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Triumph of the Race-Therapeutic

An undergraduate in a tutorial with her professor? (photographee.eu/Shutterstock)

Really great essay from Sean Collins in Spiked, about the mentality behind the form of racial protest on campus today. Collins points out that the kinds of things protesters at Yale, Mizzou, and other schools are demanding amount to expanding “what might be called the race therapy complex in higher education.” He says this structure has already been in place on many campuses for some time, and gives examples. The current generation of radicals demands that it be extended even further. Which raises a question:

A good question might be: why should we expect new diversity initiatives to bring about racial harmony on campus, if they haven’t already? But it would be more accurate to understand today’s battles over race as the product of the inherently divisive race therapy complex, and that doubling down on it, as the protesters now demand, will only exacerbate tensions.

The stated goals of the race therapy complex — which include raising ‘racial awareness’ and being more ‘sensitive’ about race — sound pretty innocuous, but they are actually problematic for overcoming racial divisions and realising civil rights for black Americans. As Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn diagnosed in her essential book, Race Experts, the demise of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s led to the rise of self-appointed social engineers wielding the new tools of racial etiquette, sensitivity training and new-age therapy. While influenced by the black-identity movement that had replaced Martin Luther King’s universalism, the primary factor behind the creation of the diversity profession was the boom in psychotherapy, which swallowed the civil-rights movement, and many other social movements.

Despite surveys documenting a sea change in attitudes regarding race, these race experts refused to believe that the US had become more egalitarian. Convinced of the entrenched bigotry of Middle America, they sought to tackle racism in a new frontier: the mind. The race professionals shifted the focus of anti-racism to stereotypes, language and feelings, and constructed codes of conduct to police personal behaviour. In other words, they positioned race as an issue of therapy and etiquette, rather than justice or equality in employment, education and society-at-large. In commenting on events at Mizzou, the writer Jason Whitlock (who is black) put it this way: ‘Liberal elites define racism as “code words” and “dog whistles” and the utterance of the n-word by white people. They reduce racism to a language. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall and our Greatest Generation defined racism as laws and policy.’

Collins details how these demands can never be satisfied — the lines are always moving, because “oppression” is defined by ever-shifting lines, depending on the subjective experience of the approved victim classes — and can and will be used to justify authoritarianism:

Understanding the impact of race on society should be an area of academic inquiry and debate. But, as first-year students will learn from the ‘race sensitivity’ indoctrination, the race-therapy model will be one that students question at their own risk. This is how the race therapists supposedly ‘win’ the intellectual argument: by claiming that any other view is against the school’s code of conduct.

Read the whole thing. It’s hard to know where this is going to end, but end it must, or that will be the downfall of higher education, which grows ever more costly. When the people of South Carolina, for example, come to understand that their tax dollars subsidize an office at Clemson that takes upon itself the responsibility of indoctrinating undergraduates in the Joy of Caitlyn Thought™, won’t they start asking questions about their investment in a state university that costs so much to attend busies itself cultivating unappeasable grievances and socially destructive mentalities in its students?

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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