Martin Center: UNC Chapel Hill Creates Commission to Battle ‘Invisible Racism’

RALEIGH – The issue of race and racism has been revived, once again, as Americans digest the George Floyd killing amid activists and radicals stoking the flames of tension and resentment. That resentment is often inculcated in academic settings in which collectivist narratives are spun to insert and reinforce a moral relativism that is anathema to the concept of liberty and individual rights. UNC Chapel Hill, an epicenter of social justice and progressive activism, is looking for more relativistic boogeymen by forming a new commission to tackle ‘Invisible Racism.’

Shannon Watkins, a senior writer at the James G. Watkins Center for Academic Renewal highlights how quickly such woke workshops descend into attacking everything as a conspiracy of racism that must be rectified and atoned for.

From the Martin Center:

“To say that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has experienced racial tensions in the last few years would be an understatement. The most visible source of conflict has been the fate of the infamous—and illegally toppled —Confederate statue, Silent Sam. But even after the statue’s demise, activists at Chapel Hill insist that their work to root out racism from the university has just begun.

Activists do not believe UNC’s relationship with racism is only in the past. It is just as present today, only now it is largely “invisible” and “systemic” in the university’s curriculum, policies, and in the attitudes of students, faculty, and staff. The need for an all-encompassing struggle with this invisible racism, in their view, calls for an all-encompassing re-ordering of UNC.

And the university’s new chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, has made it part of his mission to validate activists’ evident contempt for the university by obliging their demands.

Within the first few weeks of becoming chancellor, Guskiewicz had already drafted initiatives that would further activists’ grievances against the university. However, as much as Guskiewicz may have convinced himself that such efforts will contribute to the university’s goal of education and the “improvement of the human condition,” it is much more likely to engender deeper resentment among those whom he aims to appease.

The first effort, implemented last fall, is the “Reckoning: Race, Memory and Reimagining the Public University Initiative,” which consisted of a series of courses students could take to explore the history of race at UNC. Some course titles include:

    • Class, Race, and Inequality in America
    • Space, Place and Difference
    • “Global Whiteness”
    • Race & Memory at UNC

The second effort, launched in January, is a 15-person “commission” entitled “History, Race, and a Way Forward.” The commission, co-chaired by history professor James Leloudis and communications department chair Patricia Parker, will focus on three general areas: 1) archives, history, research and curation; 2) curriculum development and teaching; and 3) engagement, ethics and reckoning.

The commission will last for several years, with no defined end-date. But once it does reach an end, the commission will release a report with recommendations on how UNC-Chapel Hill can be a place of “inclusive excellence.”

During the commission’s first meeting on February 7, Guskiewicz opened the meeting by stating: “This is a historic day. We’re taking on something that I think is bold. I think [the commission] will be one of the most important initiatives on our campus over the next several years.”

Guskiewicz continued: “We know that some of the injustice, racism that has been part of our history is out there—we know it. There is a lot more that we have not yet understood.” He said that he believes the commission’s work will “allow the university to heal. That’s why I’m here today: to confront some of the hard truths of our history; give a voice to the long silence.” Failing to point to any concrete examples of the racism that is “out there” on campus, Guskiewicz then left the commission members to their work.

So far, commission members have met several times. For the most part, the discussions have been filled with pious—but vapid—rhetoric about the importance of the “conversation” they were embarking upon and the “questions” they were raising. But in between the hollow platitudes was an abundance of thinly veiled grievances and deeply embedded bitterness.

It did not take long for the members’ festering resentment to rear its head. During the first curriculum subcommittee meeting, UNC-Chapel Hill education professor Sherick Hughes stated: “There’s been a consistent story told by white people about everybody else and about how everyone else should feel and what they should do and how they should think.”

Hughes argued that the current curriculum at UNC-Chapel Hill has an “underlying” motive that is aimed to disadvantage black people—a quiet and unseen racism. “There’s clearly been a hidden curriculum about race on campus,” Hughes said—although it is unclear how the existence of something can both be “clear” and “hidden.” He said curriculum is part of the social structure that puts boundaries around “ways of knowing.”

Hughes predicted that the commission would be battling to implement any curriculum changes proposed by the commission because he believes there will be individuals who only want one narrative to be told—that of “white people.”

“How do we educate people who are in the sense of—they want to hearken back to…” But before he finished his sentence Hughes stated: “I’m convinced that some of the board of governors want to hearken back to a time where the people of color here are grateful and silent”—an utterly absurd and melodramatic claim. [CONTINUE READING]”

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