Category Archives: Culture wars

In Higher-Ed, Diversity = Affirmative Action

More blue M&Ms, please

by Allan Stam

A couple of years ago, in a conversation with another dean at the University of Virginia, I was asked about my views on the ever-expanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion enterprise. I explained that I was not a fan of the diversity movement and affirmative action. When asked why, I explained that my preference was for merit, and merit alone, to determine the allocation of scarce resources and in particular, admissions and employment spots. The conversation then turned to what the effects might be of basing admissions decisions solely on merit.

“Would you be OK with the student body being 40% Asian?” I was asked.

“Of course,” I responded. “But if you feel that UVA, as a public institution, should have a student body that represents Virginia’s population, then be explicit about that, and adopt quotas. I wouldn’t be happy with that, but at least we wouldn’t be hypocrites.”

My partner in the conversation, being of a legal mind, then observed, “You know we can’t do that, adopt quotas. Quotas are illegal.” And therein lies the rub.

Diversity, as practiced in American higher education, in general, and at the University of Virginia in particular, is a fraud. The word ‘diversity’ is a linguistic dodge to enable universities to sidestep what lawyers refer to as ‘strict scrutiny’ of the legality of affirmative action. Affirmative action, as a term, is a euphemism for race-based discrimination. So, Diversity is a double dodge. Continue reading

A Jewish Perspective on Arlington’s Confederate Memorial

Photo credit: Cliff at flickr

The Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery has recommended the removal of the 32-foot-tall memorial to Confederate veterans buried there on the grounds that it is “riddled with racist iconography” and perpetuates the Lost Cause narrative. The following letter was sent today to the Committee. — JAB

On March 19, 1841, at the consecration of its new synagogue in Charleston, Rabbi Gustavus Poznanski of the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim congregation rose to speak to a throng of temple members and Charlestonians of many faiths who were invited to witness the important occasion. For centuries Jews all over the world had sought a return to the Promised Land, and generations of families had vowed as much at their annual Passover Sedar, “Next year in Jerusalem!” In a remarkable display of chutzpah, Rabbi Poznanski proclaimed, “…this synagogue is our temple, this city our Jerusalem, this happy land our Palestine.” The Jews had finally found a home.

In his book, American Jewry and the Civil War, Rabbi Bertram Korn, the recognized expert in the field, seems quite emphatic that during the antebellum period, Jews experienced a cultural and religious renaissance in the South that was unrivaled. Jews who lived in the region adopted the southern way of life with all its peculiarities, including slavery, because for the first time in modern history, they were treated with dignity and respect, and flourished culturally, politically, and economically on par with their Christian neighbors. Korn concluded, “Nowhere else in America–certainly not in the ante-bellum north—had Jews been accorded such an opportunity to be complete equals as in the old South.”

And while we condemn the evils of slavery then and now all over the world, we cannot pass judgement on our ancestors as viewed through the 21st century lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion. No previous generation of Americans can survive such scrutiny. Continue reading

UVa Faculty Senate Censures Ellis for Thought Crime

Bert Ellis. Photo credit: Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Faculty Senate has voted to censure Bert Ellis, a Board of Visitors member, for violating the university’s “foundational values” two years ago when he “prepared to vandalize a protest sign” by a resident of the Lawn.

Ellis acquired a paint-scraper razor with the aim of removing a large sign that said, “FUCK UVA,” but did not act upon his intention when two student ambassadors (unarmed volunteer adjuncts to the university police) advised him not to.

The resolution expressed the Senate’s opposition to Ellis’ appointment to the Board and censured him for behavior “which neither reflects the Mission Statement of the University of Virginia nor fosters the safe space requisite for the free investigation, deliberation, and exploration of ideas.”

Sixty-one of 84 Faculty Senate members voted in an online tally after the resolution was proposed last week. Thirty-seven members voted in favor of the resolution, while 15 voted against and nine abstained, according to Senate Chair Tish Jennings.

Ellis was one of four members appointed in June by Governor Glenn Youngkin to the UVa Board, which was, and still is, dominated by holdovers from the Northam administration. A conservative businessman and alumnus, Ellis is president of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to protecting the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa, upholding the dignity of the Academical Village of which the Lawn is a part, preserving the Honor Code, and protecting free speech, free expression and intellectual diversity.  Continue reading

Blue on Blue: Richmond Progressive Attacks White Feminist Privilege

Photo credit: Reparations4slavery.com

by James A. Bacon

There’s big money in telling White people how racist they are. Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo have made millions of dollars doing it. Now Saira Rao, an Indian-American Richmond resident, has figured out how to cash in on the action.

