How far we haven’t come as A nation! In January 2011, in the wake of the shooting spree in Tuscon that claimed six lives, Barack Obama delivered what to some was an emotional and stirring appeal to Americans to usher in a new era of civility. Others saw it for the cynical gesture it was, recalling that just weeks earlier the same president had urged Latinos to “punish our enemies and … reward our friends” in the midterm elections.
At the time of his speech, some on the Left deciphered Obama’s words as “intended for Republicans,” implying that Democrats were already the party of civility, while the Right was made up principally of “bitter clingers.”
When those same bitter clingers, now rebranded as “deplorables” voted to replace the Obama style of governance in 2016 with its diametric opposite, liberals showed just how civil they were, holding rallies and marches that declared that Donald Trump was “not our president.”
Now the whole silly enterprise has come full circle. Campus Reform reports that two professors at the University of Northern Iowa are arguing that practicing “civility” in college classrooms leads to “white racial power.”
C. Kyle Rudick and Kathryn B. Golsan assert in a recent academic article that civility, particularly “whiteness-informed civility,” allegedly “functions to assert control of space” and “create a good white identity.”
This civility can reinforce white privilege, Rudick and Goslan argue, because “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm,” according to the field of “critical whiteness studies.”
For their “study,” Rudick and Golsan used an absurdly tiny sample size of ten students, whom they asked questions like “What do you consider to be civil behavior?” and “How do you think your racial identity may affect your understandings of civility when talking with students of color?”
Students who indicated that they “treat everyone the same way” were viewed as merely trying to create a “good white identity.”
The profs’ solution? To stamp out civility. “It is incumbent upon instructors,” they write, “to ensure that their classrooms are spaces that challenge, rather than perpetuate, WIC [whiteness-informed civility].” One way of doing this is “by ensuring that White students and students of color engage in sustained, sensitive, and substantive conversations about race and racism.”
How can a plan like that miss?