You may have seen the piece by New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait on how the “language police” are “perverting” liberalism, citing the attacks on a conservative Muslim columnist at the University of Michigan.
It sparked a fierce reaction from Chait’s peers, including Purdue University rhetoric and composition doctoral student Fredrik deBoer, who calls Chait “a jerk who somehow manages to be both condescending and wounded” in his writing.
And then deBoer goes on to pretty much validate Chait in his firsthand description of campus life:
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19 year old white woman — smart, well-meaning, passionate — literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” Not repeatedly. Not with malice. Not because of privilege. She used the word once and was excoriated for it. She never came back. I watched that happen.
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20 year old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn’t a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20 year olds from rural South Carolina aren’t born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone.
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22 year old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war. Because apparently we have to pretend that we don’t know how metaphorical language works or else we’re bad people. I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself.
DeBoer says he could share “many, many more depressing stories of good people pushed out and marginalized in left-wing circles because they didn’t use the proper set of social and class signals to satisfy the world of intersectional politics”:
So you’ll forgive me when I roll my eyes at the army of media liberals, stuffed into their narrow enclaves, responding to Chait by insisting that there is no problem here and that anyone who says there is should be considered the enemy.
IMAGE: Hans Splinter/Flickr