FAIR Weekly Roundup
Why California adding ‘caste’ as a protected class will increase discrimination
For our Substack, Suhag Shukla and Samir Kalra write about how several prominent California institutions have recently added “caste” as an officially protected class under their anti-discrimination policies. The authors argue that this decision will not only be ineffectual, but that it has the potential to harm Californians of South Asian descent by unfairly singling them out.
Ending inequality in society, including discrimination and prejudice based on caste or social hierarchy, is a goal shared by Hinduism’s spiritual leaders and most American Hindus. We are allies in the struggle to live up to the highest ideals of Hinduism: ekatva and samadrishti, the oneness of and equal regard for all beings. However, CSU and other California state institutions are deeply misguided in creating a new protected class category that is facially discriminatory and so ill-defined as to make it impossible to adjudicate claims—all while existing laws already effectively cover caste-based discrimination.
Ten ways to inoculate your kids against bad ideas
Also in our Substack, Jefferson Shupe lays out ten essential rules for parents who want to teach their kids how to recognize harmful ideas and empower them to think independently.
Throughout the essay, Shupe juxtaposes his strategies with the failures of King Triton in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, whose heavy handed approach to parenting ultimately motivated his daughter Ariel to seek out the dangers that Triton had sought to shelter her from.
He concludes with a note of optimism:
Follow these guidelines, and you’ll sleep better knowing that your kids have a pretty good shot at handling themselves when bad ideas come their way. What’s more, you’ll have prepared them to approach the countless and inevitable disagreements they will have later in life from a pro-human perspective.
On her Substack, FAIR Advisor Bari Weiss writes about the tragic mass-shooting in Uvalde Texas, where an 18-year-old male shot and killed 19 children and two adults in an elementary school. She proposes that the cause of mass shootings like this one—as well as the one in Buffalo just ten days ago, and the other, less-publicized shootings that occurred in between—is much deeper than America’s obsession with guns: “It’s an anti-social, anti-human disease that has gripped our society and our politics.”
The social rot that’s come over America, the nihilism and hatred of each other, is part of the cause here. The dissolution of our social ties—and with them the accountability and responsibility that an actual community demands—has allowed insanity to fester unnoticed. Lockdowns accelerated the isolation, the purposelessness, the lack of meaning that was already overcoming us.
If we insist on viewing this shooting as part of some isolated issue or species of violence, then we miss the point. The point is the country is being consumed by what Philip Roth famously called “the indigenous American berserk.” It stretches back many decades, or longer, and for ages, it was possible to ignore or compartmentalize. Now the brokenness is everywhere we look and it is impossible to unsee it.
Buffalo and the myth of America’s race war
For Spiked, FAIR Advisor Wilfred Reilly comments on the first in the string of mass-shootings that occurred over the past ten days: the white supremacist attack on the supermarket in Buffalo, New York. He pushes back on “the narrative that America today is crawling with white supremacists,” which he says “is not supported by the facts.” Indeed, Reilly cites statistics showing that only three percent of all violent crime involves white and black people, and that of this three percent, the overwhelming majority is black-on-white.
Reilly also warns that the mainstream media outlets who have forwarded this inaccurate narrative are inadvertently fueling far-right extremism. Since these mainstream sources are seemingly unwilling to report the truth, confused young men will seek explanations elsewhere, and some of them will find those offered by white supremacists compelling.
Media outlets need to stop discussing race, crime and society in such a biased and selective manner. They need to start presenting the facts honestly and fairly. As usual, my Evil Right-Wing Hot Take is actually rather banal. Murder is bad. The police should enforce the law equally against all serious criminals, and journalists should aim to provide objective coverage. Is that really too much to ask?
After Columbine: Quick police action vital in mass shootings
For News Nation Now, FAIR Advisor Zaid Jilani spoke with several experts in mass-violence prevention in the immediate aftermath of the Uvalde shooting. Each of the experts he spoke to agreed that the consensus in law enforcement today is that police officers should actively engage a shooter as soon as they are on scene, rather than wait for SWAT or another specialized unit to arrive.
“The model was that you would get there and you would contain the scene until the SWAT team showed up and then they would be the ones that would make entry because they had specialized training and they had specialized equipment,” Straub said.
But the Columbine shooting showed that shooters can cause a lot of harm while police wait for specialized units to arrive. That’s when police started to settle on a new response, which could serve as a more effective solution to these situations.
“And so it was after that that we started training officers to go to the gunshots. That’s the phrase that’s used, right,” Straub said. “If you arrive on scene, and you hear gunshots, you go to the gunshots. To the point where, in training exercises, you don’t stop to help victims. You go to the shooter.”
As information from the shooting response continues to come out, it now seems clear that Uvalde police did not follow protocol and failed to act immediately to neutralize the threat, despite the Uvalde police department having participated in an “active shooter training day” just two months ago.
