Infected by critical race theory, university campuses are beginning to re-introduce segregation based on race, gender and other identity signifiers.
When Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, reflected upon the election of Donald Trump, he was almost gleeful at the prospect of a rising white supremacy movement.
‘The white man is going to push,’ he said, according to the Associated Press. ‘He’s putting in place the very thing that will limit the freedom of others. … That’s what you needed [to finally separate from whites]. … My message to Mr. Trump: Push it real good. Push it so good that black people say, “I’m outta here. I can’t take it no more.”’
This segregationist instinct is perhaps not surprising, coming from the head of a black nationalist organisation that stands accused of being a hate group which promotes racial animus towards white people and prejudice towards Jews and gay people.
What is surprising is that this kind of segregationism is being actively pursued on university campuses around the world.
Since Harvard University offered the first racially-segregated graduation ceremony in 2018, more major universities have followed, separating people by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigrant status and even income.
A student newspaper at New Mexico Tech (NMT) explains that while some universities separate residential students by their major (a practice which is itself controversial), NMT ‘is looking to take it to the extreme with the introduction of “Affinity Spaces”.’
Based on work on ‘identity as an analytic lens for research in education’ by James Paul Gee, these ‘Affinity Spaces’ will segregate students in residences by class, race, gender, and sexual identity and orientation.
You could have, for example, a ‘Hispanic Queer Affinity Space for Sophomores’, where accommodation and facilities will be reserved for second-year students who happen to be both members of the LGBTQ+ community and of Latin American extraction.
This arrangement is far from unique. The University of Nevada has ‘themed residence hall floors’, reserved for black students, or LGBTQ+ students, or women, or that most put-upon group of all, ‘healthy living’ students.
In the UK, funding has been raised for a ‘Free Black University’, reported The Guardian in 2020, as ‘a space where the black community can find “access to a curriculum and teaching staff where everyone looks like them”.’
‘A reframe, not segregation’
It isn’t at all clear that this is what students actually want. On the contrary, this policy appears to be driven by ‘theory’ (read: critical race theory) adopted by the faculty.
Witness the NMT students, who denounced the plan as segregation, and created a petition to stop the programme.
Then consider the less-than-eloquent words of one Tyler Mervin, who appears to be spearheading the policy: ‘We are not segregating students, we are reframing how we prioritise, as it relates to occupancy management, as a result of data and research into student development theory, learning theory, … as well as the time frames in which students encounter certain developmental phases. I disagree with the term segregation, in my mind, it’s a reframe, not segregation.’
Clear as mud, just like the apartheid government’s rhetoric about ‘separate development’ and ‘separate but equal’ – flowery words designed to disguise naked racism.
Is the backlash from students going to deter the faculty? Of course not. The recalcitrant students ‘don’t have the proper background on the issue’, and will have to be re-educated.
‘There’s a lack of liberal arts education at [New Mexico] Tech,’ said Melvin. ‘We hope to implement diversity and systems training to help students understand some of these changes.’
He explained to the student newspaper that the changes are based on ‘various theories and concepts that are not necessarily taught at Tech’.
‘[These theories] inform the work that we do in student affairs. … There’s a ton of research that shows that black students need to have a space with other black students to feel a sense of community, and to feel a sense of belonging. There are other forms of research that talk about how queer students need a space with other queer students to have that community and sense of belonging.’
Imagine if he said that about white students.
Diversity is key to education
An anonymous commenter on social media wrote: ‘I grew up in a small, homogeneous (very white) farming community. I went off to university to expand my view of the world and am forever thankful that I had to immediately learn how to navigate, learn, and ultimately appreciate living with people with completely different backgrounds and values than me. In other words, learning that your way of life is not the way other people might like to live is key to educating yourself.’
I couldn’t agree more. I matriculated at a whites-only Afrikaans school where ‘Christian National Education’ was drilled into me, and the ‘swart gevaar’ (black danger) was presented as an imminent threat to civilised society, liable to bomb schools at any opportunity.
My world view was quickly righted by going to a multi-racial university, where everyone was treated equally and students of all races (and genders and sexual orientations) studied and socialised and protested together. I learnt not to judge different lifestyles, and was exposed to many different political alternatives.
Studying in diverse, cosmopolitan surroundings was the perfect antidote to the parochial identity politics which the apartheid school system had foisted upon us.
Now they want to bring racial segregation back, only not from the political right, but the political left.
‘Being recognized as a certain “kind of person,” in a given context’, is how Gee defines identity. In truth, being judged based on one’s skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, or other group identity is exactly the sort of insidious stereotyping against which non-racial liberalism stands.
It is true that many groups still experience hatred and discrimination not because of the content of their character, but because of who they are.
We ought always to be sensitive to the hurt and injustice inflicted by the discriminatory policies of the past, and the continuing prejudice that some people still face today.
However, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just as non-racial liberalism stood against segregation when the racists of the past divided society based on harmful stereotypes, so it stands against it today, when the neo-racists of the left are trying to re-segregate society based on those same harmful stereotypes.
The cure for prejudice is organic, unforced integration, not institutionally enforced segregation.
The views of the writer are not necessarily those of the Daily Friend or the IRR.