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E-Pluribus | July 13, 2021
A witch trial at the Legal Aid Society, conservatives have become the snowflakes on CRT, and a college struggles with diversity goals while it makes it into a field of study.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Bari Weiss: A Witch Trial at the Legal Aid Society
At Common Sense, Bari Weiss chronicles the story of Maud Maron, a public defender who claims she was booted from the Legal Aid Society for her political views on race and education. Maron is now suing her former employer and her union for discrimination.
The suit, which you can read here, claims [ . . . ] that both defendants “published knowingly false statements in furtherance of ideological and political motives divorced from the core functions of Ms. Maron’s employment.” In other words: it says she was forced out of her job because of her political views and her race, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“None of this would have happened if I just said I loved books like White Fragility, and I’m a fan of Bill de Blasio’s proposals for changing New York City public schools, and I planned to vote for Maya Wiley for mayor. The reason they went after me is because I have a different point of view,” she said.
That difference came out most starkly in education, and in Maron’s role on the school board and as a candidate for city council she was outspoken in her views.
“I am very open about what I stand for. I am pro-integration. I am pro-diversity. And also I reject the narrative that white parents are to blame for the failures of our school system. I object to the mayor’s proposal to get rid of specialized admissions tests to schools like Stuyvesant. And I believe that racial essentialism is racist and should not be taught in school,” she told me.
This apparently didn’t sit well with some of her colleagues.
The trouble began in late 2019, when Maron’s boss, Tina Luongo, informed her she was being investigated following a complaint from members of the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid Caucus and Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid. “I knew the accusations were baseless,” Maron said. “It had everything to do with them deeming me an enemy of their politics and trying to go after me at work.”
A former colleague of Maron’s said: “It was McCarthyism. That is the only word to describe it.” Like several others I spoke to, this lawyer requested anonymity out of fear of professional repercussions.
Read the full piece here.
Aziz Huq: The Conservative Case Against Banning Critical Race Theory
To some extent, those who seek to restrict discourse claim that their motivation is to protect the sensibilities of others—to stop hateful and offensive speech. Some social justice activists go further, claiming that some speech is “literal violence.” But at Time, Aziz Huq argues that the conservative campaign against Critical Race Theory (CRT) curriculum in school shares many of the same characteristics as the anti-speech left:
A paradox lies at this largely conservative campaign against CRT. If you slice through the rhetoric, it rests on a view of free speech that the political right, until now, stridently and correctly rejected: That speech can and should be curtailed because it makes some people feel uncomfortable or threatened. As a result, perhaps the most powerful argument against CRT’s critics is located on the political right, particularly in a recent opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, one of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court.
[ . . . ]
The case against CRT, in short, is not about a fixed set of ideas. It is about wanting to avoid certain feelings of discomfort or even shame. But the right has encountered this idea before—and seemed not to like it. Until recently, commentators on the political right have claimed that universities are captured by “leftist” students who “don’t think much” about free speech, or who “don’t want to be bothered anymore by ideas that offend them.” A “jargon of safety” in universities, complained commentator Megan McCardle, is then used to “silence” those who don’t agree.
Conservatives disparage arguments made by “snowflake” college students. But the case against CRT is made of the same stuff. As such, it is subject to the same response. Hence, in a recent opinion concerning off-campus student speech, Justice Alito explained why a student’s crude rant about being excluded from a cheerleading squad could not be punished in simple terms: “Speech cannot be suppressed just because it expresses thoughts or sentiments that others find upsetting.” This is indeed the law: The Supreme Court has not allowed the state to prohibit or punish speech because it riles up an audience since 1951.
The idea that audience discomfort provides a justification for censorship, that is, is at profound odds with our free speech tradition. The case against CRT shows why: Because it turns on how an audience feels, this argument for speech bans has an indefinite, elastic quality, one that accommodates an endlessly voracious appetite for censoriousness. One of the lessons of the CRT debate, indeed, is that offense can and is taken at indubitably true facts. In many educational contexts, this would mean that either side of a hot-button issue would have the right to shut the other down.
Read the full piece at Time.
Heather Mac Donald: Almost Four Decades After Its Birth, The Diversity Industry Thrives on Its Own Failures
At PLURIBUS, we have grappled with defining the term “diversity” and its place and function in a pluralistic, free society. But now it appears, as Heather Mac Donald writes at Quillette, that campus diversity advocates are attempting to cement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into a full-fledged field of academic study, where graduates can go on to other campuses and businesses to continue the work of implementing diversity initiatives. Ironically, Bentley University, the Massachusetts school launching the new major in DEI continues to struggle with its own betterment.
Bentley University itself has yet to yield dividends from its longstanding diversity efforts. The school has been “working for decades on issues, challenges, and opportunities” pertaining to diversity, according to its Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Over 900 faculty and administrators have attended two-day diversity retreats; numerous committees, departments, and offices have focused on improving the school’s “diversity climate.” Bentley even has its own diversity consulting outfit, the Center for Women and Business, which advises employees and managers on such diversity pitfalls as being a mere “performative ally” of oppressed colleagues (as opposed to an active ally).
And yet, despite this effort, a Bentley Racial Justice Task Force recently found that the campus still did not understand how “race and racism” operate at the university. So difficult is it to be a diverse member of Bentley that the task force, formed in July 2020, began with a moment of “restoration,” providing to all “those who had been traumatized” at the school a “time to heal” and a time to “process the pain of racial injustice.”
One of Bentley’s biggest failings, according to the task force, has been its “false confidence” in “objectivity and meritocracy.” These are the norms of a “historically and predominantly white institution (HWI/PWI),” per the task force members. Typical of HWIs/PWIs, Bentley does not pay sufficient attention to the “systemic inequality” that such white norms engender. Equally dismaying, many students and professors apparently would rather study subjects other than racism, the task force lamented, thereby betraying their “lack of understanding about why the study of race is critical to the creation of a full academic experience.”
Diversity industry proponents would argue that white supremacy is simply too ingrained in America’s institutions to be rooted out within a mere three to four decades of diversity work.
Read it all at Quillette.
A thread from Matt Burgess on how Bret Weinstein’s rise to anti-vax prominence illustrates the ways that cancel culture perpetuates and adds validity to conspiracy theories.
Shadi Hamid summarizes his new piece at Wisdom of Crowds on public education: