So no blog posts for nearly 3 months… but no one really seems to read this, so I don’t think I’ve really let anybody down. This is an assignment I just finished for my Issues in Multicultural Education course, it’s a reaction to an article on Inside Higher Ed that profiles self-proclaimed “White advocate,” University of Vermont professor Robert S. Griffin.
My curiosity was rather piqued by this article, which led me to seek out the writings of Robert S. Griffin. What perturbed me most is his frequent references to his position as a tenured professor and his apparent devotion to scholarly debate and teaching. He repeatedly makes clear that he is not a racist and does not harbor ill-will towards people of other races. In his own words: “Those who know me realize that being a white analyst, advocate, or activist does not mean I harbor ill will toward other people. I sincerely wish every human being on this planet well” (Griffin, 2009). Such statements make him sound like a used car salesman who repeatedly reassures you that you can trust him. Attempts to soften extremist viewpoints is also a tactic recently adopted by many hate groups in order to grow their influence (Conant, 2009).
Even more appalling is Griffin’s constant reminder that he is an objective reporter of the views of “racially conscious” Whites. To borrow his phrase, even a cursory review of his writings will demonstrate to you that he sympathizes with his subjects. Though he writes from the perspective of a third-party observer (he never directly states what he believes, and precedes nearly all statements that could be considered controversial with “white racialists believe…” or “these whites believe…”), his lack of critical examination of the extremist opinions he puts forward make it rather obvious that he shares them. I found this passage to be particularly demonstrative of this:
With blacks, white racialists disapprove of, and have contempt for, their illegitimacy rate, their violent crime rate, the way they fail to keep up the areas in which they live, their educational and work performance, their welfare dependency, and their tendency to hold others responsible for their negative conduct and demand double standards and racial preferences. These whites point out that that 90% of interracial crime is black on white, and are enraged that blacks rape 20,000 white women a year (versus a couple hundred the other way around), and are convinced that these realities are suppressed by those who control the information flow in America (Griffin, 2007).
For Griffin to write that his invented statistics reflect “reality” in any way, shape or form is utterly absurd, and to toss around his credentials only serves to make a mockery of them. Additionally, Griffin justifies his stance by writing about how people of other races share a similar viewpoint and he is subjected to a double standard: “I’m an advocate for whites for the same reasons that others support blacks and Hispanics and other groups… If I advocated for any other group but whites, using the exact same language and rationale, I’d be applauded and rewarded.” (2007). What he fails to mention is that non-Whites with similarly extremist viewpoints have been equally shunned by the American mainstream (such as Rev. Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 presidential campaign).
Unlike the student in the article, I would not feel “awkward” were I to find myself in his class. I would be beyond disgusted and set a speed record for class withdrawal. I would be similarly appalled were I assigned his article Rearing honorable White children (2001) and told it was a “provocative and unorthodox” work. The article paints the portrait of several families who have eschewed the mainstream education system because they feel it has let down White students. According to one of the parents quoted in the article: “Schools are brainwashing white children to feel guilty about their heritage and turn away from it. Our children’s heritage includes Homer, Plato, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, and Beethoven.” Instead such important figures have been entirely replaced: “Now, our idols are being wiped out and replaced by people like Martin Luther King.” Griffin takes no effort to point out that the addition of Martin Luther King has not displaced any of the aforementioned White historical figures.
I cannot, however, say that I entirely disagree with him or the University of Vermont’s decision to defend his right to freedom of speech. Despite his apparent dislike for ethnic diversity, his studies have taught him to “value intellectual diversity and not shun people who do not accept today’s conventional thinking” (2007). Whether this is an honest statement or simply lip service won’t be revealed until some of his students come forward. Nevertheless, some of my best educational experiences have come with instructors who shared very different viewpoints from my own – though to my knowledge, none of them publicly held such fanatical views.
Conant, E. (2009, April 25). Rebranding hate in the age of Obama. Newsweek. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from http://www.newsweek.com/id/195085
Griffin, R. S. (2001, October). Rearing honorable White children. American Renaissance. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.amren.com/ar/2001/10/
Griffin, R. S. (2007). On the New McCarthyism. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.robertsgriffin.com/NewMcCarthy.pdf
Griffin, R. S. (2009). Replies to a White racial activist. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.robertsgriffin.com/RaceRepliesA.pdf
Lee, S. (2009, June 17). The (pro)-White professor. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/17/professor