This week, Hampshire College cancelled a scheduled performance by a band because of their race.
Seriously. An Afrobeat band named Shokazoba had a performance cancelled because a small but vocal minority of individuals complained that the band should not be allowed to perform on campus because they are a group of white people playing African-inspired music. The logical conclusion of this opinion is that not only should they not be allowed to play on campus, but that since they will be white no matter where they perform, they shouldn’t be allowed to perform anywhere, ever.
Every single aspect of this affair offers insight into the incomprehensibly silly state that academic dialogue on discrimination has reached:
1. The official announcement of cancellation reads:
Due to concerned students voicing their opinions about the band Shokazoba, we held community dialogue to hear what individuals had to say. As a result of the dialogue, and discomfort expressed by members of the community in person as well as by email, Facebook, and other means, we have removed Shokazoba from the lineup for Hampshire Halloween.
Notice that no reference to reason is made. The agitators who led to the cancellation of this gig had no coherent reason for demanding its cancellation. While disappointing, it’s not surprising. Unfortunately, what is also disappointing yet unsurprising is that the college did not require a reasoned argument before cancelling the performance. They cancelled it because some people felt uncomfortable with it. At a supposed institution of higher learning, rigorous critical thinking is taking a backseat to unreasoned emotion as a justification for decisions. This is the exact same cultural environment that gives rise to organizations that are incapable of reckoning with physical, technical, and sociological reality, which cares nothing for feelings.
2. Part of a statement by a college spokesperson:
“The students tried to be clear that they meant no disrespect to the members of the band in question, but wished to raise larger questions and deeper thought within our own community,” Thomas said.
3. Continuing on, the college casts itself as a hapless victim:
“Unfortunately, voices unconnected to our campus and to the events of Hampshire Halloween drowned out a reasonable conversation about how to ensure that the entire student community could have a safe and happy evening. As can happen on social media, posts from off-campus individuals trivialized the concerns of our students and made them feel disrespected.”
The college buckled under the pressure of outsiders. The problem is that this is a self-perpetuating cycle: extremists gain influence by creating the impression that everyone has to listen to them. When people listen to them, they then gain actual influence. This is the same mechanism that sends every white public figure found guilty of a racial faux pax on a pilgrimage to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson to ask forgiveness. I can’t help but think of this particular Firefly dialogue where Mal and Jayne discuss how they almost got arrested:
Mal: You called the Feds.
Jayne: I got pinched!
Mal: Which is what happens when you call the Feds.
How could the college ever have stood up to these extremists and prevented them from trivializing the students’ opinions? By not caving in! It really would have been that simple.
4. A college spokesman elaborated on these hurt feelings:
Elaine Thomas, Hampshire College spokeswoman, said in a statement that the student organizers of Hampshire Halloween contracted with a number of bands, and that some students “questioned the selection of one band, asking whether it was a predominantly white Afrobeat band, and expressing their concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures.“
Let’s tackle those bolded bits in reverse order:
“The need to respect marginalized cultures.” How is it even possible that music inspired by Africans-living-in-Africa has anything to do with a marginalized culture? Do these musicians in Africa even know they are marginalized within their own culture? It is here that the Left’s carefully-disguised discrimination is on full display; despite their proclamations that every culture deserves respect, they are always first in line to speak down to other cultures!
“Concerns about cultural appropriation.” For those who may have forgotten or been unaware in the first place, this is the other half of what got Miley in trouble for her VMA performance*. The basic idea of cultural appropriation is that it is not acceptable for people of certain (white) colors to imitate, incorporate, or assimilate any portion of another culture, because to do so is somehow disrespectful to that culture. There is a glaringly obvious problem with this complaint: every month of the year has been designated a “heritage month” for minority or another in which we are all encouraged to celebrate, partake of, and participate in that month’s designated culture. The stated goal of such events is to increase understanding and acceptance of various cultures; they are, on paper, a method of accelerating America’s fabled “melting pot.”
So why does a group of people who have taken multiculturalism to heart suddenly face opposition from the very groups that are supposedly seeking acceptance? The answer is these activists understand that once they are actually assimilated, they will lose their power to intimidate the majority through claims of discrimination. How is anyone going to claim that they are disadvantaged by virtue of their heritage in a society of uniformly tan-ish people who can all trace their roots to slaves and slave-owners alike? This is naked Machiavellian maneuvering to preserve the lobbying power of the grievance industry.
This whole chain of events demonstrates not only the hypocrisy of the racial separatists but also the disappointing readiness of institutions of higher learning to collapse under the slightest bit of pressure, even from those who eschew reason and logic in favor of emotion and outrage. As a generation of graduates accustomed to getting their way through bullying, slandering, and vague-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness references to “larger questions and deeper thoughts” filters into the workforce, I expect we’ll have more events like the ACA rollout unfold. They will discover that inadequate amounts of steel girders cannot be shamed into supporting an overweight bridge. They will be baffled when the companies they lead go bankrupt as middle-management caves into demands to accommodate every single irrational opposing viewpoint of every employee in the office. And having spent an entire academic career learning increasingly elaborate ways to blame others for their problems, they won’t have the inclination, integrity, or ability to begin examining their own actions for the roots of their failures.
*This article could merit its own dis-assembly, but I’ll leave it at: of course Miley was the center of attention and the other girls were on the edges of the frame…she’s the star! You might as well accuse every other dancing-singer ever of discriminating against their backup dancers.