Posts tagged with "critical race theory"

MLWXBF chapter 4 illustration via Alison Christenson for use by 360 Magazine

Ivy League BLM Courses

By: Emily Bunn

Ivy League Schools to Begin Teaching “Black Lives Matter” Courses

Proving their commitment to diversity and understanding, several Ivy League colleges will begin offering courses on the Black Lives Matter Movement. Whereas other Ivy League schools, such as Cornell, have created Africana Departments that focus on the centrality of Africa and the African Diaspora to the modern world, BlackLivesMatter classes are situated in a specific cultural moment. Though, of course, the Black Lives Matter falls under the umbrella of contemporary African history, it is positioned in a more concentrated, modern application. Princeton and Dartmouth are the two first schools to begin accrediting this intersectional coursework. While Princeton most recently enacted their BLM coursework, Dartmouth has been pioneering this change since 2015.

Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matter course discusses topics such as The Ivory Tower, understanding St. Louis and its racial history, race and class, racial violence, and systemic and unconscious racism, among other topics. Part of Dartmouth’s course description reads, “though the academy can never lay claim to social movements, this course seeks in part to answer the call of students and young activists around the country to take the opportunity to raise questions about, offer studied reflection upon, and allocate dedicated institutional space to the failures of democracy, capitalism, and leadership and to make #BlackLivesMatter. Developed through a group effort, this course brings to bear collective thinking, teaching, research, and focus on questions around race, structural inequality, and violence.” The course is taught by a wide variety of professors from different academic disciplines and social backgrounds. Taught for ten weeks by close to 20 different professors, Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matter coursework stands as a comprehensive example of a cross-disciplinary concentration that recognizes and situates history in a contemporary, American context.

Princeton’s #BlackLivesMatter class looks to examine the “historical roots and growth of the Black Lives Matter social movement,” and is “committed to resisting, unveiling, and undoing histories of state sanctioned violence against Black and Brown bodies.” Princeton’s #BlackLivesMatter’s course description reads as such: “This seminar traces the historical roots and growth of the Black Lives Matter social movement in the United States and comparative global contexts. The movement and course are committed to resisting, unveiling, and undoing histories of state sanctioned violence against Black and Brown bodies. The course seeks to document the forms of dispossession that Black Americans face and offers a critical examination of the prison industrial complex, police brutality, urban poverty, and white supremacy in the US.” The course’ sample reading list includes selections from Angela Davis, Claudia Rankin, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.

Princeton’s course will be taught by Professor Hanna Garth, who has previously taught “Race and Racisms,” “Postcolonial and Decolonial Theory,” and “Theories of Social Justice.” Garth’s self-defined interest in “the ways in which people struggle to overcome structural violence” and past experience has well-prepared her for teaching this class. Garth remarks, “All of my research, teaching, and mentoring is designed around my commitment to feminist methodologies and critical race theory.”

While some have aggressively asserted that Princeton’s course readings are from a former communist party leader who once made it on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, their negativity further highlights the necessity of this course. While these assertions may be true, it is telling that certain critics commonly overlook the individual’s many (more recent) accomplishments. The author in question is Angela Davis – a revered, respected, and well-educated civil rights activist, philosopher, academic, and author. By painting Davis as an unpatriotic, dangerous criminal, it distracts from the important lessons that are to be learned from this influential leader. Similarly, Fox News’ article on Princeton’s new course links their mention of the “Black Lives Matter” movement not to an explanation of what the movement is, but instead to a page on US protests. As opposed to creating an educational resource for what the BLM Movement is, conservative critics are quick to jump to claims of Black violence and riots.

Especially in 2021, as the United States grapples with the fight for racial and civil justice, discussions surround race, policing, prison reform, and politics are more pertinent than ever. It is absolutely essential that our nation’s college students are exposed to critical race theory and critical thinking. By shielding America’s youth from the necessary history of this country – which is still being experienced today – we are only putting them in a position of increased vulnerability and ignorance. Knowledge is power and educating oneself on society’s issues is the only way to efficient work towards progressive social change. Hopefully, as the most prestigious academic institutions begin to model examples of intersectional and anti-racist coursework, other colleges and universities will soon follow suit.

