Steven “Honored to call myself an Anti-Semite” Salaita vs. Erika Christakis
The context: On June of 2014 three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. U. of Illinois professor Steven Salaita then Tweeted the above. Eleven days after Salaita’s Tweet the NY Times reported that the three had been murdered.
The firing: Steven Salaita continued with anti-Semitic rants, “If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being” to “Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” The U. of I. fired him.
Yale – 1984 (actually, Nov. 2015): An articulate email from an assistant professor telling students not to over react about Halloween costumes from Erika Christakis, however, generated the opposite response from students. Let’s check out what Christakis wrote:
Erika Christakis: “As a former preschool teacher… it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably ‘appropriative’ about a blonde haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day…(and) what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans?” The Atlantic
What is the standard? Students demanded Christakis resign. So I ask, why does a calm query into student sensitivity generate outrage, while unapologetic bigotry garner support?
Roxane Gay: “The story we cannot forget is that black students at both Mizzou and Yale reached a breaking point. These are students who could no longer endure what had become unbearable.” The New Republic
Unbearable? The idea that all minority students at Yale have suffered is silly. The idea that they’ve been inconvenienced is more legitimate. They’re privileged. Yes, racism still exists in society, but it’s coming to the point where everyone is a bigot accusing everyone else of being a bigot (I’m not exempt). But what are the definitions? What’s bearable?
Legacy of racism: Roxane, slavery fits the definition of “unbearable.” Same with Jim Crow. What Malcolm X and the families of murdered church goers in South Carolina went through, seeing loved one dies, merits the definition. Selecting you out and asking for your I.D. on campus is wrong, but it’s bearable. And you’ve succeeded, and these students will succeed, too, or have a damned good chance. Racism in 1867 kept minorities down. Racism, now, hinders, but does not stop, minorities from succeeding. Let’s keep moving forward. Hyperbole is regressive and not needed. But, if you’re going to talk bigotry, please include Mr. Salaita.
Final words: Roxane and Jonathan Chait debated on NPR, and Chait closed with this:
“I’m in favor of safety. What I object to is defining safety to mean the absence of contrary points of view. And by contrary, I don’t mean hate speech, I don’t mean threats, I don’t mean swastikas. What I mean is the performance of a play that people dislike politically, the appearance of an op-ed that somewhat mildly criticizes views that you hold – those are things that people have defined as threatening a safe space, and that’s a really troublesome concept for a liberal.”
What he said!
Alan Dershowitz: Why are opponents of micro-aggressions silent when it comes to Jews?
Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American Mind
WSJ: The Rise of the College Crybullies