Diversity’s Killer Instinct

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the Ohio State (OSU) student who on November 28 injured eleven people—five he struck with his car and six he cut with a butcher knife—was enrolled in a course on “social justice.” Artan plainly meant to kill but failed; he was fatally shot by a policeman during the melee. Artan was a student majoring in Logistics Management at OSU after transferring from a community college.

We will never know all the elements that set off Artan’s vicious spree. He was a Muslim from Somalia who may well have responded to ISIS’s call for such lone-wolf attacks. But he may also have been primed by his OSU course that explicitly encouraged students to fight back against perceived injustice. Artan perceived himself as a victim of injustice. On the first day of class, he told a reporter from the student newspaper that as a Muslim, he didn’t know where he could go to pray on campus. He said he was “scared” of what people would do if they saw him pray in public.

Knowing Artan’s sense of persecution, it is worth looking at this course to know how it seeks to guide students, and how it may be possible to take its lessons as a justification for enacting vengeance on those seen as enjoying unfair “privilege.”

The course, “Crossing Identity Boundaries: A Journey Towards Intercultural Leadership,” meets the university’s general education requirement for “Social Diversity in the United States.” Its guiding questions include, “In what ways can you use the information gained in the course to become an actively engaged, socially just global citizen/leader within the Buckeye, Columbus, and greater communities?”

The main text for the course is Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (2013), an anthology of stories and essays meant to highlight identity-based oppression in America. All six of the book’s editors are affiliated with the Social Justice Education Ed.D. Concentration at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Two of the editors are faculty members in the program, and the other four are graduates. As National Association of Scholars President Peter Wood and I wrote about this particular program when it caught our eye back in 2008, the UMass Social Justice degree does not provide students an academic look at the various and often conflicting theories of social justice throughout history. Rather, its students are “there to learn how to become more efficient operatives of the political Left.” Indeed, the four graduates who edited Readings went on to jobs in politicized education bureaucracy: one is a diversity director at a school in the Boston area, one is a social justice consultant, one is director of disability services at U Mass Amherst, and one is a gay “social justice educator.”

Likewise, the “Crossing Identity Boundaries” course aims to turn its students into operatives of activism. One of the course’s learning outcomes is for students to be able to “identify ways in which they can change or address systems of power and privilege.” A final paper for the course is on “civic responsibility.” This term sounds wholesome and traditional, but the word civic has been co-opted from its former meaning. NAS’s forthcoming major report Making Citizens details how since the 1960s, Old Civics (teaching the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government) has been rapidly replaced by New Civics (training in how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations).