Of the myriad protestors on campus these days, who seem to be the most vociferous, even violent (though given where they are from and how they were raised their concept of violence is more verbose than physical)? Is it the truly oppressed or underprivileged, those actually living out the indignities off campus that are being railed against on campus? Doesn’t seem like it to me. It seems to me that the most exercised protesters are those who were raised in relative privilege. Could it be that their delicate social consciences are more an expiation of guilt than a desire to level out privilege?
A recent article in National Review (Class Dismissed, by William Voegeli) suggests that these self-defined social justice warriors are as “fraudulent as they are insolent” and will remain so until they are demonstrating the giving up of some of their own privileges instead of denouncing privilege in general. As Thomas Sowell has observed, these kind of liberals love their theories far more than they love the actual people whom their theories purport to defend.
I say that, in the main, their protesting is a combination of guilt expiation, self-glorification and virtue-seeking, the violence of which is directly proportional to their need for those gratifications. To be clear, I am not including in this group those with real grievances, nor those willing to pay a steep personal price in seeking justice for others (like the white “freedom riders” did in joining protests against segregation and racial oppression down South where some even died for their pursuit of justice). Just as postmodern Christianity has come to mean cheap grace, so has much of postmodern protesting come to mean cheap virtue.
Another really obnoxious facet of postmodern campus protesting (PCP from here on) “I call graduation by grievance.” This year Harvard, that bastion of privilege, held it’s first ever “Black Commencement”, in addition to the regular inclusive commencement ceremony. While the BC was open to all students, Harvard defended it as “not segregation but a celebration of the “African Diaspora” at Harvard. Harvard also held it’s third annual LatinX ceremony for Latino grads, and farther down the privilege rung, University of Delaware is among those offering a “Lavender” commencement for LGBT (do I have that sequence right, or did I leave off the Q) students. I don’t know which other schools are offering that, but I presume they don’t have enough African and Latino students to celebrate a significant enough diaspora.
The editorial in National Review that featured these ceremonies suggested the following: “How about we go back to one commencement ceremony but each student who feels victimized in some way gets to wear a scarlet letter V for each class of victim to which he, she or it belongs? The more V’s you have the greater your sense of honor.”
Okay, sounds great, but what’s the prize? Shall I sponsor a contest to create a special plaque? How about a degree: B.S. in compassion and virtue?