Stanford’s Words For The Woke

Stanford wants to improve its — and by implication, our — language.

When the British say, “Can I have a word?,” that’s generally a request for a chat in private. Here, when a student is told, “The principal wants to have a word with you,” the kid knows he’s in trouble. In the current instance, Stanford is the principal.

I discuss this issue at greater length in an essay that just appeared on Minding The Campus:

Not Just Semantics: Stanford’s “Harmful Words” Problem Is Serious

P.S. Roger Clegg had an impressive look at this same issue back in 2007:

One can almost have some sympathy with the Left. It must constantly dream up and promulgate new euphemisms since sooner or later the old ones always wear gossamer thin and it becomes all too easy to see what it is trying to cover up.

You can call it “affirmative action” or you can celebrate “diversity” or you can set goals for “underrepresented minorities,” but when you consider a person’s skin color in deciding whether to award her an admissions slot, or a contract, or a job — then you are engaging in racial discrimination.

It’s spinach, and to hell with it.

Martin Luther King, Redux Redux …

On a number of Martin Luther King days past I have posted version of the following. Since these comments still seem relevant, I post one version, linking others, here:

On a past Martin Luther King day, several years ago, I noted (“Dishonoring Martin Luther King, Jr.”) that one of

the saddest commentaries on the sorry state of “civil rights” today — or at least how the straggling remnant of the civil rights movement and their liberal camp followers view civil rights today — is that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, most powerful and emblematic utterance — that he looks forward to the day when his children will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin — has now become uncomfortably controversial among those who claim to honor him.

“Yet today, 50 years after King shared this vision during his most famous speech,” the Associated Press purports to report, “there is considerable disagreement over what it means.” Actually, that’s wrong. There can be no reasonable disagreement over what it means. The disagreement is over only whether that principle should be honored or rejected.

Over the years I’ve asked several times variations of the same question, such as “What Do We Honor When We Honor Martin Luther King (And Who Are ‘We?’).” I wrote there that protesters had objected to President Bush laying a wreath on King’s grave, nearly all of them criticizing him for betraying King by his opposition to racial preferences. Indeed, nothing seems to send preferentialists around the bend and over the top faster than critics of preferences quoting King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, as we always do. “And they always respond,” I noted in another post on the same theme (“Original Intent And Original Meaning [And Martin Luther King]), “with one version or another of ‘if King were alive today’ he would be a strong advocate of racial preferences.”

I will close, at least for this Martin Luther King day, by repeating the conclusion of that post:

I have some reservations about this assertion, but on balance I suspect it is true. After all, all King’s followers, the NAACP (which had advocated a strong version of colorblindness in court for decade after decade), and virtually the entire Democratic party did an about face on colorblindness starting in the late 1960s, and there is no compelling reason to suppose that King himself would have stood against this trend.

Taking a page from the original meaning book, however, we can see that the proper response to the posthumous King’s probable position is, So what? King’s specific intent does not determine the meaning of the principle he evoked, either for his contemporaries or for subsequent generations…. Of course in this case the text in question is not so dense and opaque, like “due process” or even “equal protection.” What part of wanting people to be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin is so difficult to understand?

Now, King’s speech is not a part of the Constitution (at least not of its text), but it has achieved a well-deserved iconic stature. It gave voice to an understanding of equality that traces it roots back at least to some of the abolitionists, that achieved partial but limited success in the Reconstruction Amendments, and that, finally, was embedded in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the year following King’s delivery on the Mall.

Thus I beg to differ with a commenter on my King’s birthday post linked above. Begrudgingly, “[f]or arguments sake,” she was willing “to admit the possibility that one can disagree with another’s ideals while still honoring the person.” I believe those of us who continue to resent benefits or burdens being based on skin color are honoring the meaning of Martin Luther King’s ideals much more fully than preferentialists who argue that if he were alive today he would agree with them.

Writing, as I am, about fifteen minutes from Monticello, it seems all too obvious to me that there are some ideals that are not discredited simply because their authors fail to live up to them.

“Equity”: Disparate Impact, Unhinged

Long-time correspondent, former western newspaper editor Linda Seebach, comments on my recent Stanford post that “A lot of the mischief has been enabled by “disparate impact” as a legal justification for lawsuits. Maybe that needs to go too.” That is such a good point that I want to address it in a post rather than replying to […]

Affirmative Action Pro And Con

An old and good friend sent the following partial comment on my essay about affirmative action at Stanford linked in my last post: I remain a supporter of diversity on campus, because I think that there is an important difference between keeping members of a group out due to prejudice and taking pains to admit […]

Affirmative Action At Stanford, Then And Now

Stanford has been much in the news lately because of its woefully woke list of words that one should not use for fear of offending someone, like “American” or “stupid” (maybe that was listed to protect the list from criticism), but there is also other news from my alma mater that is equally discouraging. I […]

Diversity As “Racial Parity”?

Critics of “diversity”-justified racial preference have long maintained its real goal was “racial balance for its own sake,” which has repeatedly been held unconstitutional. Now it seems that its defenders agree with our criticism. “At This Rate, Faculty Diversity Will Never Reach Parity,” an article two days ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education under […]

The Chronicle Airbrushes Affirmative Action

I have a short piece up this morning on Minding The Campus, “The Chronicle Airbrushes Affirmative Action.”

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