The disgraceful firing of Joshua T. Katz
This past Thursday, the Quillette Editorial Board issued a forceful condemnation of Princeton University’s decision to fire tenured classics professor Joshua T. Katz. The official reason for Katz’s termination was a consensual relationship he had with a student in the mid-2000s—a violation of university policy that had already ostensibly been handled in 2017, when Katz was suspended without pay after an internal inquiry. But his case was re-opened last year in a new Dean of Faculty investigation, a year after Katz caused an uproar at Princeton for publishing a critique of an open letter which included a long list of demands for structural changes at Princeton to atone for the university’s “culpability in slavery and white supremacy.”
Princeton insists that its decision to fire Katz had nothing to do with his essay (which was also published in Quillette). While this defense may appear implausible, the editorial notes that, even if it were true, Katz’s termination still would not be justified.
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.
For the Philadelphia Citizen, FAIR in the Arts Fellow Heather Shayne Blakeslee profiles FAIR Advisor John McWhorter. Blakeslee touches on everything from McWhorter’s most recent book Woke Racism, his secretive interest in dinosaurs, his comfortable upbringing in the racially-integrated West Mount Airy neighborhood in Philadelphia, and his contention that Ibram X. Kendi’s inflexible view of America is based on “a TikTok version of history.”
Blakeslee highlights McWhorter’s reputation as a mordant critic of the woke left’s noble truths, but also how he manages to remain steadfast in standing up for his beliefs.
McWhorter, a liberal/progressive Democrat, insists that it’s not in retaliation. He’s adamant that being called an Uncle Tom, a “shill for the right wing” — or worse — in no way affects his own psychology, and that his anger comes from stalled progress as more and more White people gaze piously at their navels rather than looking up to see what they can actually do to make the lives of more people better. “I hate to disappoint, but it has no effect on me at all,” McWhorter says. “It’s like waving gnats away.”
His advice to anyone in this situation is to stand your ground. “You know what you are, and what you aren’t. Don’t take it to heart that somebody says really mean things about you, with their face scrunched up, and their sarcasm. If it isn’t you? Move on.”
The Doom Spiral of Pernicious Polarization
For The Atlantic, Yascha Mounk writes about a recent study from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which chillingly concluded that no “established democracy in recent history has been as deeply polarized as the U.S.“
Among countries whose political institutions have been relatively stable, the pace and extent of American polarization is an eye-popping outlier. “Very few countries classified as full liberal democracies have ever reached pernicious levels,” the study’s authors write. “The United States stands out today as the only wealthy Western democracy with persistent levels of pernicious polarization.” When I spoke by phone with McCoy, she was even more categorical: “The situation of the United States is unique.”
However, Mounk points out some significant flaws in the report’s methodology that raise questions about the accuracy of its gloomy prognosis. He goes on to cite several ways in which America has actually become less divided in recent years, such as the decreasing predictive value of race, ethnicity, or religion on party affiliation.
Soothsayers of doom are in demand for a reason. American partisan polarization has, without a doubt, reached a perilous level. But America’s comparative competence at managing its ethnic and religious diversity, which has so far ensured that partisan political identities do not neatly map onto demographic ones, could be a saving grace.
AJIJCHAN/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES PLUS
Diversity Statements Are the New Faith Statements
For Inside Higher Ed, Justin P. McBrayer describes the parallels between the “faith statements” that have for years been obligatory for prospective teachers at religious colleges, and the more recent ubiquity of “diversity statements” as an application requirement to teach at secular institutions.
In sum, both faith and diversity statements artificially limit an applicant pool, ask for commitments that go beyond our evidence, signal our tribal loyalties and close questions. Realizing that they are on a par should give us pause. Religious colleges are private institutions that are typically up front about their religious orientations. In that context, a faith statement makes sense. But requiring a functionally similar statement at a public institution is a bad idea.
Even setting aside questions of whether it’s legal to require diversity statements at public schools (arguably not) and whether doing so helps students (there’s no evidence that it does), doing so likely contributes to the further intellectual polarization of the academy. Faculty are already overwhelmingly progressive, and given our propensity to evaluate politically charged issues in light of our own biases, it’s plausible that requiring job applicants to provide diversity statements further increases the probability that applicants espousing progressive views about the nature of and solutions to diversity-related problems are hired over politically moderate or conservative competitors. That’s something that should worry anyone interested in building communities that are trustworthy, intellectually diverse and vibrant.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The narcissism of America’s race politics
In Unherd, Tomiwa Owolade laments the tendency of the debate over race in America to be erroneously applied to the rest of the world. Owolade describes the starkly different histories and situations of black people living in America and black people outside of America. Ignoring these differences, he says, erases the profound diversity of cultures, histories, and viewpoints of black people throughout the world.
The particular historical relationship between the transatlantic slave trade and black Americans does not neatly apply to the contemporary black British population. Pretending that it does would be to deny the history of my people, to borrow the argot of Tharps. Black people in Britain are essentially immigrant communities — the average black American, by contrast, can trace his ancestry further back than the average white American.
But in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, the catch-all framework of “Black Lives Matter” was imported to every corner of the planet, even though race relations are not the same throughout the world. They are instead mediated by a country’s unique history and culture. Now as then, insufficient attention is paid to the different contexts of the black people who do not live in America; we are simply put in the mould of black Americans.