Rao has written a book with Colorado co-author Regina Jackson, “White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better,” that berates White feminists. The title has been picked up by big-time publisher Penguin Random House. Peter Galuszka interviewed Rao for a friendly piece in Style Weekly

While the book is sure to rake in royalties, the author’s shtick generates loads of ancillary revenue. In a program called “Race2Dinner” Rao and Jackson direct two-hour cocktail-and-dinner sessions in which six to eight White women confront their racism. Based on one of those dinner conversations, Director Patty Ivins Specht produced a documentary, “Deconstructing Karen,” which highlights “the unwitting ways” in which White women uphold “everyday white supremacy.” A ticket to a Race2Lunch event in Toronto this summer set back attendees $495 each; a Race2Dinner event in Denver cost $625.

Rao takes no prisoners. As she and Jackson write in the book, “Privilege is power. By ignoring your white privilege, you ignore your white power. When you ignore your white power, you uphold white supremacy. This is white feminism. White feminism. Is. White Supremacy.” Continue reading

“A Right Wing Group that Despises Public Education”

by James C. Sherlock

A commenter hiding behind the screen name “democracy” crawled out from under some rock to excoriate distinguished public servants and a philanthropic organization as “a right wing group that despises public education.”

That comment is now removed. I expect Jim Bacon did it. But it was there too long to let it go without rebuttal.

“Democracy” called them out because, apparently, they have spent considerable portions of their adult lives working to improve public education. In ways with which he or she did not agree.

Indeed.  Let’s see. Continue reading

The Size of the VDOE Rock

by James C. Sherlock

We postulate that elections have consequences. And they do.

Mostly.

But Sisyphus, sentenced by Hades to try and fail for eternity, never got the rock to the top of the mountain.

Yesterday Dick Hall-Sizemore provided an excellent deep dive into the last couple of months of Board of Education meetings.

He reported that the pace of change since the new majority appointed by Governor Youngkin took their seats on July 1 has been glacial.

He noted that for the Board:

there is often material to be reviewed in preparation for upcoming meetings.

Therein lies the rub.

They are pushing a very heavy rock. Continue reading

Election’s Over; Time to Govern

Dan Gecker, President, Virginia Board of Education

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The fall in the NAEP test scores of Virginia fourth-graders is alarming. A decrease itself is not surprising; in fact, it was expected in the wake of the disruption in schools caused by the pandemic. It is the magnitude of the decrease that is surprising and alarming.  That it was the largest decrease in the country is also embarrassing.

Governor Youngkin declared it “catastrophic” and proceeded to blame his predecessors.

It should be pointed out that the Northam administration and the “mainstream media” had begun sounding alarms several years ago. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, much criticized on this blog, declared in 2018 that “Virginia’s failing grade on reading SOLs must not be tolerated.” The administration began to take steps after the release of the 2019 NAEP scores to address the problem.  James Lane, then Superintendent of Public Instruction, expressed his dismay over the widening gap in the reading scores and declared the Department of Education (DOE) would examine the methods used by divisions in which students had scored well with an eye to determining whether those methods could be replicated in other divisions.  He also scheduled a statewide literacy summit in early 2020 in Charlottesville to address the problem. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and whatever was decided at that summit took a back seat to the efforts just to keep schools operating at some level during the crisis.  As the pandemic eased and schools re-opened to in-person instruction, it was recently pointed out on this blog that the Northam administration’s outgoing budget “prioritized reading initiatives for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders.” Continue reading

Is It Still a Hate Crime If the Perp Was Protesting Pedophilia?

An Albemarle County man, Shane Dennis, has been charged with intimidation for placing a noose on the statue of Homer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville news media are reporting. Dennis, who appeared for a bond hearing Tuesday in Albemarle County District Court, also has been charged with contempt of court for misbehaving in the courtroom by refusing to communicate with court officials.

The discovery last month of the noose, which many associate with the lynching of African-Americans, reverberated through the university. The UVa Police Department and President James Ryan promptly declared the act a hate crime. Protesters held a vigil protesting systemic racism. In one of many denunciations emanating from the university community, the Young Democratic Socialists of America @ UVA described the episode as an “act of hate [and] part of a larger, highly coordinated effort by white supremacists to threaten and intimidate the multiracial working-class out of higher education.”

According to information published by The Cavalier Daily, however, the act likely was not motivated by race. Police believe Dennis, who is not affiliated with the university, also left a pile of items at the base of the statue over the weekend, including two masks, a “civil peace flag,” a Christian cross, and a sealed envelope. Inside the envelope, a letter contended that the statue, in which Homer is shown sitting by a nude boy, “glorifies pedophilia.” “[We] are all so blinded by hatred and racial division [that we] refused to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight.”

