George Yancy is an Emory University philosophy professor and author of such books as Look, a White! In a recent New York Times op-ed piece, “I Am a Dangerous Professor,” Yancy, who is now on a “Professor Watchlist,” in effect complains that to the burden of having been born black he now has this stigma with which to contend.
Professor Watchlists are forms of Orwellian “Newspeak” “designed to mark, shame and silence.” Yet Yancy defiantly declares that rather than “run in shame,” as the drafters of the Watchlist would (allegedly) prefer, he instead experienced “a feeling of righteous indignation, even anger” upon discovering his new distinction. Anger, Yancy tells us, “functions as a saving grace, a place of being” that frustrates the aims of the authors of the Professor Watchlist who “would rather I become numb, afraid and silent.”
But Yancy insists that he will continue practicing what he calls “high stakes philosophy,” a pedagogical approach aimed at making his students “maladjusted and profoundly unhappy with…the horrible realities of people who suffer [.]” The latter are things like “racism, its subtle systemic structure”; “patriarchal and sexist hegemony”; “militarism”; “xenophobia”; “homophobia”; the dehumanization of the disabled; and the violence to which both the transgendered and the Earth are subjected.
Yancy concludes that he is indeed dangerous as charged “if it is dangerous to teach my students to love their neighbors” and “to think… about…how they have been taught to see themselves as disconnected and neoliberal subjects [.]”
This op-ed is telling for a variety of reasons.
First, as a leftist academic at an elite university who receives a handsome salary and the praise of his peers for doing little more than, in effect, writing about his experience, or what he claims is his experience, as a black man in America, Yancy lives a life of which few others could so much as dream.
But despite being among the most privileged people to have ever lived, Yancy assumes the role of the perpetually oppressed in our culture’s Politically Correct racial passion narrative. In truth, it is this role that accounts for his professional fortunes.
Second, the only “horrible realities” to which Yancy refers are those that he sees through the prism of his far left ideology. The only suffering with which he can empathize is limited to that of those to whom this ideology allocates full personhood. As to the suffering of the Other—whites, white men, white heterosexual men—Yancy is of one mind with his ilk in being not indifferent, but utterly insensitive, and even cruel. Such expressions of suffering he attributes to the most malevolent of motives: “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” and every other “ism” and “phobia” in the left’s inventory of unpardonable transgressions.
Third, neither Yancy nor any other faculty member virtually anywhere who shares his ideological stripes has a single reason to fear professional repercussions for the views that they espouse. Yancy’s list of grievances with (his ideological conception of) reality is exactly that of the overwhelming majority of his fellow academics in humanities and liberal arts departments in most institutions of higher learning around the country.
And since there is nothing for a left-wing professor, particularly a black left-wing professor, to fear in spouting the academy’s orthodoxy, there is no courage in doing so.
In fact, there is a profound lack of courage in peddling “Groupthink,” another Orwellian term that, unsurprisingly, Yancy chooses not to quote.
Finally, though it is not my way, in the spirit of the standard operating procedure of the Yancys of the world, I too here will be a bit autobiographical (or is it egocentric?).
Professor Yancy speaks about the “righteous indignation, even anger” that prevents him from being silenced. Well, I feel that anger too.
I feel it intensely.
And I feel it toward the likes of Professor Yancy, PC academics whose plush and often tenured existences are typically accompanied by an attachment to fashionable dogmas and a moral exhibitionism that is as excessive as is the intolerance of those who dare to challenge those dogmas.
I am angered by the self-pity of entitled leftist academics, especially black and minority professors, folks like Yancy, who control the universities by branding as moral inferiors deserving of social death those academic dissidents who defy the reigning hegemony of ideas of which Yancy and his ilk are self-appointed guardians.
I am angry that Yancy and the legions of academics that he represents seek either to harm or neglect altogether the professional prospects of untenured academics that, being white, male, heterosexual, Christian, and conservative, do not belong to any of their politically-protected classes.
I am angry that the Yancys of the contemporary academy preach for the need to appreciate the suffering of others while they are apathetic or even resentful toward the immeasurable agony of countless numbers of whites (and others) whose lives have been forever shattered by the brutality of their black victimizers. I’d be willing to bet Professor Yancy his job that he’s never empathized with Channon Christian, Christopher Newsom, Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sandler, Jason Befort, and “Holly G.” He’s never urged his students to lose sleep over these white victims of black violence.
And these constitute just a tiny fraction of the names of those who have endured trauma and death courtesy of their black tormentors (and if Yancy thinks that I am being hyperbolic here, I can easily arrange for him to receive daily links, multiple times a day, to stories and videos of the phenomenon of black-on-non-black violence).
Like Yancy, I too am a professor of philosophy. Unlike him, I am not tenured at an elite university.
Unlike Yancy, my writings don’t speak to the choir of my fellow academics. Unlike Yancy, when I write, I don’t reiterate the conventional wisdom and reinforce the political and ideological prejudices of my peers.
Moreover, because I am a dissident, a dissenter from the status quo that Yancy defends, I do have much to fear every time that I dare to play David to Yancy’s Goliath.
From one philosopher to another, I remind Yancy that the unexamined life is not worth living.