Photo via Lucas Jones of Polity Press for use by 360 Magazine

Q&A WITH AUTHOR DAVID THEO GOLDBERG

A pervasive sense has taken hold that any and all of us are under suspicion and surveillance, walking on a tightrope, a step away from erasure of rights or security. Nothing new for many long-targeted populations, it is now surfacing as a broad social sensibility, ramped up by environmental crisis and pandemic wreckage. We have come to live in proliferating dread, even of dread itself.

In this brilliant analysis of the nature, origins, and implications of this gnawing feeling, author David Theo Goldberg exposes tracking capitalism as the operating system at the root of dread. In contrast to surveillance, which requires labor-intensive analysis of people’s actions and communications, tracking strips back to the fundamental mapping of our movements, networks, and all traces of our digitally mediated lives. A simultaneous tearing of the social fabric – festering culture wars, the erosion of truth, even “civil war” itself – frays the seams of the sociality and solidarity needed to counter this transformation of people into harvestable, expendable data.

This searing commentary offers a critical apparatus for interrogating the politics of our time, arguing that we need not just a politics of refusal and resistance, but a creative politics to counter the social life of dread.

David Theo Goldberg is Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

Interview by: Heather Skovlund-Reibsamen

To begin, when did you realize that you first wanted to be a writer?

Quite young. I liked to write as a teenager, fifteen or sixteen, won a prize at high school for English writing. Looking back, I was not nearly as compelling as I fantasized. In training to be an academic I started attending closely to my technical writing. While at graduate school in New York I was involved in making independent films and music videos. I co-wrote the outline and voice-over text for an experimental film on apartheid South Africa which I also co-directed. The film won some international film festival awards. My early published academic writing was dense. I worked hard at getting myself to be clearer, cleaner, more concise. Like all art, writing requires endless attention to its detail, rhythm, flow.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have a couple. I lap swim quite seriously early every morning. When I am struggling with an idea, or even to articulate a sentence, the quiet solitude of pulling through water on one’s own unbothered by anything around often leads one, or even a whole sentence or two. The challenge, of course, is to recall accurately   enough what I thought so great to be able to write it down at swim’s end. Until injuries caught up with me a few years ago I surfed extensively, and for many decades. I would travel to some surf spots further afield as much to be able, between surfs, to write uninterrupted by day-work at home as to enjoy the great surf and culture at hand.

When I have things pouring out of me and I am writing fast I tend to plug into fast jazz. The likes of the great Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba or Japanese pianist Hiromi. Or the big band Snarky Puppy, with Hammond organist Cory Henry, who are fun. Writing has rhythms and I hope some of the music has rubbed off in my writing. There are times, nevertheless, when I like to write in silence, completely alone with my own thoughts.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It depends on the book: I usually read extensively regarding the subject matter until I feel saturated and an argument thread for the book is mostly in place. Jacques Derrida, the great French philosopher, was once asked by the documentary filmmaker, Amy Ziering, if he had read all the books in his enormous personal library. “I have read only four,” Derrida responded. He then added, the crease of a smile at the corners of his mouth, “But I have read them very well.” The challenge is to read whatever one is engaging to find insights and ideas with which one can think.

I also find it thought-provoking to observe cultural, technological, political and economic trends and changes at work around us. My writing itself is as much an unfolding of the argument line, often enough surprising me in the writing, through where the writing takes me.

Edward Said, the great intellectual of the late twentieth century, wrote a book, Beginnings, which is about how challenging it can be to open a book, to write the first sentences. But also how to end, to bring it to a close in ways that will linger with the reader. Whether creative or analytic writing, not that it is always easy to distinguish the two. Said’s book has stuck with me through much of my writing career.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Ten sole or co-authored monographs; another ten edited or co-edited books. Naming a favorite, especially publicly, is like saying who among your children are your best ones. Tough to do. There are two books that stick out because they have both expressed key developments in my thinking and have been impactful in scholarly debates around these questions.

