WHERE’S GUY MONTAG WHEN YOU NEED HIM? Columbia Student in Anguish Because She Has to Read Books by White People:
White privilege. It’s everywhere, I tell you. You can’t escape its smothering influence — even at one of the finest (and most expensive) schools in the land.
Take the case of this poor, wilting flower. Nissy Aya is now in her fifth year of undergraduate study at Columbia University. She was supposed to graduate last year with the rest of her class, but finds herself — totally not her fault — on track to graduate next year.
Ms. Aya says that she has experienced much angst and anguish while taking Columbia’s Core courses, studying the greatest, the most powerful, the most tolerant civilization in the history of the human race — Western civilization. It seems that Ms. Aya has feelings of inadequacy when reading all these books by dead white males.
Aya attributed some of her academic troubles to the trauma of having to take Columbia’s current Core Curriculum, which requires students to take a series of six classes with a focus on the culture and history of Western, European civilization. Aya says this focus on the West was highly mentally stressful for her.
“It’s traumatizing to sit in Core classes,” she said. “We are looking at history through the lens of these powerful, white men. I have no power or agency as a black woman, so where do I fit in?”
As Rod Dreher adds, “Hey Nissy Aya, maybe the problem is you — and maybe some grown-up at the university needs to tell you that:”
If a white kid were studying jazz at Juilliard, would he get away with blaming identity trauma for failing his classes, saying that he had to listen to too many black jazz composers? Could a black student studying classical music at the same institution get away with claiming trauma because all the composers were Dead White European Males? Come on.
The college professor who tipped me off to this Columbia story said:
Our patrimony is under assault. At some point someone just has to tell these kids the truth: some civilizations are better than others. But that has nothing to do with you. You are not inexorably linked to your ancestors. You can appropriate all the good insights anywhere you find them. To deny yourself goodness, truth, and beauty wherever it is, you wind up diminishing your own dignity, treating yourself as if you were no more than your color or your genes.
One dead white author who anticipated this moment was Ray Bradbury. In his excellent article in the New York Observer on Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in the era of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” titled “The Real Reason We Need to Stop Trying to Protect Everyone’s Feelings,” Ryan Holiday wrote:
I see no need to pile on to college students as being particularly responsible for the “coddling of the American mind.” (Great piece, read it. [It’s co-written by Jonathan Haidt and fellow Insta-co-blogger Greg Lukianoff –Ed.]) Though I do find it ironic that we require kids to read this book in high school and just a few years (or months) later, they’re leading the charge on exactly the kind of well-intentioned censorship Bradbury was talking about. I don’t mean to say that these examples come close to the kind of overt censorship that every reasonable person dreads. But I do mean to say that they come from the same place—and very alarmingly—ultimately end together in a much worse place.
In the 50th anniversary edition, Bradbury includes a short afterword where he gives his thoughts on current culture. Almost as if he is speaking directly about the events above, he wrote: “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”
But destroying — or rejecting — knowledge, lest one’s “safe space” become violated by doubleplusungood crimethink means that the person holding the match has self-immolated long before the paper catches fire.
I feel very badly for Nissy Aya and her self-destructive cri de coeur, but regarding the state of college students in general and the professors who coddle them, Kurt Schlichter has the right idea: “Let’s All Laugh As Liberalism Commits Ritual Suicide On Campus.”