1/30/2018 4 Comments
During a workshop over Martin Luther King Day at a prestigious New England prep school, keynote speaker Lourdes Ashley Hunter was removed from campus after lashing out at a teenage student for asking a question.
After delivering a keynote speech, during which she publicly named and shamed a school faculty member for posting some suggested readings about police brutality on his door, Hunter led a workshop. There, a white male student asked Hunter how white supremacy affects white people.
She promptly snapped, saying that she refused to educate him on basic facts and accused him of not doing enough research and preparation for this (mandatory, and not-for-credit) workshop. Which is funny, because, like... isn't what she was hired to do? Come educate the high school students?
When the student noted that she is an educator, and therefore should be educating, not refusing a valid question, she grew very agitated and disrespectful of the students. Students report that she was actually, literally yelling at, cursing at, and insulting them. It got bad enough that a member of the faculty went to the administration on behalf of the students -- and the administration handled it. "Kicked off" isn't how the faculty would describe it, but it seems as though Hunter was removed from campus, and the principle sent out an email to parents of all current students.
It sounds almost like the shrieking Yale student:
Except instead of an overly-emotional student yelling at a teacher, a teacher was yelling at an adolescent student that she'd been hired to educate.
Many in the community are angry at the way Hunter treated the students. According to the campus-wide email, "Many felt strongly that the public shaming of any member of our community is unacceptable." A source close to the community said that the students involved felt "personally victimized" -- something I might scoff at, were the complaint more along the lines of "I felt triggered because facts are scary," and less along the lines of "an adult that was hired to give a talk at my school yelled and swore at me."
But, of course, there are always the far left regressives, who think that "systematic oppression" and "lived experience" makes violence and aggression towards others okay.
Which is a dangerous argument that, to some, legitimizes violence. (Actual violence. Not, like, assigned readings that students find uncomfortable or "triggering.")
While there is undeniably sexism, racism, and other -isms still present in the US, and equality of treatment is of the utmost importance (but, of course, equality of outcome is a horrible concept that can only be enforced through injustice), using your "oppression" and "pain" to excuse violence, disrespect, and abuse towards others is absolutely destructive. It will only breed further division.
What's strangest to me is that this all started because a student asked a question he was "supposed to" already know the answer to. It's like, there's a reason why academic papers always begin with an introduction. There's a reason speakers always give a background before launching into their speech. It's to make sure everyone is on the same page.
People -- especially at a diverse boarding school -- come from all sorts of backgrounds. The whole point of diversity is that people bring different values and experiences to the table. What's the point of "celebrating" and "championing" diversity, and then freaking out at children (I typically balk at teenagers being referred to as "children," but, remember: technically, they are -- and the person doing the berating is an adult) who haven't benefitted from the same indoctrination as you?
Moreover, I'm a little disappointed that the tired "it's not my job to educate you" thing is still around. Everyday Feminism has harped about it, going so far as to call asking someone a question "making them do unpaid emotional labor." And now actual educators, who are paid to answer questions on social justice topics, are refusing to answer questions because... "You should already know."
You can't simultaneously claim that you want to "further the discussion," and say that people from certain genders or racial groups can't ask questions without risking verbal assault and public shaming. Moreover, what good is a discussion without truth? One of the most valuable benefits of diversity is that speakers and researchers have someone to fact-check them and hold them accountable. "Institutionalized disconfirmation" matters.
Two traits that Hunter seems to be sorely lacking -- traits that are essential for any mature adult who wants to win support and understanding for her cause -- are respect and professionalism. Without respect, we can't have rational, productive discussions. Without professionalism, we end up with hired adult speakers screaming at the teenagers they're supposed to be educating.
Of course, the social justice counter-argument to this would be that expecting professionalism is "classist" and "racist." Which is utter bullshit. Being professional simply means exercising the self-control and restraint we al learned in preschool, instead of letting our emotions get the better of us. It means using your big girl words, instead of swearing at people. Unless you're saying that black parents are incapable of raising kids who can control themselves and treat others with dignity and respect... which, to me, sounds extremely racist.
(Though, on the topic of respect and professionalism, it's worth pointing out that you are not allowed to agree with me on this point if you're okay with trump's constant swearing, ad hominem attacks, and childish antics.)
Expecting less from black or trans speakers is sexist, cis-sexist, and racist. To borrow a phrase from the writer Michael Gerson, it is the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Long story short, Lourdes Ashley Hunter sounds like a bit of a loose cannon, and I hope that any schools or organizations who have her on their calendar will reconsider.