The first is The Racial State (2002), about how the modern state since the 17th century was founded on racial structures, structuring into its very formation the elevation of Europeans/those of European descent at the expense of all others. Obviously these structures transformed over time, and from one place to another,  but the driving principle has largely remained in place. The key argument is that modern states become modern by taking on the technologies of race as structuring mechanisms.

The second is The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism (2009). This book traces the ways the neoliberalizing of polities globally—the financialization of everything; the divorcing of contemporary social, economic, and political conditions from the historical forces that produced them; the complete personalizing of responsibility for one’s standing and experience in society, no matter the social structures and challenges one has faced–has sought to empty the concept of racism and its affiliated racial conceptions of any critical charge or meaning.  The conservative attacks we are currently witnessing on critical race theory have their foundations in this neoliberalizing turn starting in the 1980s. Conservatives of this stripe find discussions, analysis, and engagement of racial issues threatening precisely because they challenge their view of the world.

What inspired you to write Dread: Facing Futureless Futures?

In 2016 family, friends, and colleagues were waking up each day with a sense of anxiety, some calling it a sense of doom. The rise in authoritarianism here in the U.S. but also across a widening range of societies was in part fueling this sense. I was feeling it too. I started by trying to put my finger on what this feeling was, what it amounted to, to name it. “Dread” was the concept I came up with to best express this sense. When I mentioned it aloud, others would exclaim, “That’s it!” What followed was the urge to write a book exploring the underlying conditions prompting this generalized sense, and the implications.

What is the significance of the title?

Dread is a socially produced pervasive anxiety the basic cause(s) of which it is difficult fully to identify. Like Kierkegaard in the 19th century, I contrast dread with fear. Fear is a feeling the object of which one can usually identify, name concretely. The object of dread is a feeling of anxiety and unsettlement the sources of which I cannot concretely or precisely articulate.

“Facing Futureless Futures,” the subtitle, speaks to the ways in which we have created or collectively allowed to be created social conditions that threaten our very wellbeing, if not existence. That some are talking about “the sixth extinction” exactly expresses this heightening anxiety about the survival not just of lifestyle but of life, of the world that supports life itself.

Can you tell us about the book?

I wanted to account for the conditions prompting this pervasive sense of dread, of uncontainable anxiety. The authoritarianisms that seemed to be taking hold, the unhinged statements and expressions struck me as symptomatic of something deeper, structurally more pervasive and difficult to address. So I was concerned to string together an analysis of those conditions, to offer a language of analysis for what is happening to us, what we are doing to ourselves and over which we think we have little if any control.

These include the pervasive emergence of algorithmic culture, the ways algorithms are structured increasingly into and order our everyday activities, the overwhelmingly instrumentalist mode of thinking it insists upon, often in increasingly intrusive ways (the “internet of everything”). This pervades not just how we order consumer goods, how we invest, how we learn at school and college but how we run our homes and businesses, increasingly how cars drive, how and with whom we interact, how we relate to each other, indeed, the quickening pace of worker and work function replacement by robots. Everything we do when electronically connected is now being tracked—where we go, who we interact with, what we consume, how we vote, our medical conditions, our work habits, everything! And that in turn becomes the basis for shaping and reshaping our desires but also the (narrowing of) possibilities presented to each of us.

Increasingly, chips are being inserted into human beings, for a variety of purposes, from medical reasons to consumption accessibility (we are in the early process of being turned into walking credit cards), to tracking productivity, and government control. The digital is transforming the very nature of the human into the techno-human.

