This Used to Be a Nice Country

Department Chairs at my college will now be obligated to read two extremely woke books about race and get together with the administration to discuss them. We were officially informed in writing that we are expected to express agreement with the books during the discussions. The books aren’t DiAngelo or Kendi but very similar.

This will be happening in August, the busiest time for Chairs. Just think about it. We are grown people, academics. And we are given a reading list and told what we are supposed to think about the reading even before we do it. We have to interrupt the work we are doing to start that the academic year – and believe me, it’s a buttload of work – and engage in public declarations of how we are guilty for being white.

In Russia, before an election, people who work at state-owned institutions have to write essays titled “Why I support President Putin.” There’s a worksheet provided to show how much space you are supposed to fill. Nobody asks people if they support. They must support because they are told to. The essays exist to humiliate people and let them know that no hint of dignity or personal opinion will be tolerated.

Can anybody tell me how the two situations are different? And I mean, OK, Russians can be excused because they maybe spent a few years not in a totalitarian regime in the last 100 years. They sincerely don’t know better. But what’s wrong with Americans?

This used to be a very nice country.

14 thoughts on “This Used to Be a Nice Country

  1. Which books?

    If you have a document telling you to express agreement you need to get that to a journalist. Or reach out to Heterodox Academy. I know some people there, they would welcome a blog post.

    Lee Jussim is another person to reach out to.

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    1. This is one of them:

      “” Tacit Racism ends with a strong and urgent call for the activation of what authors Rawls and Duck refer to as a ‘White double consciousness.’ The authors contend that learning about the reality of a racialized interaction order could compel White Americans to develop an awareness, or a White double consciousness, of how White Americans are so deeply invested in creating inequitable social environments for Blacks and other communities of color. Overall, Tacit Racism is an interesting and thought-provoking read. As a text to introduce students to the array of interactional dynamics of white supremacy, and the ways that Whites from various backgrounds are complicit in these practices, it is a success.”

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      1. Here’s more about the book: “In Tacit Racism, Anne Warfield Rawls and Waverly Duck illustrate the many ways in which racism is coded into the everyday social expectations of Americans, in what they call Interaction Orders of Race. They argue that these interactions can produce racial inequality, whether the people involved are aware of it or not, and that by overlooking tacit racism in favor of the fiction of a “color-blind” nation, we are harming not only our society’s most disadvantaged—but endangering the society itself.”

        What I fear is that there might be exercises. Like when you have to stand up and declare how you are guilty of “tacit racism” as a white person.

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      2. Do you have written documentation of the requirement to agree? I mean, yeah, we’re not dumb, we all know that you have to agree, but getting it in writing is something else.

        If you have that, let’s take this conversation to email. I can put you in touch with people.

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        1. It says that we have to demonstrate “willingness to understand the authors’ perspectives and arguments.” So it’s coded language, but we all know what this means, as you said.

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  2. What are the consequences for non-compliance? Is there some really important and unexpected emergency that could in very unfortunate way interfere with your ability to make the meeting or are they going to schedule another session with you if you cannot make it?

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    1. Curiously, the organization in St Louis that invited me to give a public talk informed me today that they are moving to an in-person format. This means I legit won’t be able to make it back to campus in time for the book club.

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  3. The difference is that whatever is being done in Russia is done to preserve stability or increase stability, while what is being done in the USA is intended to reduce stability or destroy stability.

    It is easy to be an idealist in politics when there are no consequences for it. In reality though, when you are dealing with significant numbers of criminally minded people, or people who are so stupid, ignorant or indifferent that they are quickly utilised by criminally minded people to act for them, it is sometimes necessary to find a way to stop those people from becoming something that will hurt you.

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    1. Well, if you call an oligarchic autocracy that brutally represses opposition “stability,” then I guess so. Once the criminally minded people control every institution of power, it all becomes very stable in a way.

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      1. The only thing that I call stability is stability. In Russia and in many other places, there is a system in place that represses dissent of all kinds, which has the effect of shielding the political system and state institutions from influence from individuals and institutions alike. The political system and state institutions, being so shielded, are stable, even if everything is very unfair.

        In the USA, there is a system in place that does not repress dissent of every kind, which has the effect of exposing the political system and state institutions – like universities – to influence from individuals and institutions, which includes those who want to transform professors into obedient monkeys that repeat woke slogans to make things seem more fair.

        The political system and state institutions of the USA, being so exposed, are much less stable and even sometimes full of unhappy professors who don’t like being treated like trainable monkeys.

        If history is any kind of guide, political systems and state institutions that can be made unstable are eventually undermined, which causes the public to lose confidence in them, which leads to collapse and political chaos, that then of course gives an opportunity to oligarchs and authoritarians to step in and make everything stable again by putting their boot on everyones neck.

        Just because I say something that makes it seem like I support authoritarians doesn’t mean that I do. Authoritarian personalities are repugnant, just like naive idiotic personalities who think that unfairly forcing professors to chant fair sounding slogans are repugnant.

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  4. “… what’s wrong with Americans?”

    Most of our elites are thoroughly corrupt, and too many of the non-corrupt inhabitants of what used to be America are either stupid or weak or both. Intelligent, clear-headed, well-informed, strong-willed, and non-corrupt Americans have become terribly rare, and we are not running what used to be our country. That’s what’s wrong.

    I don’t know what the solution is. Or, rather, I can think of plenty of bad “solutions”, but I find it very difficult to imagine good ones.

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