I have written columns and blogs through the years about the disturbing trend on U.S. campuses toward free regulation and controls. In the name of diversities and tolerance, college administrators and professors are enforcing greater and greater controls on speech –declaring certain views or terms to be forms of racism or more commonly “microaggressions.” The latter term is gaining support to expand the range of controls over speech and conduct to include things that are indirect or minor forms of perceived intolerance. The crackdown seems most prevalent in California where lists of “micro aggressions” seems to be mounting as a macroaggression on free speech. The new list of verboten terms out of University of California (Berkeley), headed by Janet Napolitano, captures the insatiable appetite for speech regulation. The school has asked faculty to stop using terms like “melting pot” or statements like “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” They are now all microaggressions. Not only are school buying into the concept of microaggressions and speech regulation, but they are shaping a generation of students who seem to look for any possible interpretation of terms to take offensive at.
Ironically, while using the term “melting pot” is now viewed as an unacceptable microaggression, actual aggression in the form of assault by a faculty member on people for using free speech is not considered an offense worthy of termination — indeed it was an act deemed understandable if not heroic by some students and faculty in the case of California Professor Miller-Young.
Napolitano asked UC deans and department chairs to attend seminars “to foster informed conversation about the best way to build and nurture a productive academic climate.” The seminars includes handouts with these terms as part of the program called “Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send.” The manuals were reportedly adapted from a book by Columbia University Psychology Professor Derald Wing Sue. For civil libertarians, the handouts should be entitled “Recognizing Speech Codes and The Speech They Curtail.”
Some points have been previously discussed on this blog. For example, now discouraged is the statement “There is only one race, the human race.” We saw recently how the President of Smith College was forced into a mea culpa for saying “all lives matter.” Such collective valuations of live and humanity is now considered offensive because it denies “the significance of a person of color’s racial/ethnic experience and history.” A microaggression.
Likewise, “America is the land of opportunity” somehow suggests that “People of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder” while asking an Asian, Latino, or Native American “why are you so quiet?” is trying to force him to “assimilate to dominant culture.” Finding such microaggressions has become a virtual cottage industry (if I can say that without degrading any cultures that do not use — or use — cottages). Even some of the most important social and political debates are now considered racist if one side is spoken directly. For example, the Supreme Court and the nation has continued to debate affirmative action and whether it is a form of racism. However, saying “Affirmative action is racist,” is now deemed a microaggression by default. Thus, you can have the debate — just do not state your position on the ultimate question. Academics supporting such views seem wholly unconcerned that the barring of the expression depends on your first accepting the opposing premise on the issue of affirmative action. Consider the defense of OiYan Poon, an assistant professor of higher education at Loyola University in Chicago: “The statement that ‘affirmative action is racist’ completely ignores the history and purpose of affirmative action, which is to address inequalities resulting from the many ways our government and society have prevented people of color from accessing economic, educational and political opportunities and rights.” That is of course the opposing position in favor of affirmative action. It is worth noting that the Supreme Court has declared affirmative action to be unconstitutional for universities admissions. Recent opinions explore the limited range in which race may be considered for purposes of diversity, not affirmative action. However, the main problem is that the barring of this expression as a microaggression assumes that affirmative action is not racist — the very point under debate. In this sense, one side controls the debate by declaring the opposing view as simply racist to express.
The expanding efforts to curtail speech on college campuses shows how the taste for speech controls can become insatiable for many. Ironically, liberal faculty once rallied whole campuses to fight for free speech. Now, many are leading the fight against the speech of opposing groups as essential to a “tolerant” society. It is a dangerous trend that we are seeing throughout the West. However, the campaign of faculty to deny speech on campuses presents an existential threat to the entire academic mission. We are education a new generation that free speech is a danger to rather than the definition of a free society.
Source: Daily Beast