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Academia’s newest target: ‘White-informed civility’

Crackpot racial theories are commonplace in academia today. The latest craze, however, has targeted civil behavior as a tool of white supremacy.

As Steve Salerno writes at The Wall Street Journal, two professors from the University of Northern Iowa recently published a study that purports to show how “whiteness-informed civility” works to “create a good White identity,” “erase racial identity,” and “assert control of space.”

The study, published in the Howard Journal of Communications, claims that “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm.”

According to Salerno, the study purports to show that “civility, as currently practiced in America, is a white construct,” and that, “in a campus setting, the ‘woke’ white student’s endeavor to avoid microaggressions against black peers is itself a microaggression—a form of noblesse oblige whereby white students are in fact patronizing students of color.”

“Not only that,” Salerno writes by way of explanation, “but by treating black students with common courtesy and expecting the same in return, white students elide black grievances, bypassing the ‘race talk’ that is supposed to occur in preamble to all other conversations.”

From The Journal:

Something similar is happening in collegiate debate, where historically high standards of decorum are under siege as manifestations of white patriarchal thinking. So are the factual and logical proofs that debaters are normally expected to offer in arguing their case. Some participants are challenging the format, goals and ground rules of debate itself, in some cases refusing even to stick to the topic at hand.

Again the driving theory is that all conversations must begin by addressing race. As one top black debater, Elijah J. Smith, writes, debate must, before all else, “acknowledge the reality of the oppressed.” He resists the attempt on the part of white debaters to “distance the conversation from the material reality that black debaters are forced to deal with every day.”

Mr. Smith and his think-alikes seek to transform debate into an ersatz course in Black Studies. In a major 2014 debate finals, two Towson University students sidestepped the nominal resolution, which had to do with restricting a president’s war powers, in order to argue that war “should not be waged against n—as.” Two other students decided that rather than debate aspects of U.S. policy in the Mideast, they’d discuss how the common practices of the debate community itself perpetuate racism. Other recent debates involving black participants have devolved into original rap music.

A few debates have featured profane outbursts and even the hurling of furniture. In one memorable case, when the clock ran out on a student during the championship round, he yelled, “F— the time!”

Increasingly at major competitions, there must be a pre-debate debate on the terms of engagement: whether students are required to cite proof or are free to argue wholly from their feelings and so-called lived experience. Far from being banned or even maligned by debate judges, such antics increasingly win converts and, not coincidentally, matches. Such was in the case with the aforementioned Towson pair.

“This rising academic shrine to supposed inclusiveness,” Salerno writes, “rests on a pair of dubious pillars. As with the attack on ‘white civility,’ it assumes that students of color wish to talk about nothing but color.”

“Even if that’s true for some,” he points out, “it is not a proclivity that educators should encourage.”

“Worse,” he adds, “a cynic might conclude that the unstated goal is to make it possible for students of color to succeed academically by talking about nothing but color, thus allowing race to inflect whole areas of inquiry to which race is irrelevant. Such practices denature the college experience and bespeak a breathtaking level of condescension.”

Read the whole column here.

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