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Navigating academic race-speak

If you’re not already aware, there’s bad news for all you Boomers and Gen Xers born or raised in the Martin Luther King Jr. era: Belief in his words of racial wisdom is … racist.

Yes, this:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

As a commenter to this piece from February noted, King’s words used to be the goal of educators and reformers. But something happened in the last half-century. That something is academic progressivism.

“Sociologists who have studied colorblindness as an ideology ‘fear that the refusal to take public note of race actually allows people to ignore manifestations of persistent discrimination,'” wrote a Princeton student earlier this year. Institutions of higher learning have codified this sociological “research,” telling students to reject viewing individuals without regards to race.

These sociologists are busy traveling around to other institutions of like-think to cement this philosophy. In one of the latest examples, Illinois Wesleyan University sociology professor Meghan Burke traveled all the way to the University of St. Thomas to enlighten listeners about her work.

At IWU, Burke developed a “pre-orientation” program for white students amusingly titled “Engaging Diversity.” According to the program’s website, Engaging Diversity “is ideal for white students who are interested in learning about diversity and social justice in the United States and who are seeking to engage that diversity in their personal and academic lives.” (What does the second part even mean?)

IWU makes use of an acronym (educationists love acronyms) I’d never seen before: MALANA. After searching around the IWU pages a bit, I found it means “Multiracial, African-American, Latino-Hispanic, Asian-American, and Native American” (students).

MORE: University offers ‘Problematizing Whiteness’ course

Professor Burke, author of the book “Colorblind Racism” (a cool $65 for the hardback version), told her audience straight up that a belief in that philosophy is racist.

“For a white person to say to a person of color ‘I don’t think of you as black or brown’ – that’s not a compliment!” Burke said. “By pretending that we don’t see race, we don’t see the experiences that racism has created for people, and so we’re ignoring a totally central part of folks’ lived experiences. Dismissing the realities of race can perpetuate inequality and violence.”

She added that (colorblind) beliefs in individualism and culture also are racist: They ignore “systemic barriers” which remain in our society.

Interestingly, consider the description of her book: “Drawing on a range of theoretical approaches and real-life examplesMeghan Burke reveals colorblind racism to be an insidious presence in many areas of institutional and everyday life in the United States” (emphasis added).

Since the approaches are theoretical (supposedly with supporting anecdotes), people should feel free to reject them! And don’t allow the “enlightened” like Burke to tell you that you are wrong.

As The Weekly Standard’s David Marcus wrote, belief in colorblindness “doesn’t mean that you don’t see skin color. It means that you try not to make irrational judgements based on skin color.” But this is what modern universities and too many progressive students do. In fact, they openly guffaw at another part of Dr. King’s epic speech:

“The marvelous new militancy […] must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.”

MORE: Who’s to blame for America’s obsession with race?

IMAGE: WindVector / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.