The anxiety all this is producing, consciously or not, includes the sense of lost privacy and transparency, depersonalized desire, and undermined self-control. This is readily exacerbated by events and even structures over which we take ourselves to have little or any control, like the pandemic and the impacts of climate change, the conditions for the production of both of which have been dramatically over-politicized. And all of this has laced through it structurally produced differentiations of class, race, and gender, further intensifying the concerns. The outcome of all of this, I suggest, is the ramping up of “civil war,” less conventionally understood than as more or less violent contestations over how we should all be living in the world.

Did you learn anything while writing the book?

One cannot address a dominant set of social concerns without first understanding it. The given is not indelibly cemented into place. What looks like natural conditions is often, at the very least, socially arranged. That means what we have made with debilitating effect we can unmake.

Above all, this invites a relational mode of analysis. It involves seeing—in the sense of looking at the world—in its deeply relational constitution. What we do in one place both affects and is affected by what others are doing elsewhere. Like the weather, environmental impacts and pandemics know no national boundaries or borders. Tracking is at once individually isolating and, less visibly, deeply relational. Racial ideas circulate globally, even if taken up and expressed differently in one place from another, just as racisms in one place are shored up and sustained by racisms elsewhere. For example, critical race theory was originally formulated and fashioned in American law schools but both its application and of late its facile condemnation have been taken up as far afield as Britain, France, and Australia.

And second, I found myself reaching a more hopeful conclusion, if not ending. I suggest that those societies that have taken seriously infrastructures of care for members of the society at large are far better able to address collective challenges such as pandemics and the impacts of climate change, or indeed racisms, at least in principle. Societies that fared better in quickly addressing the pandemic and saving their populations from rampant infection and death have been those that have invested more readily and enduringly in social infrastructures of care.

What is the purpose of the book?

To elaborate an analysis and vocabulary for understanding the debilitating social and ecological conditions we have created and face, and how we might address the challenges in creatively relational ways.

What are you wanting your readers to take away from the material?

Three insights: that we have created a world that in all it gives us is undermining the very conditions of possibility for sustaining those affordances; that the technological apparatuses so completely transforming our worlds and who we are in them,    especially tracking technologies, enable possibilities not previously available. But at the very same time they have proved debilitating, socially, ecologically, and increasingly politically; that a completely self-regarding disposition to the world, individually and nationally, is in stark contrast with one that recognizes our deeply relational condition socio-ecologically; the deeply relational ways in which socio-ecological worlds are constituted become key to addressing the challenges we are facing interactively.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

The conditions unfolding across the world were transforming remarkably quickly. The pandemic took hold in the middle of writing the book, shutting down much of what we had taken for granted. It revealed deep socio-economic  disparities, racially indexed, exacerbating the impacts.  These were further ramified by the George Floyd murder, among others, and the protests that followed. While I was already lacing racial analysis into the analytic contours of the book, the series of police killings and protests as well as the attacks on Asians, especially women, needed to be referenced. Nor could one write a book about dread without addressing the pandemic. So I added a chapter devoted to Covid and its social impacts and implications pretty much in situ.

What was the highlight of writing this book?

Being in sustained conversation with close intellectual friends and colleagues about the range of conditions I address in the book. This was especially productive and meaningful given our extended collective remoteness as a pandemic consequence. But also, because I was thinking and writing in the midst of an unfolding of the very conditions which I was addressing.

Is there anything that you would like to add for the readers?

The world we have inherited and from which we make ourselves today has furnished us with extraordinary possibility. But in being less mindful of the cumulative impacts of the many generations of this making we have just begun to understand that our world also is in advanced process of radically undermining the conditions making its enduring sustainability possible. The book is about our present circumstances with a view to understanding some of what it will take to have futures to which to look forward. I very much hope it is read in this spirit.

Joel Peterson photo via Deseret News for use by 360 Magazine

Joel Peterson x My Road to Cancellation

Joel Peterson, Stanford Professor and former JetBlue Chairman, writes about his experience navigating the minefield of woke hostility in his piece My Road to Cancellation:

“Wokeism,” America’s new civil religion, draws on elements of neo-Marxism, critical race theory, social justice and identity politics. Its adherents believe it will lead to a more just society. Its detractors, on the other hand, believe its “cancel culture” will push civil society to the brink. And, for the “woke,” either will do.