The letter did not contain any racial or religious references. Continue reading

Square Peg, Meet Round Hole

Morgan Griffith, Southwest Virginia’s representative to the U.S. House — described by the Times as a 2022 election “objector”

by James A. Bacon

I love it when The New York Times tries to explain to its liberal and progressive readers what makes Republicans tick. Viewing the world through their woke lens of intersectional oppression, an article published yesterday concludes that the depravity of White Republican political views reflects their ignorance and racism. The Times never used the “R” word outright, but that’s the unavoidable implication of its argument.

The article purports to explain the votes of Republican congressmen who voted last year to reject President Trump’s electoral defeat. An article published yesterday sums up the thesis thusly:

A shrinking white share of the population is a hallmark of the congressional districts held by the House Republicans who voted to challenge Mr. Trump’s defeat, a New York Times analysis found — a pattern political scientists say shows how white fear of losing status shaped the movement to keep him in power.

The Times allows Ashley Jardina, a George Mason University political scientist, to elaborate: “Because they are more vulnerable, disadvantaged or less educated white voters can feel especially endangered by the trend toward a minority majority. A lot of white Americans who are really threatened are willing to reject democratic norms because they see it as a way to protect their status.”

Let me make the syllogism crystal clear: White Republicans fear the demographic rise of minorities, and they fear their resulting loss of status. Rejecting democratic norms in a bid to preserve that status, they refused to concede Trump’s election loss, and their representatives voted to keep Trump in power.

This is what you get when you try to impose a progressive world view upon an recalcitrant reality. Continue reading

Wins Defends LGBTQIA+ Performance Artist at VMI

VMI Superintendent Cedric T. Wins

The rhetorical battle at the Virginia Military Institute rages like the Bloody Angle in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. In this ongoing war of words, VMI Superintendent Cedric Wins is like the corps commander who wanders dangerously close to the battlefront. Rather than rely upon subalterns and proxies to speak for him, he has waded into the rhetorical fray.

Wins recently distributed a letter responding to the criticism of VMI’s decision to host LGBTQIA+ performance artist Kimberly Dark. He argued that VMI has invited speakers, including conservative Judge Michael Luttig, representing a range of views. Taking issue with “unhappy alumni” who protested Dark’s presence, he framed the voluntary event as an opportunity for cadets to “listen to a speaker, evaluate the soundness of her analysis, hit her with tough questions, and see how well-founded her beliefs are.”

Bacon’s Rebellion has been sympathetic to the “unhappy alumni” Wins referred to, but we think he makes some reasonable points. Accordingly, in the interest of open dialogue, we republish his full letter below. –JAB Continue reading

Diversity Done Right… and Wrong

Glenn Loury, author of “The Anatomy of Racial Inequality”

by James A. Bacon

The drive to institutionalize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in elite colleges and universities is profoundly destructive, according to presenters at a Friday conference of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

Far from contributing to intellectual diversity, as it purports to do, DEI constrains free expression and free inquiry. It creates bureaucracies that consume resources that could be more profitably invested elsewhere. Moreover, DEI fails to address the underlying causes of racial inequality in America. Rather, it perpetuates inequality by setting lower standards for minority students and imbuing them with a crippling victim mentality.

John McWhorter, author of “Woke Racism”

The 2022 Athena Roundtable also presented awards and recognition to prominent intellectuals Glenn Loury and John McWhorter as well as to up-and-comer Erec Smith, founder of the Free Black Thought website, all of whom champion diversity of thought among African-Americans.

In a roundtable discussion, “Diversity Done Right,” the panelists did not hold uniform views but they agreed with one another far more than not.

One recurring topic in the roundtable’s critique of DEI was the idea that demographic diversity contributes to intellectual diversity. DEI mission statements in colleges and universities across Virginia, for instance, justify the value of DEI programs on the grounds that they create a more vibrant intellectual environment by bringing together people whose perspectives are derived from different “lived experiences.” None of the panelists took exception to the notion that demographic diversity adds value, but they noted (a) other types of “lived experience” have value, too, and (2) DEI in elite universities is couched in the vocabulary of identity politics that suppresses free expression and intellectual diversity in actual practice. Continue reading

To Retard in Fairfax County

by James C. Sherlock

Asra Nomani, the ex-Wall Street Journal reporter now a mom in Fairfax County, has been a keen observer of the Fairfax County School Board, much to the dismay of its members.

She reported yesterday that

Not long after the Fairfax County school board passed a resolution for “inclusive” learning at its regular meeting yesterday, the board struggled with a parliamentary question and a member of the school board had a “hot mic” moment, caught on videotape saying, “We cannot be this retarded.”
Parents gasped, appalled as they watched the proceedings at home and in their seats at Luther Jackson Middle School.

Karen Keys-Gamarra admits she was the one who said: “We cannot be this retarded.” She said she apologizes and seeks the “forgiveness” of the community.

