That does not seem like a thing that was ever going to end well.
Times are hard for historical plantations. No one wants to have their weddings at them anymore (at least not if they plan on running for office), as it is now considered unseemly to toss the bouquet in front of a row of slave cabins. It seems like it took a little long for that to be the case, but better late than never, we suppose.
In what appears to have been an attempt to get with the times, Latta Plantation in Huntersiville, North Carolina, planned an event for Juneteenth — the holiday celebrating June 19th, the day the last slaves were told they had been freed. You are probably thinking "Excuse me? A freaking plantation planning a Juneteenth event? That ... really does not seem like it would end well." And you would be right. It really did not. In fact it has been canceled entirely, following some very well-earned community outrage.
The event was to be titled "Kingdom Coming" and while the experiences of freed slaves would be considered, equal consideration was going to be given to feelings of the slave owners, the jobs of slave overseers and the plight of "white refugees" and Confederate soldiers coming home.
This morning Latta Plantation removed this Juneteenth event from their online calendar and Facebook page after FB c… https://t.co/AGO5gfeYqh— Ryan Pitkin (@Ryan Pitkin)1623421006.0
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home!
Come out to Historic Latta Plantation for a one-night event, Saturday June 19, 2021. You will hear stories fro the massa himself who is now living in the woods. Federal troops (Yankees) have him on the run and his former bondsmen have occupied his home and are now living high on the hog. Hear how they feel about being freedmen. The overseer is now out of a job. What will he do now that he has no one to over see from can see to can't see? White refugees have been displaced and have a story to tell as well. Confederate soldiers who will be heading home express their feelings about the downfall of the confederacy.
I am honestly quite speechless here. That is a very explicit centering of white feelings. How long did it take them to land on "But what about the white slave overseer who lost his job? What about his feelings?"
And bondsmen? Really? Like they can't even bring themselves to say slaves?
Is this what Republicans want taught in schools when they talk about how they're scared that the children are going to be taught Critical Race Theory?
One thing that can be said of Latta Plantation is that they clearly know their audience. Had it actually happened, it would have been the exact kind of of presentation that the kind of people who would go to a plantation would be interested in seeing. They'd have to disguise themselves, of course. Perhaps some white bedsheets would be suitable?
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Sorry, Rod Dreher, slash is real.
Rod Dreher, the minor league rightwing pundit who has complained that liberal women are too busy masturbating to love their children, and who mourned the death of George Michael by wishing the late singer had been straight (Why? Dunno, maybe so Jesus could get his autograph?), has found a new Culture War thing to worry about, and it is woke academics ruining J.R.R. Tolkien with their wokeness.
In what might be the laziest culture war rant we've ever seen, Dreher, following up on a reader tip, warns that the Tolkien Society's summer seminar, scheduled to be held online July 3, is on the topic of "Tolkien and Diversity," and can you imagine, now those crazy liberals, not content with having poisoned the modern world with their wokeness, have gotten their hands on Middle Earth!
Dreher's entire column consists of a two-sentence intro, a copy-paste of an email announcing the conference, a list of the paper titles, and then a very funny joke about Hobbit buttsex.
Obviously, the seminar must be worthless, since as we all know, Tolkien's world is exclusively white, straight, and probably Christian, or at least the man himself said that The Lord of the Rings is "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work." And now I have done more research for this blog post than Dreher did for his.
Mostly, Dreher just wants his readers, if any, to laugh at the ridiculous paper titles, because really, pfft, there's no race or gender stuff in Tolkien! So we're invited to mock titles that are clearly ridiculous and bad, just because.
A sampling (we won't copy over the full roster, because we're less lazy than Dreher):
- Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings
- The Problem of Pain: Portraying Physical Disability in the Fantasy of J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Invisible Other: Tolkien's Dwarf-Women and the 'Feminine Lack'
- Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien's Worlds
- Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
- Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!
