Stanford U. Prof Joel Peterson: Leftists Are Splitting America Along ‘Identity and Tribal Lines’

San Francisco Black Lives Matter protest
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Stanford University professor Joel Peterson slammed Cancel Culture in a recent op-ed, stating that “wokeism” has “hijacked” Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, as it prioritizes skin color over the content of one’s character, and that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic has offered left-wing activists “a unique opportunity to cleave the nation along identity and tribal lines.”

Peterson, who has taught at Stanford for more than 30 years, describes “wokeism” as “America’s new civil religion, draws on elements of neo-Marxism, critical race theory, social justice and identity politics,” which has “hijacked [King Jr.’s] dream, re-elevating skin color over character.”

“Using a fear of cancellation to silence half the population, SJWs dismissed the steady social progress that was the trademark of the world’s most successful multicultural society,” Peterson explains. “Instead of celebrating the progress flowing from our commonalities, they fomented division by pointing to historical injustices.”

The professor added that the pandemic “had offered activists a unique opportunity to cleave the nation along identity and tribal lines, skirting the 238-year-old aspiration that had been [Saul] Alinsky’s steepest obstacle.”

Peterson also spoke of his own cancelation by students last year, and shared stories about what it was like discovering that he had been unintentionally “triggering” woke students while teaching at Stanford.

The professor expressed that he was shocked to learn students were offended to hear that he “had resisted hiring based on skin color, gender or quotas, and had relied, instead, on character, competence and commitment.”

“In response to my determination to be on the lookout for leaders without regard to identity, an offended gender-studies major wrote that she’d not known ‘whether to scream or throw up,'” Peterson explained.

“As demands for skin-color diversity were broadened to include gender and sexual orientation, a student notified me that I’d called on more men than women in two (of four) classes,” the professor continued, adding that he then became aware that his “interactions with students were being catalogued by identity.”

“Soon, a Black Lives Matter advocate asked, of all things, whether I would stand for the American flag,” Peterson said. “To provide context for my decision, I shared a story. As a toddler, I’d seen my mother take a call from the Department of Defense announcing that her fighter pilot brother had been killed. Honoring her grief, I’d chosen to stand for the flag under which my only uncle had offered the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The student’s response was presented as an irrefutable argument; my choice was ‘racist,'” the professor said of the student’s response.

Peterson continued:

Furthermore, in this woke new world, my professional experience was no longer relevant because of the race and gender I’d been assigned at birth. Despite having created tens of thousands of jobs, promoted women and minorities, and coached scores of entrepreneurs, I was deemed an “oppressor” in the catechism of “wokeism.” Furthermore, the penance for being raised in a “systemically racist” society — founded on millennia of Greek, Roman and Judeo-Christian antecedents, no less — was submission, and, if resisted, cancellation.

The professor says that he believes students have become this way due to “education” being swapped for “indoctrination.”

“Those enlisted as social justice warriors had avoided the lessons of history, missed out on refining skills that might have allowed them to judge assertions and denied themselves the insights required to make wise trade-offs,” Peterson explained.

The professor also described staying quiet with regards to “any reservations I harbored about critical race theory, gender fluidity and climate alarm,” because “such uninformed activism brought with it a minefield of woke hostility.”

Peterson, who is also a former CEO, described feeling “isolated” at Stanford in the era of wokeism.

“With free markets also labeled ‘racist,’ those of us with responsibilities outside the ivory tower began to feel our ‘diversity of optic’ (based on long experience) had been dismissed in favor of a ‘diversity of identity’ (rooted in ideology),” he said.

The professor added that he was not alone in his cancellation, as he realized that “the experience I’d had with cancellation in the academy was being repeated all across the nation.”

“While I may well survive, America will not survive the rewriting of its history, the violation of its Constitution and the abandonment of the freedoms it has promised to citizens of all political persuasions, ethnicities, genders and orientations,” Peterson affirmed.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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