Remember that list of microaggressions that was circulated by the University of California system in 2015. Allahpundit wrote about it here at the time. It suggested that students should be taught to avoid triggering phrases as “America is a melting pot,” and “When I look at you I don’t see color.” Over at the Atlantic, author Conor Friedersdorf points out that a recent Cato/YouGov poll asked minorities how they felt about some of the phrases the University of California judged to be microaggressions. It turns out the majority weren’t offended at all:
Telling a recent immigrant, “you speak good English” was deemed “not offensive” by 77 percent of Latinos; saying “I don’t notice people’s race” was deemed “not offensive” by 71 percent of African Americans and 80 percent of Latinos; saying “America is a melting pot” was deemed not offensive by 77 percent of African Americans and 70 percent of Latinos; saying “America is the land of opportunity” was deemed “not offensive” by 93 percent of African Americans and 89 percent of Latinos; and saying “everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough” was deemed “not offensive” by 89 percent of Latinos and 77 percent of African Americans…
the literature was not circulated as the perspective of campus progressives on what should not be said; it was circulated as if it represented what offends and demeans people of color, even though huge majorities of African Americans and Latinos say, when actually consulted, that those very same statements are “not offensive.”
In other words, someone on the far left claimed that minorities were offended by these phrases, when in fact the overwhelming majority of them are not. Not only did someone claim this, they made it part of diversity training and guidance for students. As Friedersdorf points out, what they have actually done is misinform a great many young people about what is true. That’s not the sort of thing higher education is supposed to be about.
Friedersdorf doesn’t say this but I will: The other thing these college administrators (the ones using this material) have done is create racial tension on campus where it ought not exist. Telling white students they could offend minority students by making bland statements like “America is a land of opportunity” surely leaves the majority students with the impression that any conversation with minorities is a fraught endeavor, a series of verbal and ideological landmines that must be traversed carefully. This isn’t likely to foster dialogue, it’s likely to leave many students wary of starting a conversation for fear they’ll say something wrong…and then what? Some students probably decide to just sidestep the whole problem by avoiding the people they might offend.
But this recent data suggests there really wasn’t much danger there to be worried about. Most minorities, like most people of every race, sex, creed, and orientation, are pretty reasonable and not easily set off by anodyne phrases that could hint someone has a different viewpoint. There’s no reason to clench up at the thought of talking to someone of a different race. Unless you’re actively going out of your way to offend someone, you probably won’t. And even if you do (unintentionally), that could be a good way to hear another person’s perspective and maybe even realize they have a point.
There are exceptions, of course. We see them marching around, shouting down speakers and fretting about safe spaces. But the extreme views of the far left don’t have to become the framework around which every student interaction is based. If colleges are going to talk about this stuff, they should start by acknowledging that, when asked, most people simply aren’t bothered by it.