- Hidden Visions: Iconographies of Alterity in Soviet Bloc Illustrations for The Lord of the Rings
- Questions of Caste in The Lord of the Rings and its Multiple Chinese Translations
- Stars Less Strange: An Analysis of Fanfiction and Representation within the Tolkien Fan Community
Dreher doesn't even bother fulminating about possible Communist influence in that paper about Chinese translations.
But the title that Dreher loves the most is "'Something Mighty Queer'": Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien," because 1) Academic woke jargon and 2) Haha, that's so GAY! In fact, that's the only one Dreher has time to comment on, after which he's completely finished:
I, for one, cannot wait for the destabilization of cishetero amatonormativity in the works of Tolkien. I figure it's going to be about Sam pitching and Frodo catching.
Good grief, is this ever stupid. Wokeness ruins everything, doesn't it?
That's it, kids. The seminar is proof that the Tolkien Society has succumbed to political correctness, and instead of pursuing proper assessments of Tolkien, like why didn't Sam and Frodo have the eagle fly them straight to Mount Doom, they're acting as if Chinese translations of the trilogy even matter, or that there's somehow something trans about the epic, which there is NOT. It's just a perfectly hetero story in which Gandalf the Grey literally transforms into Gandalf the White and would prefer not to be deadnamed, thank you.
In any case, it sure is sad to see all these extraneous ideas popping up for the first time in the Tolkien Society, whose previous seminars have stuck to normal topics like "Tolkien the Pagan? Reading Middle-earth through a Spiritual Lens" (2018), "Women in Tolkien" (2009)*, and "Politics and Middle-earth" (2008).
*(both of them, har har har!)
In conclusion, there are also some angry dorks complaining about Mindy Kaling's upcoming "Velma" animated series for HBO Max, in which the most sensible passenger in the Mystery Machine will be voiced by Kaling, reimagined as being of "East Asian descent," and living in a "different world" with the other human characters, but no dog or van.
To which we can only say we second this suggestion from The Mary Sue:
Honestly, the real question we have is whether or not the series will address Velma's status as a queer girl icon. Let Velma kiss girls, you cowards!
It's Friday, have a great weekend and be good to each other in this, your OPEN THREAD.
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These are definitely brand new problems!
Late last month, Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw announced his creation of a "woke ideology whistleblower" site where military personnel could send him their horror stories of being told that racism and sexism exist and are problems for those who experience them.
On Thursday, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shared some of these findings with the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. With all the heartfelt sincerity in the world, he explained to Lloyd Austin, American's first black Defense Secretary, that racism and sexism were starting to happen in the military for the first time ever. Why? Because military personnel in some areas are being required to learn about these things and find that uncomfortable.
"We're hearing reports of plummeting morale, growing mistrust between the races and sexes where none existed just six months ago, and unexpected retirements and separations based on these trainings alone," Cotton said to Sec. Austin, hoping for sympathy.
Via Military Times:
Cotton, a former Army infantry captain, detailed a handful of anonymous submissions to the site, set up in partnership Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a retired SEAL lieutenant commander.
One Marine wrote that his unit's "mandatory military history training was replaced with training on police brutality, white privilege and systemic racism," Cotton said. "He reported several officers are now leaving this unit citing that training."
Of course, while service members regularly rotate in and out of units, and sometimes have opportunities to leave a unit early to pursue another role, they are not able to transfer at will.
Continuing, Cotton spoke of a special operations troop who was told "the special operations community is racist"; a soldier who said a general officer referred to "the entire U.S. as racist"; an airman said his or her unit was forced to conduct a "privilege walk," where troops separated themselves by race and gender to talk about their experiences with privilege; and soldiers "forced to watch videos about systemic racism and "documentaries that rewrite America's history as a fundamentally racist and evil nation."
Cotton also cited a response to his website claiming that a freshly recruited Space Force guardian filed separation paperwork saying that joining the armed services amounted to "indoctrination."
