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Jodi Shaw, Havel’s College Staffer

Jodi Shaw just wants Smith College, her employer, to treat people like her with respect

Spend ten minutes watching this video from Jodi Shaw, a mild-mannered liberal woman who works as a staffer at Smith College, the ultra-liberal women’s liberal arts college in Massachusetts. She identifies herself as “a lifelong liberal,” and she’s sick and tired of enduring what she describes as “harassment, discrimination, and hostility” in the workplace at Smith, because she is white.

This is a brave woman. Watch:

What stands out is how calm she is, and how weary. As Shaw says, she just wants to stop being made to feel that there is something wrong with her for being white — as if her race is the most important thing about her.

You watch: the campus is going to go berserk, with undergraduates and faculty denouncing her for making the campus “unsafe” for BIPOCs. This gentle liberal woman will be demonized by the campus Left. What you hear, though, when you listen to her is a woman who wants to do her job and get along with everybody, and to stop being made to feel by the college itself like she’s bad because she’s white. There are no doubt others at Smith who feel the same way, but who have been too afraid to speak out. Shaw says that she couldn’t stay quiet any longer.

She is the Smith College equivalent of Havel’s greengrocer. She is sick of living by the bigoted lies that Smith College allegedly forces on its employees.

Over at Real Clear Investigations, John Murawski writes about how “white penitence” is shaking up workplaces. Excerpts:

A white physician working in Raleigh, N.C., says he has participated in multiple diversity training exercises – including two in the last two years – without a fuss. But he was taken aback when his employer, Duke University Health System, said this summer it will roll out a comprehensive strategy to purge the last vestiges of racism from the workplace.

The way it looks to him, Duke basically wants him to admit he’s a racist and repent.

Vincent Price, Duke University president: “I cannot as a white person begin to fully understand the daily fear and pain and oppression that is endemic to the Black experience.”

Like a growing number of organizations around the country responding to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, Duke is adopting anti-racist advocacy as an organizational mission. That mission doesn’t mention time-honored workplace goals like color-blindness, meritocracy, or equal opportunity; instead, its target is the so-called complicity of America and its citizens in “structural racism,” “oppression,” and denialism.

“I feel like my employer is calling me ‘racist’ and I then saying I must agree,” the doctor, who requested anonymity, told RealClearInvestigations. He said he is troubled that Duke’s leadership is imposing its political ideology on staff, implicating employees in a sweeping moral narrative, and dedicating itself to the task of “uncovering this hidden racism the employer is sure lurks within.”


Workplace wokeness can take the form of employees confessing to their unearned white privilege in diversity training sessions, workers wearing social justice slogans on the job, and employees participating in company-sponsored 8-minute 46-second moments of silence for George Floyd. It’s too early to tell if these cultural changes will become a permanent feature of the workplace, but some employees find them inappropriate, intrusive or even coercive, even as others feel they are long overdue.

To supporters, they are not impingements on personal conscience but compassionate and enlightened responses to deeply ingrained structures of oppression, ones that produce unequal outcomes for people of color in life expectancy, household income, education level, incarceration rates and other measures. With the belief that doing nothing is supporting the status quo, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health declared in June that employees who do not get involved are part of the problem: “We each must choose to be allies, as standing by idly or silently is to be complicit in perpetuating racist systems and structures.”

Read it all. This is insane. This is part of what I mean by soft totalitarianism: the idea that no aspect of life can be free from ideology — in this case, an ideology that compels people to think of racial difference constantly, and to think the worst about white people within the organization, simply because of the color of their skin.

When is a job just, you know, a job? Why does the workplace have to feel like some kind of political fundamentalist church, where people have to be afraid that somebody, somewhere might accuse them of being a heretic?

It’s going to take an army of Jodi Shaws to turn this around.

UPDATE: Read this e-mail from an employment lawyer:

I just watched Jodi Shaw’s video, which you recently posted. What a brave soul. I wish her all the best. She certainly has not made life easy for herself, but she may have pushed the ball forward for other employees who find themselves in a similar predicament.

I am an employment lawyer who regularly is engaged in cases involving harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Ms. Shaw’s case is something that I am beginning to see more and more of. It’s not surprising. The more we see employers impose ideological viewpoints on their employees, the more we will begin to see some pushback. As Attorney Gregory Kamer said in the Real Clear Investigations article that you cited, “The bottom line is: Employees will resent this . . . You’re opening a new avenue to litigate in the workplace.” I think he is correct.

Over the years, I have provided anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for employees. Sometimes that training comes at the voluntary request of an employer. At other times, it comes as a requirement imposed by the EEOC after a discrimination charge has been settled. In either case, my trainings are simple and to the point. Bland, even. I explain what the law says (e.g., you can discriminate against a person based upon their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, etc.), I provide some examples of what discrimination in the workplace may look like (e.g., promoting one person over another because of that person’s sex, emailing racial epitaphs to co-workers at work, taking adverse action against an employee because she has complained about being harassed), and I talk about simple ways to ensure that employees are protected from discrimination (e.g., conduct an investigation into a complaint of discrimination, treat all employees equally when engaged in disciplinary activity, etc.). Again, this is pretty basic stuff. For most people, you’ve heard it all before and you don’t need to worry about anything I’m saying because you’re a good worker, a decent human being, and most of what we’re talking about is just plain common sense. Every now and then, however, there are a couple of bad apples who need this type of training. I have actually been in a room where we go through some of this material, I take questions at the end, and somebody raises his hand and asks, “So, are you saying that I can’t call Bill a [insert racial moniker] anymore?”

