When young liberals realize liberalism is false, many describe this process as being “mugged by reality.”
Usually, the process is a product of solitary reflection. However, in an age when privacy is virtually obsolete, this revelation can also happen online. One such case is Jodi Shaw and her rocky relationship with the liberals at Smith College.
Her story has some important lessons for those who resist the Marxist “anti-racial” agenda of leftists, whether in academia, government or the streets of Seattle and Portland.
Smith College is one of the “seven sisters,” a group of New England women’s colleges founded during the nineteenth century. Among its alumnae are the noted feminists Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Catherine MacKinnon. Another alumna is a young woman named Jodi Shaw, a self-proclaimed “life-long liberal” who took a position on the college staff after graduation.
The history link on the Smith website contains a high-sounding statement of purpose. “[T]hroughout its history there have been certain enduring constants: an uncompromising defense of academic and intellectual freedom, and attention to the relation between college education and the larger public issues of world order and human dignity, and a concern for the rights and privileges of women.”
Presumably, Jodi Shaw was happy during most of her years at Smith. However, the relationship seems to have soured. On October 27, 2020, Miss Shaw posted a video on YouTube. Under the title “Dear Smith College: I Have a Few Requests.” She spelled out the reasons for her disenchantment.
The Summer (and Autumn) of Discontent
“Dear Smith College” became the first of a series of videos. After introducing herself, Miss Shaw makes a remarkable statement. “I’m white, which really shouldn’t be relevant, but my employer has made it clear that not only is it relevant, but it’s possibly one of most important or if not the most important feature of me as a human…. I ask that Smith College stop reducing my personhood to a racial category.”
She rejects the “anti-racist” tendency to classify people by the color of their skin. She notes her “terror” at being vulnerable to any unfounded charge of racism, which could ruin her personal and professional reputation. “The consequences of not following ‘the script’ are so severe.”
Miss Shaw explained her issue with the college on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program. It began in the summer of 2018 when a black student accused a white staff member of “racially motivated behavior.” The college investigated and concluded that the charge was unfounded. However, the Smith administration acted as though campus racism was a significant problem.
The college mandated a series of meetings for all staff. At one session, Miss Shaw declined to discuss her feelings about being white. The facilitator responded, “Any white person who displays any discomfort at all or resistance to discussing their skin color when asked is not actually uncomfortable at all. They are displaying what is called white fragility, and as such, are committing a power play.” Miss Shaw calls the incident a “public shaming.”
A Very Public Reaction
The video got the attention of the college administration since it prompted a response by Kathleen McCartney, Smith College President. “This past week, an employee of the college posted a personal video to express their concerns about the college’s programming to promote racial justice.” She added a disclaimer. “This employee does not speak for the college or any part of the college…. Further, we believe the video mischaracterizes the college’s important, ongoing efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive living, learning and working environment.”
In a second video, Miss Shaw responded by taking exception to the line about not speaking for “any part of” the college. She argues that she is very much a part of the college, tying that point to feigned confusion about the president’s use of the word “inclusive.”
“I also think that we are working with different dictionaries. The college uses the phrase equity and inclusion a lot…. By saying that I don’t speak for any part of the college, you are putting me over there, and you are over here…. And that doesn’t feel inclusive.”
It isn’t easy to imagine a scenario in which this turns out well for Miss Shaw. Federal law protects her when she uses her own time and resources to discuss her grievances. However, she has to know that her career at Smith College will be ending.
However, this tale does have several lessons.
First, it displays the full extent of leftist intolerance. Being neutral is not enough to satisfy the radicals. One popular slogan over the summer of 2020 was “white silence is white violence.” The extremists demand action – and that action must be of the right sort. Any deviation from the “anti-racist” line promoted by Ibram X. Kendi (How to Be an Antiracist), Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility), and their fellow travelers is unacceptable. There will be no compromise.
Second, revolutionaries always turn on their own first. There is no safety in being liberal. The radical left will never be satisfied with lip service. They will not hesitate to turn upon those who have always supported them.
Third, a real solution to the racial problem is not found in political discourse. Racial disharmony is, above all, a moral problem that is best expressed by the Catholic Church that teaches the love of God and neighbor. The Church shows a clear path to harmony among the various races and ethnicities. The left is motivated by hatred and class struggle and can never promote true accord.