E. Jeffrey Ludwig
Harvard University's Graduate School of Education held its Annual Alumni of Color Conference earlier this month in Cambridge, Mass. These annual conferences are distinguished by their radical perspective, wherein the USA is depicted as a racist society in need of a complete restructuring.
This year's program had an even more extreme, left-wing theme than those of earlier conferences. The passionate theme this year was "Grappling with Antiquated Systems and Designing Alternatives to Capitalism, Systemic Oppression, and Monolithic Identities." The intent is to eliminate any possibility of accommodation with the status quo. It is clearly an anarchist-communist declaration of war.
Before looking at the three rubrics under which this theme went forward, it might be useful to consider the incredible hypocrisy of this theme being advanced at Harvard University. These people are seeking an alternative to capitalism. However, Harvard University is far and away the most highly endowed of all universities in the USA, with an endowment of over $35 billion. During the year 2015 alone, Harvard alumni giving topped $650 million. The very students, alumni, and professors organizing this conference are the direct beneficiaries of these resources. Capitalism has enabled these endowment funds to flow into the coffers of Harvard, yet the organizers of the conference wish to repudiate capitalism as a model for ongoing progress.
Chapter 1 | Radicalize
Chapter one is rooted in the term 'Radical.' We intentionally chose this word for two purposes. First, when we think of the term 'radical,' the word 'change' automatically comes to mind. In a reductionist era of Trump, radical change and movements are key to our survival as leaders and educators of color. Our second purpose recognizes that 'radical' also refers to the idea that people of color are mathematically 'rooted' in oppression by design[.] ... We won't be able to provide substantive and sustainable alternatives, unless we look these oppressive systems in the face, name them, dissect them, and know exactly how they were designed in order to dismantle them.
The rhetoric of this rubric is pathetic. "Reductionist era" is an empty phrase, since there is no reference as to what is "reduced." We are told that "radical" refers to the mathematical rooting of people of color. One wonders if the writer is referring to square roots, plant roots, or the root of a tooth. The entire paragraph comprises puffed up language. To quote Shakespeare's Macbeth, it is "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
But the writer really does not care about language. The writer has an in-your-face mentality ("look these oppressive systems in the face, name them..."). Some people are going to be called to account by this conference, and guess what: if you are white, you might expect to be one of them. Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." The conference organizers put the white folk on notice by suggesting, "Let me count the ways you oppress me."
Chapter Two | Reimagine:
Chapter Two is entitled 'Reimagine,' inspired by our nation's desperate need for 'radical imagination.' Radical imagination is the ability to re-imagine the world, life, and social institutions not as they are but as they could and should be[.] ... This chapter is about drawing on the past, telling different stories from different perspectives about how the world came to be the way it is, remembering the power and importance of yesterday's struggles and honoring the way they live on in the present.
Again, the reader is struck by the sophomoric language of this rubric. The writer believes that its language is soaring, but like a glider that fails to catch the wind, it comes crashing down by the weight of its humdrum prose. In the first part, imagination is linked abstractly to radicalization. Imagine a world run by haters like the ones who organized this conference – people who will steal your hard-earned cash and give it to a person of color and laugh in your face. I can see their grinning faces saying, "I have a Harvard degree – haha, haha – and I'm taking your unimaginative dollar bills and your unimaginative job and your unimaginative vote and putting them all in the shredder. From now on, you're old news. And if you don't like it, then go get some Imagination." You see, dear reader, the "I" in imagination stands for the ego, and this pure, ahistorical ego fails to appreciate stuff like "natural rights" (of every individual), freedom (my responsibility in a universe of choices), and equality (a person not "of color" has just as much justification to live his or her life as a person of color).
Chapter 3 | Reconstruct
Our final chapter of this conference dives into 'Reconstruction.' The idea to recreate is the perfect coalescence after defining and rethinking how to approach these antiquated systems of oppression. To reconstruct is to take the planning done from day 1-2 and build something tangible and actionable, a prototype idea ready to permeate our respective communities[.] ... The US is already entrenched in a complicit nightmare for people of color and marginalized communities. 'Reconstruct' is a commitment to staying woke, or rather, staying awake through the praxis of action.
The author of this paragraph catches his misuse of the words "to staying woke" by saying "or rather, staying awake" but fails to edit out "to staying woke." He wants the reader to know that despite his affiliation with Harvard, he is still a citizen of the street. Correct English is all part of that "white privilege" that is so oppressive and to be despised. Further, the vapid prose throughout the rubrics continues with reference "to take the planning done from day 1-2 and build something ... actionable[.]" The reader must ask, "What planning?" There was no mention of planning, but only of destroying oppression and the economic system, and then of imagining something into existence.
Planning? That is an archaic concept introduced by the oppressors who seek, through their plans, to mislead their people into such horrible concepts as K-12 education; cures and therapies for heart problems and cancer; social security; a minimum wage for the unskilled; freedom to look for one's own dwelling, business start-up, or job; promotion at regular intervals for the committed and skilled employees; pensions; highways with the wonderful opportunities to travel and live where one pleases; and engaging with others to worship God in spirit and truth. Planning? Is that not a favorite term of white, European civilization? Harvard thinks it is better to imagine, dream, and to drive the oppressors into the sea rather than get involved with the uptight white world of planning. Planning is for the sycophants among the oppressed peoples, not for the macho in-your-face fighters against oppression.
From the above summary, we can see that this conference just past was another splenetic exercise in railing against the so-called oppressors who are white and capitalistic. The tone of the rubrics describing the conference is more vitriolic and more sophomoric than in previous conferences. The language used represents the dumbing down of Harvard at the same time as the social justice warriors intensify their shrill rhetoric.