Race relations in America have historically been challenging, to put it gently. From slavery to Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement to Affirmative Action and the war on poverty. Even today with Black Lives Matter, race is a topic that has never left the nation. But like most things in history, race relations seems to be traveling in a circle as the latest developments at Binghamton University highlights.
On August 21, 2016, as students arrived for the start of the Fall semester at Binghamton University, news broke about the inclusion of race as part of the curriculum for the student body. The Binghamton Review published a story revealing that Residential Assistants (RA’s) were being trained in diversity sensitivity via a program titled #StopWhitePeople2k16. The program synopsis states,
“The premise of this session is to help others take the next step in understanding diversity, priviledge, and the society we function within. Learning about this topic is a good first step, but when encountered with “good” arguments from uneducated people, how do you respond? This open discussion will give attendees the tools to do so, and hopefully expand upon what they may already know.”
This troubling statement is the Progressive PC wording favored by groups like Black Lives Matter and Citizen Action. It raises many questions, that thus far have few answers. Like, this is a “good first step” towards what? What makes a person “uneducated”, and what is trying to be taught to individuals labeled as such? Perhaps most importantly, how does this NOT chill the 1st Amendment and the pursuit of knowledge?
Another unspoken question that should be asked is, where is this coming from? That can more readily be answered. The Black Lives Matter division of the Progressive portion of the Democrat Party, in this case particularly from Binghamton’s Citizen Action organization apparently. Citizen Action has offered “diversity training” programs for elected officials and those connected to local politics like the decommissioned Human Rights Commission (HRC) using the same language and goals. Coincidentally Citizen Action ushered Black Lives Matters into Binghamton recently.
Yet, modern discussions on race and education go back further. In 2015 The Atlantic noted a decline in black students attending specific colleges – under a very specific timeframe. But according to Census data [see chart], Black college enrollment is double the rate in 1967, even after declining from the peak since 2009. Much of this is due to Affirmative Action, which increased enrollment, though not graduation.
Some have alluded to a connection of racism and the lower graduation rate for Black college students. It is combating this racial insensitivity that has led to creation of “safe spaces” and de facto segregation on college campuses in 2015. But the correlation to a shrinking Black Middle Class, and disproportionately high murder rate in the Black community (especially Black on Black crime), is completely ignored.
Still, regardless of the background or the factors affecting enrollment and graduation, the reality of the moment is that Binghamton University is actively killing the free expression of thought on its college campus. In returning to the aforementioned questions from the synopsis of the program, where is the freedom to pursue happiness as guaranteed by the Constitution in being guided on a pre-determined path not of the choosing of students? That “good first step” is part of a path designed by an unknown entity, leading to an undisclosed destination – both of which are without regard to the desires and/or beliefs of students. Thus who is this “good” for?
To the act of labeling certain individuals as “uneducated”, who determines that? What criteria meet with the approval of “educated”? How is it NOT discriminatory to label individuals with valid beliefs contradictory to the pre-determined path? Visions of Jews and Gays being labeled cannot be ignored as this seems to be the direct consequence of such labeling based on the desires of an anonymous yet pervasive force.
Again, the First Amendment provides protection of thoughts and beliefs – especially those that some would oppose, not just those that a few elites approve. College is a vast array of human knowledge over time, that Binghamton University has actively sealed away from at least some students without discussion or consideration. It is a lesson in punishment for having and voicing thoughts. It is an act of control, backed by the implied threat against the livelihood of offenders.
How any institution of learning can claim to lift up its student body, by narrowly pre-selecting their choice of paths, is baffling. How active racism can be promoted, in the name of diversity is laughable – were it not for the damage such racism creates. The number of ways this emulates McCarthyism far outweighs the manner that it does not.
Historically, the persecution of any group has always been matched by psuedo-science, misreading of religious tomes, and the endorsement of institutes of higher learning. The actions now of Binghamton University, and organizations like Black Lives Matter and Citizen Action, are the modern equivalent of phrenology. BU has done more to segregate its student body, alienate open discussion, and depose objection by this one action than the KKK in decades.
This commentary is neither a complete summation of the situation, nor the final conclusion as the events involved are still evolving. But we would hope that it is seen as a signal that troubled waters lie just off the immediate horizon. The action of Binghamton University to embrace openly racist thought under the guise of sensitivity training, at a time in the nation where hate speech has been heralded and the violence that it births has been justified, should invoke a public outcry and deep concern from the general student body.