us, I would actually be completely and totally fine with it — and if some microaggressions bystander who was not even part of the conversation felt the need to march up and say “Hey, that’s actually offensive to the lady over there,” I would not only not appreciate it, but I’d also be offended by that person for suggesting that I’m somehow not emotionally equipped to hear a phrase that I actually find so harmless that I use it myself.
If you are a woman who has a problem with a phrase, then fine . . . say something when it’s directed at you. But training a group of college kids to think they will be heroes for intervening in private conversations because they’re just, like, so much more socially aware than the rest of us sounds like a great way to create a bunch of socially obnoxious monsters.
Second of all, it’s annoying. Seriously, who the hell would want to be around a person who made a habit of running up to other people to police the speech in conversations that he or she was not even a part of? Think about it: Everything from suggesting golf outings to asking students who happen to be Asian for math help to telling someone that he should like The Beatles has been declared a microaggression at this point; could you even imagine trying to have a conversation at a party with one of these bystander waiting in the wings, ready to pounce at any sign of something that could be potentially offensive? Honestly, if I were throwing a party at this college, I’d be careful to make sure that none of these do-gooders were there to run all of my guests away with their self-righteous interruptions.
Personally, I’d much rather invite the guy who has a habit of getting too drunk and puking in the houseplants than a member of the self-righteous speech police who thinks he knows what should and should not be allowed in a conversation better than the people who are willingly having it.
One of the great things about being individuals in a free society is that we get to decide what’s best for us. We get to decide which friends we associate with, and we get to decide what we are or are not willing to accept in our conversations with those friends. This training program, put simply, is a public university using its funds to create an army of obnoxiousness — and I would highly recommend that it find a better use for its resources.