The roots of my own unlikely cancelation go as far back as 1987, when Jesse Jackson marched Stanford students up Palm Drive to a rhythmic chant of “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Western Civ has got to go!” The next year, I joined the advisory council of its Graduate School of Business where I was soon invited to fill a one-year faculty vacancy. To everyone’s surprise (including my own), I returned every fall for the next three decades to teach four courses to a generation of exceptional MBA candidates.

Then, last year, before a student-politician boldly posted that “White people need to be eradicated,” I was summoned to respond to an equally disturbing complaint over having “triggered” woke students. Because I didn’t think I’d done anything worthy of the summons and because I had received the distinguished teaching award from students, a “Silver Apple Award” from alumni and been appointed to a faculty chair, I wasn’t worried. Alas, I’d misjudged my peril.

Years after Jackson’s campaign to eliminate Stanford’s requirement to study Western civilization, an Iowa-born, New York Times reporter, Nikole Hannah-Jones, developed what she titled “The 1619 Project.” In it, she presented America as founded on slavery and stained by perpetual bigotry.

With boosts from the Pulitzer Foundation and from George Floyd’s tragic death, her social justice message struck a nerve. However, when a number of historians debunked the pseudo-history, Hannah-Jones repositioned her essay as “a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative.” She followed up with a New York Times Magazine article headlined “What is Owed” making a case for reparations, consistent with her 1995 letter to the editor in Notre Dame’s “The Observer,” in which she likened Christopher Columbus to Hitler.

With police departments defunded, monuments vandalized and cities torched, Dr. Seuss was soon condemned as racist, Mr. Potato Head scheduled for gender reassignment, and free speech restricted by social media oligarchs. So, it wasn’t a surprise to see social justice warriors on the previously welcoming Graduate School of Business campus.

Content of character vs. color of skin

In a class I teach, students objected when guest CEOs claimed to have been “color blind.” When I volunteered that I, too, had resisted hiring based on skin color, gender or quotas, and had relied, instead, on character, competence and commitment, some students were offended. To understand why those “triggered” would object to standards of character and competence being added to the emergent holy grail of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), I turned to one of my own daughters.

Sensing my bafflement at the outrage, she immediately wrote back:

“I have known you my entire life, and I know by your words and deeds that you value all people of all races, ethnicities, and genders. I know you are constantly impressed and inspired by immigrants and their amazing stories of courage and perseverance. I’m proud of the work you’ve done. If this younger, ‘triggered’ generation pushes out of their lives all who seek to improve their understanding, teach them, and open their minds to broader ways of thinking, it will be to their detriment.”

I’d taught my kids – and, until now, my students — that talent, character, and competence are evenly distributed across every demographic. In response to my determination to be on the lookout for leaders without regard to identity, an offended gender-studies major wrote that she’d not known “whether to scream or throw up.” After all, it had been nearly 60 years since Martin Luther King had dreamt of the day when the content of one’s character mattered more than the color of one’s skin. But, by the time that day happily arrived, “wokeism” had hijacked his dream, re-elevating skin color over character.

As demands for skin-color diversity were broadened to include gender and sexual orientation, a student notified me that I’d called on more men than women in two (of four) classes. Knowing that I was no respecter of persons — whether by gender, race, sexual orientation, or anything else — I moved ahead with the course, suddenly aware that my interactions with students were being catalogued by identity.

Soon, a Black Lives Matter advocate asked, of all things, whether I would stand for the American flag. To provide context for my decision, I shared a story. As a toddler, I’d seen my mother take a call from the Department of Defense announcing that her fighter-pilot brother had been killed. Honoring her grief, I’d chosen to stand for the flag under which my only uncle had offered the ultimate sacrifice. The student’s response was presented as an irrefutable argument; my choice was “racist.”

