Friday Ephemera
A Peep Hole Into Bedlam

Too Pale-Skinned For Comfort

TomJ steers us to another of academia’s identitarian dramas

Black students’ progress is being stalled by university tutors who are “60-year-old white men” and “potentially racist,” according to students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London. In a report called Degrees of Racism, the student union demands that “all academics must be prepared to acknowledge that they are capable of racism.” It claims unconscious bias is rife at the school — part of the University of London — and that white tutors allow white male students to dominate class discussions and have lower expectations of black and ethnic minority (BME) students because of “racist stereotypes of people of colour as less capable, or lazy.”

Alongside the usual demands for double standards and racial favouritism in hiring, and “compulsory classes for academics to combat unconscious bias,” the students want “all staff [to] feel able to confront each other’s racism.” The report, they say, is intended to address the “significant gap in attainment” between white and ethnic minority students. 

[The report] quotes black undergraduates who say their academic progress is being hampered by older white professors who cannot relate to them. “Both of my tutors are white men. How can I have a rapport and feel comfortable talking to a 60-year-old white man?” asks one.

In short, the students are admitting, albeit unwittingly, that in fact they are the inflexible and bigoted ones, the ones preoccupied with racist (and ageist) stereotypes, and are incapable of feeling “comfortable” with people whose appearance differs from their own. Apparently, for them, learning is next to impossible unless they are being taught by people who look just like them, are of a similar age, and who share the assumptions of a subset of nineteen-year-olds.

Perhaps the students are too busy issuing grandiose demands to consider the humdrum fact that a person’s knowledge, perspective and experience, from which one hopes to benefit, necessarily take time to accumulate. Or to consider the possibility that stretching oneself beyond the familiar and comfortable is the general idea of education. And so it seems to me that the “significant gap in attainment” that the student union bemoans may have more to do with the limited abilities, and even more limited horizons, of the students in question.

Update, via the comments: 

If you can manage to remain conscious while ploughing through the students’ report, with its endless begged questions and circular arguments, you’ll see that the authors rely heavily on hugely subjective and self-flattering claims of “lived experience,” as opposed to any attempt at objectivity – a concept dismissed as both “privileged” and “alienating” - and the stupefying effects of so-called “critical race theory” are hard to miss.

Stripped of verbiage, the students’ complaints include the “pressure to communicate using academic language,” which they regard as “the language of their white, middle-class peers” and therefore an expression of “structural racism,” along with the “stress and anxiety” of being corrected, or even disagreed with. Another prominent grievance is the fact that many of the students’ lecturers and classmates are white, which - apparently by definition - “negatively affects” the “confidence, motivation and engagement” of anyone with darker skin. We’re also informed that a multiracial classroom, one that at least partly reflects the demographics of the nation in which the university exists, now constitutes “racial exclusion.”