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Higher Education

Ray Carter | December 11, 2023

UCO requires English professor to embrace race-based discrimination

Ray Carter

In a recent job posting, the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) requires applicants to embrace a worldview that appears to require a perpetual cycle of race-based discrimination, based on the comments of its chief proponent.

One expert warns the university’s actions could leave it vulnerable to successful lawsuits by applicants who are rejected or even deterred from applying because they refuse to endorse that idea.

In a recent posting seeking applicants for a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of English with specialization in creative writing (nonfiction), UCO officials state that the university “seeks a nonfiction writer whose work significantly engages with issues of race/ethnicity, identity, and culture and who has a strong commitment to antiracist and social justice pedagogy.”

The reference to “antiracist” pedagogy effectively requires job applicants to embrace specific political viewpoints to receive consideration—and the worldview of “antiracist” advocates is extremely controversial.

Antiracism is primarily associated with the writings of Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Antiracist Baby,” who remains the nation’s foremost advocate for so-called antiracism.

Kendi has expressly written that “if racial discrimination is defined as treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on that person’s race, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist.”

“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination,” Kendi wrote. “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

(Kendi eventually edited those lines from subsequent printings of “How to Be an Antiracist” after they drew much public scrutiny.)

That worldview, which apparently requires advocates to embrace continual race-based discrimination, has drawn strong criticism despite antiracism becoming a trendy academic fad.

“Political litmus tests should have no place in any college. … They expose public colleges to expensive and embarrassing litigation.” —Adam Kissel, The Heritage Foundation

“Antiracism, despite its high-sounding name, has nothing to do with the historic anti-discrimination movements of the past,” writes GianCarlo Canaparo, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “Radical abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., who dreamed of a society in which individuals would be judged based on their character rather than their color, would not be welcome in modern Antiracist circles. They would be derided as, at best, naïfs and, at worst, as upholders of white supremacy.”

Canaparo noted that so-called antiracists have argued “that intact families are a white-supremacist institution,” and noted antiracist beliefs require advocates to “do exactly the thing that they claim to hate most: ‘classify people on the arbitrary basis of skin color and other physical features.’”

John McWhorter, who teaches linguistics, philosophy, American Studies, and music at Columbia University and is black, has likened antiracism to a religion that “forces us to pretend that performance art is politics. It forces us to spend endless amounts of time listening to nonsense presented as wisdom, and pretend to like it.”

“I write this viscerally driven by the fact that all of this supposed wisdom is founded in an ideology under which white people calling themselves our saviors make black people look like the dumbest, weakest, most self-indulgent human beings in the history of our species, and teach black people to revel in that status and cherish it as making us special,” McWhorter wrote. “Talking of Antiracist Baby, I am especially dismayed at the idea of this indoctrination infecting my daughters’ sense of self. I can’t always be with them, and this anti-humanist ideology may seep into their school curriculum. I shudder at the thought: teachers with eyes shining at the prospect of showing their antiracism by teaching my daughters that they are poster children rather than individuals.”

Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison, both with the American Enterprise Institute at the time, wrote in 2020 that antiracism “for all its high-minded claims and surface appeal, proves to be, on close examination, a farrago of reductive dogmatism, coercion, and anti-intellectual zealotry that’s remarkably unconcerned with either improving schooling or ameliorating prejudice.”

Ben Weingarten, editor at large for RealClearInvestigations and fellow of the Claremont Institute, has noted, “Antiracists believe it is wholly justifiable to engage in outright discrimination and bigotry—abrogating rights, treating us as unequal under the law and rigging opportunities—to the extent it advances the cause of ‘equity,’ This experiment in social engineering is a recipe for disaster, eroding liberty and justice, fomenting societal rancor and division, and ultimately leaving us a poorer, less secure country.”

Adam Kissel, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy whose area of expertise includes higher education, notes that UCO’s mandate for job applicants to have a “strong commitment to antiracist” pedagogy may violate applicants’ free-speech rights.

“Political litmus tests in hiring stand in stark opposition to academic freedom and free speech, and they should have no place in any college,” Kissel said. “Political litmus tests also expose public colleges to expensive and embarrassing litigation.”

Ironically, UCO’s job posting also includes boilerplate language declaring the university is “committed to recruiting and maintaining a diverse faculty and to creating a welcoming environment for all.”

[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit AimHigherOK.com.]

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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