Saturday, September 28, 2013

Think-u-cation Fail: A Lonely Grad Student Rebels Against Diversity

This email from a University of Wisconsin-Madison TA has been making the rounds. The background is that, as a condition of his academic coursework, he had to attend some racial and gender diversity workshops, and at some point he had had enough. Read it and weep:
At the “diversity” training yesterday, though, even this fig leaf of apoliticism was discarded. In an utterly unprofessional way, the overriding presumption of the session was that the people whom the History Department has chosen to employ as teaching assistants are probably racists. In true “diversity” style, the language in which the presentation was couched was marbled with words like “inclusive”, “respect”, and “justice”. But the tone was unmistakably accusatory and radical. Our facilitator spoke openly of politicizing her classrooms in order to right (take revenge for?) past wrongs. We opened the session with chapter-and-verse quotes from diversity theorists who rehearsed the same tired “power and privilege” cant that so dominates seminar readings and official university hand-wringing over unmet race quotas. Indeed, one mild-mannered Korean woman yesterday felt compelled to insist that she wasn’t a racist. I never imagined that she was, but the atmosphere of the meeting had been so poisoned that even we traditional quarries of the diversity Furies were forced to share our collective guilt with those from continents far across the wine-dark sea. 
It is hardly surprising that any of us hectorees would feel thusly. For example, in one of the handouts that our facilitator asked us to read (“Detour-Spotting: for white anti-racists,” by joan olsson [sic]), we learned things like, “As white infants we were fed a pabulum of racist propaganda,” “…there was no escaping the daily racist propaganda,” and, perhaps most even-handed of all, “Racism continues in the name of all white people.” Perhaps the Korean woman did not read carefully enough to realize that only white people (all of them, in fact) are racist. Nevertheless, in a manner stunningly redolent of “self-criticism” during the Cultural Revolution in communist China, the implication of the entire session was that everyone was suspect, and everyone had some explaining to do. 
You have always been very kind to me, Prof. Kantrowitz, so it pains me to ask you this, but is this really what the History Department thinks of me? Is this what you think of me? I am not sure who selected the readings or crafted the itinerary for the diversity session, but, as they must have done so with the full sanction of the History Department, one can only conclude that the Department agrees with such wild accusations, and supports them. Am I to understand that this is how the white people who work in this Department are viewed? If so, I cannot help but wonder why in the world the Department hired any of us in the first place. Would not anyone be better? 
There is one further issue. At the end of yesterday’s diversity “re-education,” we were told that our next session would include a presentation on “Trans Students”. At that coming session, according to the handout we were given, we will learn how to let students ‘choose their own pronouns’, how to correct other students who mistakenly use the wrong pronouns, and how to ask people which pronouns they prefer (“I use the pronouns he/him/his. I want to make sure I address you correctly. What pronouns do you use?”). Also on the agenda for next week are “important trans struggles, as well as those of the intersexed and other gender-variant communities,” “stand[ing] up to the rules of gender,” and a very helpful glossary of related terms and acronyms, to wit: “Trans”: for those who “identify along the gender-variant spectrum,” and “Genderqueer”: “for those who consider their gender outside the binary gender system”. I hasten to reiterate that I am quoting from diversity handouts; I am not making any of this up. 
Please allow me to be quite frank. My job, which I love, is to teach students Japanese history. This week, for example, I have been busy explaining the intricacies of the Genpei War (1180-1185), during which time Japan underwent a transition from an earlier, imperial-rule system under regents and cloistered emperors to a medieval, feudal system run by warriors and estate managers. It is an honor and a great joy to teach students the history of Japan. I take my job very seriously, and I look forward to coming to work each day. 
It is most certainly not my job, though, to cheer along anyone, student or otherwise, in their psychological confusion.
I don't feel absolutely qualified to opine on transgender/genderqueer/WTF? issues except to say this: (1) the number of people who could plausibly count as members of these purported groups are so de minimus as to be not worth the fuss and (2) the transgender/genderqueer/WTF? types you may encounter (and even in SF they are rare) are so clearly mentally not alright as to be more pathetic than anything else. Sure, they and their enablers can talk a brave game about how they're exploring the outer boundaries of sexual expression and such, but really they are just not right. A man who thinks he's a woman? Indulge your whims all you want, but you are never going to look right. Same as for someone who can't figure out their gender. I'm sorry that's pretty basic stuff. Just look down! Again, if you can't figure this out, your problems are 100% mental, and said mental problems really have no proper succor in public life.

1 comment:

  1. Diversity is the perfect recipe to get out of the crowd. Each and every day.

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