Naima Lowe, a former Evergreen State College professor who sided with the protesters on campus last year, is the subject of a new piece at The Outline. The piece aims to provide another perspective on what happened at the school, but in the process, a lot of significant detail gets left out. As Lowe sees it, free speech and the right to teach without being labeled a racist is not at all what the backlash to Evergreen State was about. “The image of this beleaguered white man being punished for his racism” was all a lie, Lowe suggests, concocted by the media to hide the real problems she and her student allies were attempting to remedy.
During the 2015 to 2016 academic year, the school’s president, George Bridges, reached out to several faculty, including Lowe, and began working on an equity plan for the school. The plan included mandatory racial sensitivity training for faculty, a yearly report on the school’s progress in advancing equity, and the creation of a full-time equity officer position…
On May 24, 2017, students occupied the school’s library and administrative building, demanding that steps toward equity be taken immediately and that Weinstein resign. Lowe was among a handful of faculty that joined them, but the only one to vocally and publicly support the students during the occupation.
“We are literally asking for the same shit that students have been asking for since the ‘70s. None of this is new. None of it!” Lowe said outside the library. A crowd of students gathered around her and applauded. People were filming. She continued, obviously exasperated: “I don’t have time for anything else. I’m too tired. This shit is literally going to kill me.”
Left out of this summary is the confrontation that went viral in the first place, i.e. the mob of students showing up at Weinstein’s classroom and demanding he resign immediately because they considered him a racist. This account also leaves out the white students who were told they could enter the library but had to remain silent (because they were white). It also leaves out the groups of students who surrounded professors and told them they would need to drop everything else and obey. There’s no hint in this write-up that the author of the piece (or Naima Lowe) see anything wrong with that behavior. And since they don’t mention it, some of their readers won’t know it happened. And then we come to the real offense that angered Lowe and other leftists on campus:
It’s likely the occupation would have remained a local issue; after all, it was about campus-specific demands mostly regarding students and faculty of color at a small school in the Pacific Northwest. But shortly after the library occupation, Weinstein appeared twice on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. “They imagine that I’m a racist,” he told Carlson. “That I’m teaching racism in my classroom, and that I therefore have no right to speak.”
Again, it doesn’t help that the piece leaves out the entire reason for this appearance on Fox News, i.e. students trying to oust an academic from his job by shouting that he was a racist. In any case, that was the beginning of the end:
The media coverage, from niche to mainstream, was nearly universally negative for the students and Lowe: calling them anti-white zealots (Washington Examiner), and anti-free-speech zealots (The New York Times).
If you click on those links you’ll find that neither article used the word zealots. But yes, firing someone for having a differing opinion on the Day of Absence does seem a bit like zealotry.
Zoltan Grossman, a geography professor at the school, found a blog post in which Eric Weinstein espoused the benefits of twisting media language to influence people to favor certain policies. “He was almost laying out a game plan for how to do propaganda,” Grossman told me.
Zoltan Grossman sounds a bit paranoid. You can follow the link above and you’ll find the blog post in question has nothing to do with a game plan for propaganda. It’s a discussion of how emotive language is used to give people signals about the facts they are hearing.
At this point, the article does offer examples of some abusive language that Naima Lowe received by email. It’s strangers calling her the n-word, the c-word and hoping for her death. It’s nasty stuff and not defensible. If Lowe wants to argue that the racist and ugly response to her should be part of the story, that’s fine with me. But it’s not the only element of the story, not by a longshot.
Several students who had been central to organizing against racism on campus left Evergreen either because they felt unsafe or were too burnt out to continue studying there after the Weinstein incident.
“There are students who will remember for a long time what it felt like to be totally and completely thrown under the bus,” one administrator, who asked to remain anonymous, told me. “Our enrollment is severely down…it’s very scary to me that the backlash is so strong.”
Yes, the backlash was strong and not just from the handful of ugly racists emailing Naima Lowe. A lot of students and parents have decided not to attend Evergreen State this year. That’s not because they are racist. It’s because they saw with their own eyes that a social justice mob took over the campus and got almost zero resistance from the college president. That’s what most Americans who watched the videos saw as well. The backlash to that behavior isn’t going to go away because that behavior itself is inexcusable. But don’t try to tell that to Naima Lowe.