“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” In the scope of Social Justice, justice for the sake of justice is not justice. Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington has had its own sobering realizations in this department last week as they closed campus Thursday due to a direct threat on the faculty and students.
Professor Bret Weinstein, a deeply progressive Biology teacher most noted for his TEDx Talk presentation in 2012 on climate change, sent an e-mail to a faculty member regarding a new format for their annual “Day of Absence / Day of Presence”. The Day of Absence, inspired by the play of the same name by Douglas Turner Ward, serves as a chance for all members of the college to engage in open discussion on the racial commentary and racial relations in America. The new format proposed by Rashida Love, Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services, suggested that white people leave campus so that “students of color” can have an open discussion amongst themselves without being subjected to “white privilege” mentalities.
Weinstein believed the request to be a stark departure from Days of Absence past by saying, “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles […] and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away.”
The e-mail in question by Love stated, “This year, we will have a full-day, on-campus educational and social program designed to address issues from the perspective of people of color. […] off-campus, at the Unitarian Universalist Church […] we will host a full-day program focusing on allyship and anti-racism work from a majority culture or white perspective.”
While the experience of People of Color in America should never be belittled, telling white people that their opinions are not valued because the color of their skin dictates that they are not able to comprehend the gravity of the situation. While there is a modicum of truth to that, segregating people of color from white people as we speak on racial tensions which has included segregating people on the basis of skin color seems a bit counterproductive. With this, the over-intellectualization of ethnocentric attitudes used as a cohesive measure for a community has become another form of racism “in and of itself.”