White Lady Discouraged From Humiliating Herself With 'Library Rap' Cries Reverse Racism

Culture Wars
White Lady Discouraged From Humiliating Herself With 'Library Rap' Cries Reverse Racism

Bari Weiss, ever since she first attempted to get several of her professors fired from Columbia University because they supported a free Palestine, has been fighting the oppression of people disagreeing with her or of others being criticized for behavior or opinions she personally agrees with, a practice she describes as "cancel culture." Sadly, because the New York Times refused to fire her to prove her point about how people like her were being silenced, she was forced to very publicly quit said job because her coworkers did not like her, which is also cancel culture. Basically, anything other than agreeing with everything Bari Weiss says and telling her that she is a brilliant and special girl with pretty eyes and a sparkling personality, is "cancel culture."

After years of searching for an example of anti-racism actually being, like, really oppressive to white people, one which would tug on the heart strings of anyone with an ounce of empathy in their souls, one that would make them say "This has gone too far! We must put a stop to thoughtfully considering how our actions or behaviors might affect anyone other than Bari Weiss," she has finally come up with something she really thinks will knock our socks off.

And, in a way, it did.

In a public post on her substack, Weiss posted what she seems to believe is the truly harrowing story of one Jodi Shaw, a former part-time coordinator of some kind at Smith College. This, out of all of the stories she reportedly hears from people day in and day out, is the one she chose to highlight her pet issue.

Every day I get phone calls from anxious Americans complaining about an ideology that wants to pull all of us into the past.

I get calls from parents telling me about the damaging things being taught in schools: so-called antiracist programs that urge children to obsess on the color of their skin.

I get calls from people working in corporate America forced to go to trainings in which they learn that they carry collective, race-based guilt — or benefit from collective, race-based virtue.

I get calls from young people just launching their careers telling me that they feel they have no choice but to profess fealty to this ideology in order to keep their jobs.

Now, she notes that none of these definitely real people who have her personal phone number for some reason have had the courage to come forward, which is why she isn't publicizing their stories, but now someone does. And Bari Weiss is prepared to be extremely dramatic about this.

But the hour is very late. It calls for courage. And courage has come in the form of a woman named Jodi Shaw.

Oh boy!

Shaw's tale starts with a story many of us are already familiar with — the story of Oumou Kanoute, a black Smith student who was working at the college over the summer, who had campus security called on her by a white employee for "eating lunch while black." Although Kanoute had previously informed the woman that she was on campus for a mentorship program, the woman called campus security on her. The officers then informed Kanoute that the woman had said she "looked out of place" and was "demonstrating suspicious behavior." Like eating a sandwich, I guess

[T]he climate — and my place at the college — changed dramatically when, in July 2018, the culture war arrived at our campus when a student accused a white staff member of calling campus security on her because of racial bias. The student, who is black, shared her account of this incident widely on social media, drawing a lot of attention to the college.

Before even investigating the facts of the incident, the college immediately issued a public apology to the student, placed the employee on leave, and announced its intention to create new initiatives, committees, workshops, trainings, and policies aimed at combating "systemic racism" on campus.

In spite of an independent investigation into the incident that found no evidence of racial bias, the college ramped up its initiatives aimed at dismantling the supposed racism that pervades the campus. This only served to support the now prevailing narrative that the incident had been racially motivated and that Smith staff are racist.

This is not actually what happened. The investigation said that they couldn't prove clear racial bias — which is often rather difficult to do, frankly — and that the employee was not technically in violation of any Smith policies. After the incident, however, Smith decided to listen to recommendations provided by the ACLU, which represented Kanoute, and make changes to their policies so that this kind of thing didn't happen to other students.

But how did these new policies affect Shaw? Well, for one, she was discouraged from doing a library orientation rap.