Furthermore, in this woke new world, my professional experience was no longer relevant because of the race and gender I’d been assigned at birth. Despite having created tens of thousands of jobs, promoted women and minorities, and coached scores of entrepreneurs, I was deemed an “oppressor” in the catechism of “wokeism.” Furthermore, the penance for being raised in a “systemically racist” society — founded on millennia of Greek, Roman and Judeo-Christian antecedents, no less — was submission, and, if resisted, cancelation.

The reason behind such tyranny came into focus for me when Condolezza Rice, former secretary of state and current director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, told me she’d shared with her students that the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (9/11’s architect) had felt like “having Erwin Rommel under lock and key.” The blank looks on the faces of her very bright students revealed that they had never heard of WWII’s famous Desert Fox.

Until then, I’d traced the enmity to activists like Jackson and Hannah-Jones. Now, I could see that it also stemmed from students having swapped an education for indoctrination. Those enlisted as social justice warriors had avoided the lessons of history, missed out on refining skills that might have allowed them to judge assertions, and denied themselves the insights required to make wise trade-offs.

Because such uninformed activism brought with it a minefield of woke hostility, I kept to myself any reservations I harbored about critical race theory, gender fluidity, and climate alarm. And, when Stanford’s math department proposed achieving “racial equity” by eliminating AP math (as racist, no less), I also kept quiet. Instead, I hoped my hardscrabble climb to CEO might inspire those who saw themselves as victims of inequity. Ironically, those who strained to label my uphill journey a product of “white supremacy” were often the very beneficiaries of woke preferences.

Oppressor-victim

To understand this recipe for canceling predecessor generations, I spoke next with Stanford military historian Victor Davis Hanson. Because Hanson had written the following, I wanted his help in gracefully handling the oppressor-victim theme:

“We should not… allow a current affluent, leisure, and pampered generation to hijack the past, and damn it to perdition. (They have) not earned the right to… cancel… those of the past who won Gettysburg, or built the Hoover Dam, or produced a Liberty ship every week.”

While Stanford had long nurtured a remarkably diverse and admirably inclusive community, it nonetheless rejected Hanson’s counsel in favor of a now fashionable “institutional racism.”

When Graduate School of Business faculty were further instructed to avoid “racist and xenophobic rhetoric and actions against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” I found myself wondering if the addendum were a virtue-signaling accusation, or if it were based on something I’d simply never encountered in all my years at Stanford. And, when the facts behind subsequent murders (of a Capitol police officer and 10 Colorado shoppers) contradicted de rigueur narratives, I wondered if the time had come to move beyond racial memes.

Apparently not. With free markets also labeled “racist,” those of us with responsibilities outside the ivory tower began to feel our “diversity of optic” (based on long experience) had been dismissed in favor of a “diversity of identity” (rooted in ideology). So, while I care deeply about Stanford University, and like and admire its president, provost, and business school dean, I was beginning to feel isolated.

Their deference to selective diversity led me to reflect upon a meeting I’d conducted in Berlin as chairman of JetBlue Airways. After the meeting, I’d taken a stroll down Unter den Linden to the Bebelplatz, 500 yards to the east of Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate. It was at that plaza, on May 10, 1933, that newly empowered Nazi officials had orchestrated the burning of “objectionable” books. Later dubbed “The Night of Shame,” the conflagration eventually contributed to Germany’s liberal democracy turning a blind eye to Kristallnacht, the Holocaust and an appalling rationale for war.

While loath to compare such a long-ago shame with how I was currently feeling in Palo Alto, of all places, I remembered being impressed that, in Berlin, the survivors of that era’s cancelation had later inserted “stumbling stones” between pavers to ensure that all who followed neither forget, nor repeat, that calamity.

