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Thursday, August 25, 2016
Colleges Need To Resist Racial Segregation, Not Foster It
The Federalist - Thursday August 25, 2016
by Jillian Melchior
Concordia College St. Paul’s administrators doubtless had the best of PC intentions when they mailed out an orientation letter this month to minority students, announcing a meeting that “all new students of color are expected to attend.”
Students rightly decried this as a segregationist policy. “Make this public and let the world school them why this is 1. Unnecessary 2. Unwanted 3. Discriminatory 4. Dumb,” wrote one outraged Facebook user quoted by Inside HigherEd.
Unfortunately, in an era where college and universities are increasingly obsessed with identity politics, the far-Left has found itself championing a toxic form of second-wave segregationism than only exacerbates division.
This Isn’t an Isolated Incident
Regrettably, Concordia College is far from alone. After police fatally shot two black men, one in St. Paul and one in Baton Rouge, and after a Dallas shooter killed five police officers, the University of Wisconsin-Madison held “processing sessions” this summer, segregating the meetings by race to provide “affinity spaces for people of color and for white people.”
Similarly, last semester, a records request by College Fix revealed Oregon State University had spent $11,500 on racially segregated retreats, discussing topics including microaggressions, oppression, and white privilege. The University of California-Berkeley will open a segregated student union this fall. “Black people, no matter our location, need a space of our own to heal, create, build and decompress,” said the Black Student Union’s chair.
Segregated housing is also making a comeback. Some University of California-Los Angeles students demanded a black-only so-called “Afro-House.” The University of Connecticut will open black-only housing this fall. Students at the Claremont colleges advertising for an off-campus roommate publicly wrote they wanted only people of color to apply. “I don’t want to live with any white folks,” one of them said.
Diversity Meets Privilege
This same attitude is also changing college curriculum across the United States. At Yale University, Seattle University, and elsewhere, activist students have decried “too white” or “too Western” curriculum, demanding universities axe classics, instead determining the merit of a work based on the race, ethnicity, gender, and class of its author.
At the same time campuses are calling for more diverse curriculum, they’re also perpetuating the absurd notion of cultural appropriation. Where students were once encouraged to explore diverse opinions and perspectives, allowing themselves to be inspired, they’re now taught that drawing from cross-cultural knowledge is tantamount to theft.
It rejects the notion of universal truth, seeking instead a wisdom wholly bound and limited by gender, ethnicity, race, and background.
Higher education has long focused on universal values, pointing students to the good, the true, and the beautiful. Great works, from the plays of Shakespeare to the Federalist papers to the poetry of Langston Hughes to the books of Salman Rushdie, belong in the literary canon because they teach us something about what it means to be human.
But the second-wave segregation on campuses—especially when combined with the ghettoization of curriculum and the suppression of any thought or discussion deemed controversial or “offensive”—inflames divisions. It imposes physical and intellectual separation of students, making it harder for young adults to bond with anyone unlike them. It rejects the notion of universal truth, seeking instead a wisdom wholly bound and limited by gender, ethnicity, race, and background. It narrows our view of humanity. To borrow a hideously awkward but pervasive academic phrasing, it perpetuates “otherization.”
It’s worth noting that not everyone on campus, including many minority students, subscribe to such radically divisive ideas. For instance, records from Ohio State University show that a black student was horrified after she was handed a flyer last semester advertising, “Shhh! Black only speak easy.”
She wrote to administrators that while she “overwhelmingly support[s] dialogue between members of a marginalized race,” the idea was “openly discriminatory,” adding, “we are a public institution, and can cause a much more severe fallout and undesired consequences if this meeting actually happens.”
In their zeal to appear enlightened in an era of identity politics, administrators are caving to the loudest, most divisive voices on campus. Faculty see an opportunity to advance their academic careers by carving out specialties and supporting their most radical students.
But campuses’ embrace of second-wave segregation will be every bit as devastating as the first wave. Colleges and universities need to show the courage to stand up to this culturally toxic trend. Those who don’t can expect more turmoil, division, and tragedy.