The Post Millennial Nice Whites Can’t Win: Civility is the New Racism according to Critical Whiteness Theory


The Post Millennial - Monday January 15th, 2018

Civility, Racism, and Witness

Every day that passes seems to bring us a university news story on the Identity Politics front that leaves reasonable observers slack-jawed with wonder and disbelief. Today’s column arises from the University of Northern Iowa, where two white academics, Kyle Rudick and Kathryn Golsan, published a study, under the rubric of Critical Whiteness Studies, concluding that “white informed civility (WIC)” on college campuses is a form of racism.  

Basically, the study reports that the more white people try to be nice to minorities as a way of conveying their acceptance of white privilege and minority victimhood, the more their behaviour serves to validate their privilege and their “white racial power.” Furthermore, white students who avoid talking about race are “race evasive” and students who claim to treat everyone the same, expecting the same in return, are guilty of creating “good white identity.”

Well, we can’t have anyone thinking there is such a thing as that, can we?

Those of us who follow this subject knew that nothing good would ever come out of the phenomenon known as “Whiteness Studies (WS)” as it used to be called a decade ago when it first came to general awareness. Unlike other special-interest disciplines, such as Women’s, Queer or Islamic Studies, which celebrate their subjects’ achievements while mourning their victimization at the hands of men/homophobes/Israel, WS cuts to the chase: It is all, and only, about the promotion of white self-hate.

According to co-founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of White American Culture, Jeff Hitchcock: “There is no crime that whiteness has not committed against people of colour … We must blame whiteness for the continuing patterns today … which damage and prevent the humanity of those of us within it.”

WS teaches that if you are white, you are branded, literally in the flesh, with evidence of a kind of original sin. You can try to mitigate your evilness, but you can’t eradicate it. The goal of WS is to entrench permanent race consciousness in everyone — eternal victimhood for nonwhites, eternal guilt for whites — and was most famously framed by WS chief guru, communist Noel Ignatiev, former professor at Harvard University: “The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race — in other words, to abolish the privileges of the white skin.”

“Civility has no colour”

Rational people understand that civility has no colour, and that this thesis is nonsensical. Nevertheless, nonsensical thinking in an ideological age can and does have material consequences.

For example, the theory of WIC has, alarmingly, filtered into the collegiate debate scene. Because it is a form of combat, with words replacing the violence that once served as the only form of “persuasion,” debating is an arena where the most exquisite civility is required. Evidence-based arguments are the civilized equivalent of spears and arrows. Objectivity is the level playing field that allows both teams to advance their best offence and defence.

This traditional concept of debating is now under attack, infiltrated by the WIC presumption that “race talk” is a permanent condition of human communication. Competitive debater Elijah J. Smith claims that debate must “acknowledge the reality of the oppressed.” What this translates into is affirmative action for black debating style in which evidence isn’t necessary, the topic can be ignored and decorum can be flouted.

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, journalism professor Steve Salerno offers instances of what such a policy looks like in action. In a 2014 debate finals “two Towson University students sidestepped the nominal resolution, which had to do with restricting a president’s war powers, in order to argue that ‘war should not be waged against n—as.’” In other recent debates, black participants have broken into rap singing. Other debates have featured loud profanity and furniture thrown around. And “in one memorable case, when the clock ran out on a student during the championship round, he yelled, ‘F-ck the time!’”

Objectivity and proofs as the presumed foundation of debate culture are under fire as white inventions. Those opposed to WIC argue that feelings and lived experience should have equal standing as “evidence” for their side. The Towson duo cited won their match on precisely those grounds.

If high-minded progressives believe that indulging uncivil and non-evidence based argumentation is a blow struck against racism, or helpful to blacks, they are sadly mistaken. This study does nothing whatsoever to address racism, because it seeks to cut off the only admissible communicative channel – civility – for well-intentioned whites to reconcile with racialized minorities. As for helping blacks, the authors’ assumption, that being black means nothing else is on your mind except race, is insulting to intellectually curious blacks everywhere.

Underlying Assumptions

But there are far more offensive underlying assumptions here: that while civility comes naturally to whites, blacks collectively feel more comfortable with incivility; while whites assume reciprocal polite discourse is the norm, blacks feel more comfortable with profanity; while whites are willing to do the research necessary for evidence-based argumentation, blacks are more comfortable with intellectual laziness; and while whites accept that passions must be disciplined through the constraints imposed by rules of decorum, blacks are more comfortable expressing their passions with physical violence. The whole concept of WIC is in fact an exercise in patronization and bigotry – and not such very soft bigotry, either, for it suggests that blacks are by nature both infantile and incapable of rational inquiry.

This so-called study is a blot on the reputation of the University of Northern Iowa, and yet another reason to consider an education at any university where Critical Whiteness Studies is an official program a waste of students’ time and parents’ money. Reasonable leftists should be protesting this latest revelation of progressivism run amok with alarm, because they have more to lose than conservatives in staying silent. As one commentator put it, “I want to thank [the authors of this study] Rudick and Golsan, because in the culture war, the left has become the greatest recruiting tool for the right.” Sounds like a great resolution for a debate. A civilized debate, that is.