As I traversed the once-riven capital city, the ground-level reminders had provoked in me a surge of optimism. Surely, the world would avoid the sort of conflict for which my own father had gone to war. Surely, everyone realized by now that banning books, restricting free speech and stoking fear would lead to tragedy. And, just as surely, America would eventually reject totalitarianism, even in its “wokest” form.

Yet, here I was, only three years later, 6,000 miles to the west of Berlin, sensing I was perilously connected to a prior generation’s intolerance. Adding to my anxiety was a discovery that my grandchildren’s generation were being scheduled to view an honorable heritage through a lens cleverly manufactured to provoke shame.

Forced to consider moving to a less hostile teaching environment, I heard from former students. One female “of color” offered that, of all her professors, I’d been the most supportive of women and minorities. Another confirmed that the majority of his classmates felt silenced by the threats of a racist label. One student even scolded me for having allowed “the slings and arrows” of the woke to achieve their hoped-for effect.

I smiled wanly to see that Prince Hamlet had somehow survived Jesse Jackson. I, on the other hand, had failed utterly to anticipate the distorting polemics of identity politics. The script advanced during America’s annus horribilis had pitted race against race, gender against gender, and generation against generation, all risking a degradation of spirit worse than any virus.

As a former CEO, it seemed to me that the narrative had gone well beyond gaining political or market advantage. It had even exceeded antifa’s hope for French-Revolution-style anarchy. In fact, by 2021, it looked like a bold attempt at a hostile takeover of mankind’s best hope for peace and prosperity.

This conclusion led me to contrast two Americans best known for their connections to societal breakdown — a mid-19th-century Abraham Lincoln and a mid-20th-century Saul Alinsky. I selected Lincoln because he’d guided America through a civil war, and Alinsky because his dream had been to provoke civil unrest by inciting those he called the “have-nots” against those whom he called the “haves.”

President Lincoln’s observation of America’s vulnerability mirrored community organizer Alinsky’s precondition for a successful revolution. Thus, the warning attributed to Lincoln that “America will never be destroyed from the outside; if we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves” was the basis for the race and class warfare Alinsky welcomed by rewriting history, inciting envy and “canceling” a large portion of the population.

Whereas Martin Luther King had called upon our “better angels” to subordinate our differences to shared values and, thus, to overcome what Condi Rice called our nation’s “birth defect,” Alinsky chose to repudiate King’s redemptive dream. If he could get people to ignore e pluribus unum (America’s motto since 1782), he might be able to overcome the spirit under which the nation had thrived.

By 2020, the pandemic had offered activists a unique opportunity to cleave the nation along identity and tribal lines, skirting the 238-year-old aspiration that had been Alinsky’s steepest obstacle. Using a fear of cancellation to silence half the population, SJWs dismissed the steady social progress that was the trademark of the world’s most successful multicultural society. Instead of celebrating the progress flowing from our commonalities, they fomented division by pointing to historical injustices.

Between a pandemic, racial tensions and the absence of a Lincolnesque figure to bind up our wounds and bring us together, America was, indeed, vulnerable. As its citizens awakened to the soft tyranny promoted during the pandemic, many felt betrayed by institutions they’d once admired and leaders they’d once trusted. And, for my part, I discovered that the experience I’d had with cancellation in the academy was being repeated all across the nation.

While I may well survive, America will not survive the rewriting of its history, the violation of its Constitution and the abandonment of the freedoms it has promised to citizens of all political persuasions, ethnicities, genders and orientations. No matter our differences, unless we preserve free speech, secure our Constitution and re-enthrone individual responsibility over victimhood, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will be unable to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

And Alinsky’s vision will have canceled Lincoln’s.

Joel Peterson Bio

Joel Peterson is the Robert L. Joss Professor of Management at Stanford University, the former managing partner of the Trammell Crow Company, the former chairman of the board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution, the former chairman of JetBlue Airways and the founder and chairman of Peterson Partners, a sponsor for a quarter century of more than a dozen funds covering private equity, venture and real estate investments in hundreds of companies and real estate projects across the nation and throughout the world.