by ELLIOT KAUFMAN
Evergreen State College, a small liberal-arts school in Washington State, has long had an interesting tradition. Each year, there is a “Day of Absence” on which students and faculty members of color meet off campus to hold solidarity-building activities, leaving the remaining community members to recognize the absence — and thus the value — of their peers. Later there is a “Day of Presence,” with similar activities but for the entire campus community.
But this year, the event changed. On the April 12 Day of Absence, minority students and faculty remained on campus, while whites were asked to leave. According to the local student newspaper, the decision reflected concerns following the 2016 election that students of color no longer felt comfortable on campus. This was to be their chance to reassert their right to belong on campus . . . by asking everyone else of a particular skin color to leave.
One liberal biology professor, Bret Weinstein, took issue with this change. Weinstein wrote a powerful e-mail to his colleagues on March 15. Deeply respectful and generous in tone, he made a simple point:
“There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles . . . and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.
You may take this letter as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume I will be on campus on the Day of Absence.”
For this fundamentally liberal argument and act of protest, Professor Weinstein has been pilloried. More than that, those words — words forming as reasonable a dissent as any — incited a mob on Tuesday. Students occupied and barricaded the campus library, and accosted Weinstein outside his classroom. As you can see in this video, the mob surrounded him, yelled at him, swore at him, and openly admitted they did not want to allow him to respond.
In the video, Weinstein nobly seeks to engage in “dialectic” with the student protesters, hoping to use “disagreement to discover the truth.” For a professor of biology, this is rather impressive stuff. But he misjudges the mob. “We don’t care what terms you want to speak on,” one student explains to supportive cheers. “This is not about you. We are not speaking on terms — on terms of white privilege. This is not a discussion. You have lost that one.”
Read the entire article at National Review