Last month a professor at Georgetown Law named Sandra Sellers was fired after video came to light of some comments she made about the black students in her classes.
Adjunct professors Sandra Sellers, who taught at the prestigious Washington, D.C., law school for nearly 20 years, claimed her Black students routinely grade lower than others in a conversation with colleague David Batson.
“I hate to say this. I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks, happens almost every semester,” she said in the recorded conversation posted to Twitter last week.
“And it’s like, ‘Oh, come on.’ You get some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy,” she continued.
The other professor who was listening to Sellers was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the school’s diversity office. Her comments were certainly risky in today’s atmosphere but I haven’t seen anyone argue they were false or malicious. If anything she was expressing a bit of disappointment this was happening.
Last Friday professor Lama Abu Odeh at Georgetown Law wrote a piece for Quillette describing what has been happening at the school behind the scenes. She compares it to a Maoist takeover.
The black faculty at Georgetown Law issued a statement denouncing what Sellers said, describing it as “grounded in white supremacist thought.” The statement argued that Sellers’s comments amounted to a stereotype about black students that inevitably had a negative effect on their performance and called for revisiting all the grades awarded by her. The statement insisted that her comments were not “unique” as the “legacy of white supremacy is insidious” and called on professors who “operate from unspoken white supremacist notions… to examine their own flawed thought patterns and correct them.” A black professor called for non-black faculty to issue a statement “not necessarily in support of the letter already written, but from the position of their privilege within racialized spaces like the classroom” and wondered “in what numbers would such a letter be supported and with what reservations?” Quickly and on cue, a statement by the non-black faculty was drafted in which the signatories “acknowledge[d] [their] responsibility as non-Black faculty members to engage in the constant work of examining and revising [their] own flawed premises.” They also “acknowledge[d] the many levels at which [they] must confront ongoing white supremacist notions underlying ideas of merit that may contaminate assessment and performance.” This sentiment was repeated four times in the statement, each time drafted slightly differently but making the same point. Close to every member of Georgetown Law’s non-black faculty (and others) signed the letter.
But Professor Abu-Odeh did not sign the letter. Two other white professors wrote alternative letters. One suggested that if Sellers’ statements were accurate then some additional tutoring was needed. The other argued that unconscious bias on the part of Sellers wasn’t really the issue, that the problem was systemic racism impacting underperforming students. Abu-Odeh says both of those letters were largely ignored. Abu-Odeh says this rush to condemn what may be an accurate if uncomfortable comment is part of a trend of campus takeovers that has been happening in recent years.
Progressive liberals are blind to the fact that there is a regime take-over apace everywhere in academic institutions. A new ruling elite is taking over academic institutions by using its “minority status” to exercise a “soft” coup and is appealing to the minoritarianism of progressive ideology to legitimize its coup—or, if you like, to “manufacture consent.” I will call the adherents of this ideology the “progressoriat.”
The reason that challenging any aspect of this dominant ideology is taboo is because it leaves you vulnerable to the charge that you are uncomfortable with the project of empowering minorities—not just the transfers of power from traditional elites to historically disadvantaged groups that has already begun to take place in the academy, but further transfers of power. The only acceptable response when confronted by any aspect of the ideology that has facilitated this coup is to enthusiastically endorse it—to celebrate it.
What you can’t do is offer any resistance. To do so is to identify yourself as a target. I saw this in action yesterday on the street. If the leftist mob wants to call police ‘the Klan’ which is a pretty extreme position to take, normal people dare not object or they’ll be accused of being Nazis by the same mob.
My favorite part of Professor Abu-Odeh’s piece is this section where she explains how the woke ratchet works. The woke insurgents have an advantage over their communist predecessors in that they can make themselves the victims and their feelings the central issue.
The new elite taking over academic institutions has at its disposal an arsenal of tools to perpetuate its rule. It not only postures as representative of others in the way communists did—the “intelligentsia” representing the worker or the peasant in the latter’s case and representing victim groups in the former’s. The new elite can also represent itself as victims, an opportunity even communists would have baulked at. Members of the new elite have no hesitation at weaponizing their feelings, silencing opponents by claiming they’ve offended them. And, of course, such claims are readily accepted by the progressoriat because of their acceptance that minorities are necessarily oppressed. In this way, the new power elite can present itself as being victims, as well as representing victims. In other words, it has the power to make itself The Cause. This is why the insistence on the ubiquity of unconscious bias is important: it allows the new elite to consolidate their status by continually self-referencing as victims. Bias being everywhere means that the new ruling class, in spite of having seized power, can continue to present themselves as being oppressed. By constantly claiming to be offended, triggering Pavlovian apologies and vows to “do better” from the progressoriat, who appear to have endless reservoirs of self-abnegation, the new elite establishes rituals that renew its rule and solicit ongoing consent to this rule…
This is the cleverness of minoritarian rule: a coalition of minorities that, collectively, form a majority but that is nevertheless always able to invoke its minoritatian status to preserve its power. Power is presented as the absence of power to preserve actual power…
If this echoes a Maoist take-over, that’s because it is. It passes the sniff test.
Nearly four years ago we had the student takeover at Evergreen State College and many were shocked and called it a unique case or something the right was overhyping. A few years later and similar institutional takeovers have occurred all over the place.
The woke still don’t have enough power to run American politics but on college campuses, in the media and even in many corporations it’s career suicide to challenge them now. I’ve been writing about some of the people who dared to do so all year. At best, speaking up will result in months or years of harassment. At worst, you’ll lose your job and your reputation.
This is still advancing, still growing. It’s going to be worse four years from now than it is today. You don’t have to say anything malicious or false to run afoul of the woke mob, you just have to offend their delicate sensibilities. And since what offends them is constantly changing and expanding, finding a spot in their good graces is always temporary at best.