Ms. Nomani was calling attention to (OK, poking fun at) the Fairfax County School Board, which richly deserves it.

But this clearly requires follow-up reporting.

Ms. Keys-Gamarra should not have apologized.  She should have contacted me.  I would have reminded her of the context and syntax of her remark. Continue reading

Ah, Those Woke Prosecutors!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Here is a quiz. Below is the description of a crime that was released by the public information office of a Virginia locality. The killer pled guilty to charges of first-degree murder, attempted robbery (2 counts) and use of a firearm (3 counts). The judge sentenced him to 63 years in prison with 33 years suspended, leaving 30 years to serve. As the news release noted, “This was the maximum sentence allowed under the plea agreement.” See if you can guess the jurisdiction and Commonwealth’s attorney that accepted such a plea agreement for a murderer, rather than go to trial.

On the morning of November 29, 2018, the victim, Devin Bell, was alone in his home. Bobby Cason, who was unknown to Bell, knocked on his door. Bell did not open the door but had a strange conversation with Cason, and then noticed that Cason continued to hang around the condominium complex. Bell contacted some friends to come to help him check out the situation.

After Bell’s friends arrived at the complex, Cason ran up to one of them, armed with a handgun with an extended magazine, and demanded the man’s property. The man had nothing but a cup of coffee, so Cason turned toward Bell and said he “needed something.” Bell pulled out his cell phone and told Cason to take it. Cason then pulled a second handgun from his pocket and demanded that Bell take him inside his house. A struggle ensued during which Cason shot Bell. Bell collapsed a short distance away, where he died. Cason fled the scene with both guns. The medical examiner determined that the muzzle of the gun was pressed against Bell’s neck when he was shot.

Cason was linked to the crime through Ring doorbell footage. He was wearing latex gloves at the time. Police found a latex glove near Bell’s body, which was later analyzed by the Department of Forensic Science. Cason’s DNA was found on the glove.

Although no handguns were recovered, police found at Cason’s grandparents’ house a magazine containing bullets of the same type as the shell casing found near Bell’s body. At his grandparents’ and parents’ houses, police also recovered shoes and a latex glove matching Cason’s attire in the Ring doorbell footage. Continue reading

Statue Preservationists, Find Better Ground!

Stonewall Jackson statue at Manassas Battlefield. Photo credit: Mr.TinMD

by Donald Smith

God, give me the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.

That’s the “Serenity Prayer,” and those of us who want to see Virginia’s Confederate heritage respected (or at least tolerated) need to say it. Often specifically, we need the wisdom to know what’s possible and what isn’t, and the serenity to accept the changes in our communities and culture that won’t be undone. If we do that, we can focus our efforts on new ways to honor our ancestors and those things they fought for that deserve to be honored (home, community, bravery, dedication to duty and your fellow soldiers, the right to self-determination, etc….)

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. Confederate heritage supporters have two tremendous problems: the Confederacy sought to perpetuate slavery and disrupt the Union. For those two reasons alone, every rational American adult should be glad the Confederacy was defeated. (When I read my “Confederate Veteran” magazine from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I sometimes wonder if some of the authors and editors are actually sorry the South lost.) Continue reading

Cultural Death Wish

by James A. Bacon

In my previous post I gave a just-the-facts-ma’am account of the controversy over the appearance of gay- and fat-rights performance artist Kimberly Dark at the Virginia Military Institute. In this column, I’ll give my personal reaction.

There are three elements to the controversy (1) the incident is solid evidence that VMI is introducing a left-wing brand of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; (2) Dark’s message about military weight requirements, insofar as we can tell what it is, is just plain lunacy; and (3) while Dark’s right to appear at VMI must be respected, the administration has opened itself to justifiable criticism for inviting her to an official function.

DEI at VMI. There are many brands of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Benign versions train people to be sensitive to unconscious bias and strive to create an organizational culture in which all types of people feel a sense of belonging. The Robin DiAngelo “White Fragility” strain inculcates White guilt and shame for White privilege and requires Whites to engage in ritualistic self criticism. The Ibrahim Kendi “Anti-racism” strain views any racial disparity in outcomes as proof of racism, which can be countered only with reverse racism. As the DEI controversy at VMI has raged over many months, it has been unclear which, if any, of these strains would come to predominate.

From what I can glean, Dark falls into the DiAngelo camp. I can find no record of what she actually said last night, but one can infer her views from her website. Insofar as her word-salads are intelligible, she refers to herself as a “social justice” advocate and seems concerned primarily with gay rights and fat rights, although she also alludes to her “White privilege.” While such rhetoric may be routine fare at many universities, it’s new for VMI.  Continue reading