Columbia University linguistics Professor John McWhorter, a black Democrat, recently appeared at the Aspen Ideas Festival and weighed in on the latest campus trends afflicting higher education, including safe spaces and white privilege.
McWhorter, author of the 2001 book “Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America,” said when students bemoan constant oppression and extreme racism — those claims are “not true,” and there’s a performance aspect to their outcries, reports The Atlantic.
“I think anybody in their more sober moments understands that even though racism exists and microaggressions are real, college campuses are perhaps the least racist spots on earth. And the idea that any student is undergoing a constant litany of constant racist abuse is theater, it’s theatrical––you hate to say that to somebody 19 years old, but it’s not true,” McWhorter said.
The Atlantic transcribes much of McWhorter’s commentary, in which he also critiqued the white privilege drumbeat on campuses:
The idea is you are to learn that you’re a privileged white person; you are to learn it over and over; really what you’re supposed to learn is to feel guilty about it; and to express that on a regular basis, understanding that at no point in your lifetime will you ever be a morally legitimate person, because you have this privilege. It becomes a kind of Christian teaching, and it seems to serve a certain purpose––I have to say this, I hope it doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings. For white people, it is a great way to show that you understand racism is real. For black people and Latino people, it is a great way to assuage how bad a self-image a race can have after hundreds of years of torture. I can’t speak for Latinos there, but certainly for black Americans. It ends up being a kind of a security blanket.
I don’t think that either one of those things takes students anywhere. To be a black student who learns that their purpose, that something special about them, is that they can make a loud noise and make white people guilty, I don’t think that’s an education. And quite honestly, if a white person is constantly attesting to their privilege, constantly attesting that they still have things to learn, and not ever specifying what more it is that they have to learn, the idea that is somehow constructive, I suggest that be reexamined.