But there’s a big difference between doing this kind of training, which has been going on for years, and replacing it with ideological indoctrination. Whereas the former training is neutral, fairly objective, and has the purposing of informing, the latter training is openly hostile and adverse to a certain demographic (in this case, white employees), is entirely subjective and not fact-based, and has the purpose of shaming employees and attempting to alter their personal, philosophical, and political views which likely aren’t at issue in any way.

How does an employment lawyer view this? Potentially as a form of actionable employment discrimination, or as framing a job environment to be racially hostile. For example, I could see a scenario where a white employee receives a form of anti-racist (and anti-white) indoctrination training, on the level of the critical race training that Christopher Rufo has been reporting on, complains about it, is shunned by management, or perhaps loses out on a promotion, or is terminated under a sham pretext. That scenario might allow the employee to make a Title VII claim for race discrimination and retaliation.

Don’t imagine for a second that these types of claims aren’t coming. In my circles, there are lawyers who have already started to talk about it. That, in and of itself, is somewhat surprising. I belong to a tight-knit group of employment lawyers who are highly skilled and accomplished. As you might imagine, the group is incredibly liberal. The listserv we use frequently carries discussions on how to push forward trans rights and gay rights that I don’t agree with but which the wider group assumes everyone must believe. I don’t voice my opinion on such matters lest I be shunned and castigated (you know the drill). But be that as it may, some of these very liberal lawyers have talked about the effects of ideological indoctrination training on white employees and whether/how we can form these facts into viable legal claims. That these discussions are even happening means that it is likely you will start to see lawsuits where ideological training and ideological-driven, racial policies become issues in employment discrimination cases.  And they should.

As for Jodi Shaw’s case, I think you are correct that stuff is going to hit the fan for her at Smith College. I’m sure the administration has already summoned her. There might be some discussion by the college about the substance of her comments, though I doubt it. At most, it will be a token conversation or a gateway to a broader discussion of how Smith treats all of its employees fairly and does not discriminate against anyone. (And that’s a piece of irony, isn’t it? The college will vehemently claim it doesn’t discriminate while simultaneously decrying levels of implicit bias, and perhaps even systemic racism, among its own staff and institution.). Smith will likely browbeat Shaw into hearing that she is not a team player. The college may give her a disciplinary warning. It may say that she violated an internal policy by publishing comments about her work environment in a public forum. It could double-down and tell Shaw that her comments have created an unsafe environment, especially as expressed by a privileged white woman. But I’m not so sure. Now that Smith has gone public, I don’t know that the college wants Shaw to publicly prove her own point if it subsequently takes adverse action against her. And in that regard, Shaw did a nice job by referencing Title VII in her video and explaining how she should be protected in what she says. If I’m representing her, I’m arguing that Title VII protects her from retaliation, should the college try to do anything adverse. I would argue that she engaged in protected activity by exposing the permeation of racial and discriminatory tropes and actions in the workplace. If Smith takes action against Shaw for what she says, the college is retaliating against her.

Anyhow, I appreciate your post on this topic. I plan on following Jodi Shaw to see where this saga goes.

I’m not sure there is anything here worth publishing on your blog. If so, feel free to do it. I would just ask that my name, etc. not be used. Keep fighting the good fight.

Jodi Shaw, if you’re reading this, e-mail me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com, and I will put you in touch with this lawyer.

When white people who just want to be left alone to do good work and get along with their co-workers of all races get fed up with being trashed for their race, and start filing lawsuits, the racial bitterness that will result will be epic. And it will be entirely the fault of these Critical Race Theorists. 

From Arthur Koestler’s anti-Stalinist novel Darkness At Noon:

There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community — which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb.

This is what we’re looking at here, with the Critical Race Theorists.

UPDATE: The president of Smith College has spoken:

Dear students, staff and faculty:

This past week, an employee of the college posted a personal video to express their concerns about the college’s programming to promote racial justice. Since the video was posted, members of the President’s Cabinet and I have heard from many in the Smith community who disagree strongly with the content of the post. This employee does not speak for the college or any part of the college. Further, we believe the video mischaracterizes the college’s important, ongoing efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive living, learning and working environment.

You should know that the employee has not violated any college policies by sharing their personal views on a personal channel. The National Labor Relations Act protects employees who engage in concerted activities, including speech, with respect to workplace conditions. All members of any workplace, including Smith College, have the freedom to criticize the policies and practices of their employer.

Nevertheless, I am writing to affirm that the President’s Cabinet and I believe we have a moral responsibility to promote racial justice, equity and inclusion at Smith College. To the people of color in our community, please know our commitment is steadfast. And especially to our students of color, please know we are here for you always.


Kathleen McCartney

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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