McWhorter: Campus Protesters Proposing Everything That Offends Them Is Racism, Can Shut Everyone Up

Author and Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter argued some campus protesters ” are proposing that racism, and that which offends me, is the same sort of thing” and too many “people feel like they’re being enlightened to tell everybody to shut up” on Monday’s “CNN Tonight.”

McWhorter said some of the protesters think, “there are certain things that are off the table.” A point that is valid is some cases, but “These people are proposing that racism, and that which offends me, is the same sort of thing, that, all of a sudden, free speech doesn’t matter, because we’re talking about something where all the talking has already been done, and, therefore, they feel like they’re in the right to shut down any kind of discussion.”

He added, “This starts, I think, with the interest in what’s called microaggressions. And so, what we used to call, it’s the little things, the kind of racism that’s just little X — little things that are annoying. That started being discussed extensively on college campuses about four years ago. Add to that, Black Lives Matter, and the protest model, and you have a combination that makes a lot of students feel that what their job is, is to show that the campus is a very racist place, and to show it in extremely uncompromising terms, as if this were the same thing as people walking across a bridge in Selma.”

McWhorter further argued that while microaggressions exist, “when you get to the point that you can define just about anything a white person does or says as a microaggression, what you’re really doing is bullying out of a sense that somehow, white people deserve this after all of these years of racism. And the problem is, it’s not constructive, and it essentially just creates strife, because even the best minded of white people are going to push back against that.”

He continued, “I don’t know if it’s a whole generation. But in a way, what we’re seeing is a little bit more disturbing, because I think a great many people — probably, the majority of people of color on a college campus, are watching a lot of these things. Some of them feel it’s overblown, some of them aren’t interested. But, one is not to talk about that kind of thing, especially, if one is a person of color. So, the idea is that this way of approaching these things has a place at the table, and that’s a problem, because this place at the table is one from which people feel like they’re being enlightened to tell everybody to shut up.”

McWhorter told of a time where a woman at an open mic night at a bar he was at said, “What do you call 150 people at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.” He remarked, “I didn’t walk out crying. I didn’t write an editorial in the paper. I thought, ‘Boy, I am better than her.’ And I still feel it now. And I think all of us could benefit from some of that. Now, Don, I want to say, not if it’s a party, where somebody’s standing in the door, saying, ‘Only white girls can come in.’ Yes, you have to fight against that. But some of these littler things, I think the idea is that a healthy human being learns to walk on, even if it has to do with racism. Racism isn’t different in that way.”

The discussion then turned to Harvard’s place mats that had conversation guides on various issues. McWhorter said, “It seems like these place mats are designed for you to have this, ‘conversation’ with this racist uncle that we see all over Facebook, and then, the racist uncle doesn’t understand and fulminates, and then, you get to feel superior because he’s one of the people out there who just doesn’t understand.”

McWhorter also argued that the protests over dining hall food at Oberlin College were students, “seeking to be upset in this case, because they feel like it’s what make them wise people.”

He concluded, “there is racism on college campuses. … I do think that Woodrow Wilson’s name and face should be suppressed at Princeton. Woodrow Wilson, on race, was a terrible man, and more terrible than he needed to be, even as a southerner at that time. He really did destroy a lot of black lives. I get it. That’s a reasonable demand. I wouldn’t sit in somebody’s office about it. But, it’s so hard to see some of the reasonable demands in these slates, and I haven’t seen any of these slates where there weren’t a few things that made sense, because of, what looks like melodrama to everybody else, where these students are trying to take off the table something as complex as what racism and discrimination is. And so, really, they end up shooting themselves in the foot. They start out sensible, and then, they end up doing something that hurts their cause, and doesn’t create anything except endless dissension.”

(h/t NewsBusters)

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett