There’s been a familiar pattern on college campuses in recent years of incidents of blatant racism or “hate crimes”—nooses hung on doors of black students, racist graffiti, etc—that in nearly all cases turned out to be hoaxes, after which the professional class of jellyfish employed as “college administrators” would cancel classes or wring their hands and declare the hoax to be a “teachable moment.” The good folks at The College Fix ran a roundup of several leading hoaxes back in December, and the Daily Caller had its own expose back in 2013.
My old haunt at the University Colorado at Boulder decided to try to get ahead of the game with a series of posters around campus that attempt to raise consciousness of racial bigotry by shining a spotlight on epithets and thoughtless remarks reported to the university, and encouraging students to report “bias motivated incidents (BMIs)” through an official process. CBS News reported on this initiative last weekend (“University of Colorado Tries to Fight Racism with Racism”), and the College Fix included two facsimiles of the posters the university has produced, included here, based on reported BMIs. One claims someone said, “Your mom must be the janitor ’cause that’s the only job for dirty Mexicans.” Another says, “Go back to Africa—you don’t belong here.”
Now, I can see any number of mildly racially insensitive or stereotypical epithets that a student might blurt out in a thoughtless moment. Anyone remember when PGA star Fuzzy Zoeller wondered whether Tiger Woods would serve fried chicken and collard greens “or whatever the hell they serve” after Tiger’s first Masters win? Not his finest moment. And one can imagine some dumb student saying something about burritos to a Hispanic. But I am very dubious that these two epithets were ever uttered by a real student. I think they were made up. Does anyone seriously think someone said to a black student “Go back to Africa?” (A sober student anyway? We know about fraternities—see Oklahoma—that drink too much and get really stupid, and with legal weed in Colorado. . .) And even if this kind of stupidity is authentic, should it really be a formally reportable offense? Wouldn’t an old-fashioned shaming work better than another problematic campus inquisition? (One of the things I learned in my year at Boulder is that everyone dislikes the Office of Discrimination and Harassment that investigates these matters, because they’re put in repeated no-win situations.)
There are two further ironies here. First, many of the sensitive souls on the Boulder campus are offended at the poster campaign itself, and have torn down a number of the posters. (If I was still there I’d surely grab one as a souvenir.) Strange how the very people who always say they want a “conversation about racism” always back away from having that “conversation.” But of course, we know what “conversation about racism” really means today: You shut up, and confess your collective white guilt.
Finally, “BMI” is an ironic acronym for what’s happening here, because “BMI” is better known by most ordinary human beings as the acronym for “body mass index”—in other words, a measure of obesity. So it oddly fits here, as an acronym for the bloat in college administrations that is both making college less and less affordable and stifling speech and free expression at the same time. (Kudos, while we’re here, to Cornel West, who said the other day that universities shouldn’t be “safe spaces.”)