04/20/2017

We Few, We Miserable Few

Heather Mac Donald, City Journal

Black students at Pomona College and neighboring schools in Claremont, California, have published an open letter declaring their hostility to free speech—other people’s free speech, that is. The letter shows that the faculty of the Claremont colleges are failing in their most basic educational duties.

The manifesto, written by “We, few of the Black students here at Pomona College and the Claremont Colleges,” was triggered by a statement on academic freedom by outgoing Pomona College President David Oxtoby.  Oxtoby’s statement in turn responded to a student blockade that tried to shut down a talk on policing I was supposed to give at Claremont McKenna College on April 6. Leave aside for a moment the signatories’ unblemished ignorance regarding free speech and the role of unfettered discourse in creating their own liberties. Viewed purely formally, the letter is a major embarrassment to the faculty of Pomona and the Claremont colleges.

It is filled with excruciating solecisms (“Though this institution as well as many others including this entire country, have been founded upon the oppression and degradation of marginalized bodies, it has a liability to protect the students that it serves”); garbled regurgitations of High Theory (“The notion of discourse, when it comes to discussions about experiences and identities, deters the ‘Columbusing’ of established realities and truths [coded as ‘intellectual inquiry’] that the institution promotes”); and sheer head-scratchers of incomprehensibility (“To conclude our statement, we invite you to respond to this email by Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 4:07 PM [since we have more energy to expend on the frivolity of this institution and not Black lives].)”  (Gnawing question: Why not a 4:08 PM deadline?)

Does this student writing demonstrate the value of a Pomona education? Several of the co-signatories are graduating this year or the next. Are their professors satisfied with their command of the English language?  What grade would this incoherent tract receive if turned in as a term paper—a D?  Or, more likely, an A?   Faculty undoubtedly fear correcting the writing of “marginalized students,” lest they suffer the same scourging as UCLA Education Professor Val Rust did when he tried to induct some of his Critical Race Theory students into the protocols of academic prose.

The content of the letter, such as it is, should alarm the faculty as well (at least those faculty who have not inspired “We, few's’” tortured efforts at Foucauldian post-modernism). The students appear to argue that the ideal of free speech is based on a mystifying and oppressive concept of unitary truth, and that such a concept solidifies white supremacy: “The idea that there is a single truth—‘the Truth’—is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment . . . This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.”

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