Allowing this narrative to dominate has had a profound impact on the Smith community and on me personally. For example, in August 2018, just days before I was to present a library orientation program into which I had poured a tremendous amount of time and effort, and which had previously been approved by my supervisors, I was told that I could not proceed with the planned program. Because it was going to be done in rap form and "because you are white," as my supervisor told me, that could be viewed as "cultural appropriation." My supervisor made clear he did not object to a rap in general, nor to the idea of using music to convey orientation information to students. The problem was my skin color.

Now, I would absolutely object to the idea of using music — any kind of music — to convey to orientation information to students, or to anyone else for that matter. There is absolutely no way to do that in a non-cringe-inducing way. But a white lady at Smith College rapping about libraries? It is just not right to put students through that kind of second-hand embarrassment. That is cruel and unusual punishment.

"Dorky White Person Trying To Make Uncool Thing Seem Cool By Doing A Rap" is such an obviously cringey thing that it was already a sitcom/movie trope for decades — and frankly, the reason you don't see it so much anymore because now the cringey thing is "White Person Highlighting Their Own Innocence/Naïvete By Imitating A Black Person." There was absolutely no way this was going to end well. Or not end up a national joke when it was inevitably posted to YouTube.

Clearly, this supervisor was trying to find a tactful way to save her from making an ass of herself, and she owes them a thank you note and her eternal gratitude.

Shaw claims that this incident prevented her from qualifying for a full-time position, as the entire program she had created over several months was completely reliant on her being able to rap during it.

I was up for a full-time position in the library at that time, and I was essentially informed that my candidacy for that position was dependent upon my ability, in a matter of days, to reinvent a program to which I had devoted months of time.

Humiliated, and knowing my candidacy for the full-time position was now dead in the water, I moved into my current, lower-paying position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life.

And yet, even that didn't allow her any escape from being expected to learn about and be aware of inequities in the world.

I endured racially hostile comments, and was expected to participate in racially prejudicial behavior as a continued condition of my employment. I endured meetings in which another staff member violently banged his fist on the table, chanting "Rich, white women! Rich, white women!" in reference to Smith alumnae. I listened to my supervisor openly name preferred racial quotas for job openings in our department. I was given supplemental literature in which the world's population was reduced to two categories — "dominant group members" and "subordinated group members" — based solely on characteristics like race.

I have a feeling that if such literature was focused on the patriarchy vs women, she would have been able to process what that was about. I also have a feeling that her supervisor was trying to get some semblance of diversity in the department. Northhampton Massachusetts is a lovely place but it is also a very white place, and in a place like that, if you want to have diversity, you have to actually put some effort into it.

The last incident was one in which Shaw says she was made to feel uncomfortable about the fact that she didn't feel like should have to discuss her own race or racial identity at a staff retreat focused on racial issues.

The last straw came in January 2020, when I attended a mandatory Residence Life staff retreat focused on racial issues. The hired facilitators asked each member of the department to respond to various personal questions about race and racial identity. When it was my turn to respond, I said "I don't feel comfortable talking about that." I was the only person in the room to abstain.

Later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person's discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of "white fragility." They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress, but that it is actually a "power play." In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was shamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.

The facilitators were not actually wrong there, is the thing — people absolutely do use "feeling uncomfortable" as a way to get out of having needed conversations. And sometimes we all have to sit in our own discomfort for a little bit in order to make the world a little more comfortable for others.

After this, she says, she filed a complaint claiming that she was suffering in a "hostile working environment" but that her complaint wasn't taken seriously "because of her race." And yet, she says, she was offered a settlement, "in exchange for her silence," which she turned down because someone needs to speak up for the poor, desperate white people, deprived of their precious library raps and forced to consider the feelings of people who are not them.

One thing which Shaw and Weiss both note, is that Shaw made only $45,000 a year, which is less than the tuition at Smith — $54,224 a year. However, $45,000 is actually pretty darn good for working part time and doesn't actually appear to be much less than what an actual lecturer makes at the school.

But you know what pays a whole lot better? The reverse racism grievance industry — since telling her "story," Shaw has made over $140,000 on her GoFundMe.

[Bari Weiss]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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