I don't know. I don't think we can trust these delicate flowers on the front lines if they can't handle watching a few documentaries and discussing unearned privileges. They're clearly not psychologically stable enough to handle that kind of pressure. It also seems like they are probably full of shit. As you may recall, no one was required to actually prove that they were in the military in order to fill out this form.
There is, of course, no question that racism and sexism have been very big problems in the military. Notoriously so!
Dog whistles aside, there is plenty of evidence that racism and sexism within the ranks actually predates the Biden administration. Task & Purpose has documented 40 cases since 2016 of service members and veterans participating in extremist organizations, such as white supremacist groups.
The Pentagon tried to bury a 2017 survey that found nearly one-third of Black service members who responded said they had experienced racism. Moreover, 30% of Black respondents and 22% of Asian respondents felt their chances for promotion would be harmed if they reported the racial harassment and discrimination that they endured. [...]
As for sexism within the military, there are many examples from before Biden took office in January of commands failing to protect female service members from sexual harassment. A review following the April 2020 murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén also showed that female soldiers at Fort Hood faced an environment so toxic that they constantly lived in "survival mode"
We don't need to pretend we don't know what this is. Racism and sexism are not more rampant now that people have to do diversity training and learn that racism and sexism exist. That is not the issue. The issue is that people who didn't have to worry about whether or not something they said or did was racist or sexist or consider how something they said might make someone else feel now have to worry about that. And they don't like it, because having to think about those things makes them uncomfortable, and then sometimes their discomfort makes everyone uncomfortable.
This is not a social phenomenon that is unique to the military or even to issues of racism and sexism. We all know people who get away with saying horrible things because no one wants to "make things awkward" by acknowledging it, and we know how aghast those people can get when someone finally does. We're socialized to feel that the onus for not making things awkward or uncomfortable is on the oppressed or insulted in practically any situation, and people do get uncomfortable when that script is flipped — even, sometimes, other people who have been oppressed or insulted.
I can only speak to this as a woman, but I know a lot of women who have felt like they had to laugh off sexual harassment, laugh off men groping them or otherwise being grotesque, not only for their own safety, but for everyone's collective comfort. Putting up with that kind of stuff used to be the mark of a "cool girl" and saying anything about it made one a feminist killjoy. I have to say that, unfortunately, there was a time when women were more likely to plead with me to just let it go than men were. This was a fantastic situation for men, because women were largely policing each other. They weren't the ones who had to worry about where the boundaries were.
Things like diversity training take away the "Oh, they just don't know any better" excuse — and with that comes the possibility that people won't just let things go anymore. Because at the end of the day, what woke means is "paying attention." And that's really scary for some people who are used to being able to trust that their comfort will always come first. Because it won't anymore.
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Nobody's canceling Dred Scott. At least, not any more than in 1857.
Wow, did you hear about those crazy libs who want law schools to stop teaching about the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision because they're worried it'll trigger their snowflake students? It must be true, because it was covered by the New Yorker, not Ben Shapiro or OAN. This is where we point out that nothing of the sort has happened: Nobody's canceling Dred Scott v. Sandford in law schools, but the New Yorker did run a piece Tuesday suggesting it might be endangered. Problem is, the think piece was inspired not by a movement in law schools, but by a single Twitter discussion the author had seen, which suggested that the case might best be taught without reading much of the actual Supreme Court decision, because do you really need to wallow in all that racism?
The column, by Harvard Law prof and New Yorker contributor Jeannie Suk Gersen, makes a pretty strong argument for teaching Scott as an illustration of how norms of legal reasoning can result in a decision that's antithetical to human rights. It's actually a pretty good read, as long as you set aside the minor detail that it's all based on knocking down a straw man.
To be fair to Gersen, what might have been a pretty good think-piece on how to teach something as toxic as the Scott decision got lost in the New Yorker's own ham-handed framing of the story, as I'll discuss in a moment. First, though, I want to say that Gersen's discussion of the case's place in law school seems pretty spot-on (this is where I remind you I'm a rhetorician, not a lawyer). Gersen argues the decision by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who himself was an enslaver, isn't so much an impossibly bad legal argument on its face as it is a warning to "disabuse students of the impulse to approach the Constitution and the Supreme Court with uncritical worship."
I hadn't really read much about the decision itself, only the outcome, which was that Dred Scott, who freed himself from slavery and made it to Illinois and then to free territory, didn't have the right to sue to prevent being re-enslaved, because as a Black person, he could not be a US citizen. What I hadn't known about was Taney's awful reasoning about those "inalienable rights" in the Declaration of Independence:
If the Founding Fathers intended to include Black people in that declaration while personally enslaving them, Taney reasoned, that would mean that the Founding Fathers were hypocrites who "would have deserved and received universal rebuke and reprobation." But Taney found it impossible that these "great men" acted in a manner so "utterly and flagrantly inconsistent with the principles they asserted." So he concluded, instead, that their intent was to exclude Black people from the American political community. Of the two possibilities, grotesque hypocrisy or white supremacy, Taney found the latter far more plausible.
And Taney had a point! A Critical Race Theory point, which is unexpected from someone who enslaved people, but a point! A point that would back up every "crazy" San Francisco decision to take Jefferson or Washington's names off all the elementary schools, so: A point!
The rest of the decision is grotesque. Throughout, Taney takes it as a given that African Americans aren't fully human, and therefore only worth consideration as property. It's pretty foul white supremacist stuff.
In any case, the Twitter discussion that sparked the article wasn't about removing Scott from law schools, but about how it should be taught. University of Buffalo constitutional law prof Matthew Steilen said he thought the case could best be taught by editing the decision down to a page or so of summary, because, he said, why traumatize students with all Taney's racist, dehumanizing language, when the legal principles — or Taney's perversion of them — can be taught without rubbing students' noses in Taney's racist words.
"I'm white and I'm going to stand up there and talk with the students, including Black students, about this stuff? I would be dragging them through stuff that was hurtful to them. . . . It just felt indefensible." Steilen feels that Taney's language "gratuitously traumatizes" readers: "I wasn't comfortable giving his words to my students because I was afraid it would hurt them and destroy the kind of community I want to foster in class."
Gersen also mentions another law prof who has decided to teach Scott without requiring students to read the full decision, and that both that professor and Steilen "came to these conclusions without pressure from students; they said they had not heard concerns or complaints." It certainly seems like a justifiable position, as is Gersen's point that to really understand the bogus constitutional argument, the full horror show should be taught, as you'd examine a tumor. But again, nobody's saying we should deep-six Scott.
The New Yorker didn't do Gersen any favors in its framing of the story, either. A subheading certainly implies this is a real, not a hypothetical problem: "By limiting discussion of the infamous Supreme Court decision, law-school professors risk minimizing the role of racism in American history." The tweet promoting the story was even worse, turning the column's discussion of how Scott should best be taught into a "debate" over removing the case from law schools altogether:
A debate has erupted over whether the reviled Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford should be excised from l… https://t.co/nW5k6ENOUs— The New Yorker (@The New Yorker)1623175923.0
And hooray, now it's time for the fake — or charitably, misplaced — outrage party to kick into high gear. Whatever nuance there might have been in Gersen's discussion went out the window, because if you don't subscribe and didn't want to burn one of your limited New Yorker reads on this article, all you know is that a debate has "erupted" over "excising" the case from law school curricula.
As blogger and Twitter eminence Parker Molloy points out, the replies to that promotional tweet "fall into precisely two points of view." Folks who only saw the tweet expressed outrage at the supposed controversy, and folks who had read it, or who had at least read other discussions of it, pointed out the entire discussion involves "a single tweet thread from a single law professor."
The problem is, all that "wait, no, you've got it wrong!" tends to get lost, and you can bet we'll now be seeing endless complaints about whiny liberal college students demanding their professors water down legal history, because that's how a good cancel-culture panic goes, regardless of the facts.
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