Jonathan Kay of the [Canadian] National Post experiences the unintentional hilarity of a "Whiteness workshop." The premise:
Sandy, Jim and Karen work at a downtown community centre where they help low-income residents apply for rental housing. Sandy has a bad feeling about Jim: She notices that when black clients come in, he tends to drift to the back of the office. Sandy suspects racism (she and Jim are both white). On the other hand, she also notices that Jim seems to get along well with Karen, who is black. As the weeks go by, Sandy becomes more uncomfortable with the situation. But she feels uncertain about how to handle it. Test question: What should Sandy do?
My own answer, announced in class, was that Sandy should approach Jim discreetly, explaining to him how others in the office might perceive his actions. Or perhaps the manager of the community centre could give a generic presentation about the need to treat clients in a colour-blind manner, on a no-names basis.
The problem with my approach, the instructor indicated, lay in the fact that I was primarily concerned with the feelings of my fellow Caucasian, Jim. I wasn't treating Karen like a "full human being" who might have thoughts and worries at variance with the superficially friendly workplace attitude.
Moreover, I was guilty of "democratic racism" -- by which we apply ostensibly race-neutral principles such as "due process," constantly demanding clear "evidence" of wrongdoing, rather than confronting prima facie instances of racism head-on. "It seems we're always looking for more proof," said the instructor, an energetic left-wing activist who's been teaching this course for several years. "When it comes to racism, you have to trust your gut."
You will never encounter a bigger bunch of hooey than by sitting in such a "workshop." I mean, just consider that term "democratic racism." "Race-neutral principles of due process" is a symptom of this concept? Well sure, if you subscribe to this gobbledygook; after all, it's the logical outgrowth of "Critical Race Theory" which has as one of its foundations the idea that the American (and Western, for that matter) political system -- equal justice for all, due process, equal rights ... even freedom of speech -- is still oppressive if it doesn't take into historical account the plight of minorities. This is at the heart of "white privilege" -- since whites have constructed the very system under which we [all] live, it inherently will "maintain" the dominant culture (or race).
Just witness how Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has been perverted (from the article): "I hate when people tell me they're colour-blind. That is the most overt kind of racism. When people say ‘I don't see your race,' I know that's wrong. To ignore race is to be more racist than to acknowledge race. I call it neo-racism."
What does one say to that? That to ignore race makes you more racist than acknowledging it? Are you kidding me??
Such damned-if-you-damned-if-you-don't theorizing can only come about by people with an extreme amount of free time on their hands, not to mention some pretty destructive ideas for modern Western society. The First Amendment, for these folks, would be conditional; the speech of the dominant culture (whites) would suffer greater legal scrutiny (or, be subject to more constraints) than that of minorities. In 1992, for example, lawyers used Critical Race Theory to argue against the right of a person to burn a cross (R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul). Mari Matsuda and Charles R. Lawrence III argued that "when acts of speech are acts of intimidation and threaten violence, backed up by a historical force, then those words become a mechanism for social control and domination." But the US Supreme Court didn't buy the argument, saying that banning certain speech -- even hate speech against a particular group -- violates the First Amendment: "St. Paul has no such authority to license one side of a debate to fight freestyle ..." and
"Let there be no mistake about our belief that burning a cross in someone's front yard is reprehensible. But St. Paul has sufficient means at its disposal to prevent such behavior without adding the First Amendment to the fire."
You can probably see why such theories have remained largely confined to the world of [leftist] academia since, if utilized by contemporary Western (but mostly American) societies, the race grievance industry might become the largest sector of the economy virtually overnight. "Historical claims" of discrimination by virtually every group imaginable would have hearings in courtrooms across the land for virtually any claim imaginable. What chronological limit would be established for their compaints? How far back could grievances go? 300 years? 400? 1,000? 5,000?
liberal jurist Alex Kozinski (of the far-left 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) has said that Critical Race Theorists "have constructed a philosophy which makes a valid exchange of ideas between the various disciplines unattainable." UPDATE: (Thanks to Soccer Dad for elaborating on Kozinski's politics. Kozinski should be dubbed "unpredictable" if anything, not (exclusively) liberal.)
The radical multiculturalists' views raise insuperable barriers to mutual understanding. Consider the Space Traders story. How does one have a meaningful dialogue with Derrick Bell? Because his thesis is utterly untestable, one quickly reaches a dead end after either accepting or rejecting his assertion that white Americans would cheerfully sell all blacks to the aliens. The story is also a poke in the eye of American Jews, particularly those who risked life and limb by actively participating in the civil rights protests of the 1960's. Bell clearly implies that this was done out of tawdry self-interest. Perhaps most galling is Bell's insensitivity in making the symbol of Jewish hypocrisy the little girl who perished in the Holocaust -- as close to a saint as Jews have. A Jewish professor who invoked the name of Rosa Parks so derisively would be bitterly condemned -- and rightly so.
Those in "lower" education may be familiar with the sort of "workshops" that Kay willingly put up with. I know I have. Within the last decade I've attended "workshops" where I was informed that, as a white teacher, it was my fault that minority children in my class (and school) don't succeed, and even told, simply, that "all whites are racist." We were also told one time that an incident that was completely race-free had been perceived by minority students as racist ... and so we "had to accept their reality." Now read above what Kay encountered again!
But one thing to keep in mind is that if this sort of garbage is flung around often (and maliciously, even if done "professionally") you don't have to just sit there and be harassed and intimidated (at least here in the US, that is). There is ample legal precedent for recourse against a "hostile work environment."