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E-Pluribus | May 27, 2022
Freedom does not equal equality, more on Princeton's firing of Joshua Katz, and the right's wrong turn on corporate rights.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Glenn C. Loury: We Must Make Ourselves Equal
Glenn Loury spoke at the 18th annual Bradley Prizes ceremony this month and City Journal has published an edited version of his speech. Loury acknowledges that racial disparities persist in America, but that false narratives concerning race are exacerbating the problems rather than encouraging the individual responsibility that is necessary to achieve true equality.
Racial disparities are real, of course, but, at the end of the day, just how important is race, as such? Inequality in America is not mainly a racial issue. Many poor and marginalized white people deserve our concern, too. Is “race” an undeniable difference between people, or is it a social construct? Interracial marriage has grown dramatically, as has the number of people viewing themselves as “multiracial,” including the first black president and vice president of this country. We talk incessantly about racial identity. But what about culture and values—aspects of our humanity that transcend race? I have become convinced that the alienation that afflicts so many prosperous black Americans is the result of false narratives told by demagogues and ideologues about how “white supremacy” threatens them, or how we have, in effect, reverted to the era of Jim Crow.
We can rebut these departures from reality in part just by looking at what has happened over the past 75 years. A black middle class has emerged. There are black billionaires. Black influence on American culture is stunning and has worldwide resonance. In fact, when viewed in global comparative perspective, we black Americans are rich and powerful with, for example, ten times the per capita income of a typical Nigerian.
All of this disproves the premise that the American Dream does not apply to us black people. To say that it doesn’t apply is to tell a lie to our children about their country—a crippling lie which, when taken as gospel, robs our people of agency and a sense of control over our fate. It’s also a patronizing lie that betrays profound doubt about our ability to face up to the responsibilities and to bear the burdens of our freedom. For that is the existential challenge we black Americans now face in the twenty-first century: not to throw off the shackles of our supposed oppression but to take up the burdens of our freedom. To whom much has been given, of him much shall be required.
For this saga is not over. Freedom is one thing; equality, quite another. The former is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the latter. As such, it is both futile and dangerous for us black Americans to rely on others to shoulder our communal responsibilities. If we want to walk with dignity—to enjoy truly equal standing within this diverse, prosperous, and dynamic society—then we must accept the fact that “white America” can never give us what we seek in response to our protests and remonstrations.
Read it all here.
The Quillette Editorial Board: The Disgraceful Firing of Joshua T. Katz
In 2020, Joshua Katz wrote an article for Quillette. His piece was critical of a letter signed by 350 Princeton faculty members, staff, and students responding to the murder of George Floyd. Though acknowledging his firing has not been definitively linked directly to Katz’s essay, the editorial board of Quillette strongly objects to Katz’s firing based on the available evidence and warns that such attacks on academic freedom will only be encouraged by Princeton’s cave to a mob.
As of this writing, the report on which the recommendation for [Joshua Katz’s] dismissal rested has not been made public, so it is difficult to evaluate the fresh evidence the university says it marshaled against Katz and that it used to justify his removal. The student with whom Katz had the affair in 2006 now claims that he prevented her from cooperating with the 2018 investigation, an accusation Katz vehemently denies. Katz also claims that emails she disclosed to administrators were stripped of their proper context.
Whatever the truth of a messy affair that appears to have reached a messy conclusion, it is outrageous that Katz was subject to reinvestigation over an affair for which he had already been punished and served his time. Not only is this a prima facie violation of due process and basic standards of fairness, it also sets an appalling precedent. Repeatedly reinvestigating someone for the same offense will inevitably see disciplinary procedures abused as instruments of score-settling and persecution. Henceforth, no member of Princeton faculty or staff can have confidence that any investigation into allegations of impropriety—no matter how vexatious—will not be reopened once completed.
Princeton has denied that Katz was dismissed for expressing his opposition to the faculty letter in Quillette, and the evidence that they did so is circumstantial. “I have considered Professor Katz’s claim [that there was a “direct line” from the Quillette article to being investigated for misconduct],” wrote Faculty dean Jarrett in his report, “and have determined that the current political climate of the university, whether perceived or real, is not germane to the case, nor does it play a role in my recommendation.” However, the sequence of events that led to this deplorable development is strongly suggestive, as is the vindictive manner with which his departure was handled. On May 23rd, National Review reported that Katz had offered to resign his position, but that “negotiations broke down after the university administration insisted it retain the right to publicly say the president had recommended his dismissal.”
It was not enough to expel Katz from Princeton, his head had to be displayed on a pike pour encourager les autres—tenured professors will now think twice before venturing to criticize DEI policies or the race-baiting demands of militant student activists. That is, if they don’t want their own private lives to fall under the prurient scrutiny of those who wish them harm. Eisgruber admittedly found himself in an unenviable position, facing immense pressure from students and faculty to dismiss a professor accused of racial and sexual transgressions. But leadership under such circumstances calls for moral courage and integrity, and this dismal episode has demonstrated that Eisgruber has neither.
Read the whole thing.
Paul Matzko: The New Right’s Dangerous Attitude on Corporate Rights
Citing Florida’s moves against Disney and Texas’s targeting of Big Tech, Paul Matzko writes for The Dispatch that the post-Citizens United new right has made a wrong turn. If self-proclaimed conservatives are going to condition their support for free speech and small government on political, social and cultural matters rather than principle, Matzko says they are no better than progressives.
These are not marginal actors on the radical periphery of the conservative movement. That not one but two Republican governors seen as potential successors to President Donald Trump are headed down this road tells you something about the future of conservative ideology. The old fusionist detente between social and business conservatives is breaking down.
Certainly, it is true that the political bent of companies like Disney has changed. There is a meaningful cultural distance between the Disney of the 1980s and 1990s, with its wink-wink penchant for camp villains, and that of Disney in the 2020s and its stilted gestures toward more diverse casting and plot lines. It is understandable that social conservatives would feel alienated by those changes, but the attempt to punish Disney constitutes a far greater threat to conservatism than anything found in a Disney movie or theme park.
The pesky thing about principles is that they must be universally applied. If a position is defended only when it is in one’s own immediate self-interest, then it is not truly rooted in principle. A conservative who supports free speech rights only as long as the speech being protected is conservative is not actually defending the principle of free speech but merely grasping at whatever rhetorical justification happens to be at hand while waging the latest skirmish in the culture war.
Read it all.
Via Bari Weiss, the wife of fired professor Joshua Katz tells the story from her perspective:
Via Heterodox Academy, Justin P. McBrayer, a professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College, writes for Inside Higher Education about “diversity statements”:
And finally, Matt Yglesias on how “outrage” can supplant attempts to actually solve problems: