[guest post by JVW]
Note: I thought of holding this post until Monday since Dana got an early start on the Weekend Open Thread (TGIF!), but I figured I would just post this now and get it out of the way. The story is a week old anyway, though it only came to my attention recently.
A PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania by the name of Taylor Dysart wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post last week which inadvertently demonstrates just how stultifyingly banal and mindlessly predictable modern academia has become. Ms. Dysart surveys the Canadian truckers’ protest and discovers that their grievances stem from — you won’t believe it! — white colonialism.
The convoy has surprised onlookers in the United States and Canada, both because of the explicitly racist and violent perspectives of some of the organizers and because the action seems to violate norms of Canadian “politeness.” But the convoy represents the extension of a strain of Canadian history that has long masked itself behind “peacefulness” or “unity”: settler colonialism. It is not incidental that this latest expression of white supremacy is emerging amid a public health crisis. The history of Canadian settler colonialism and public health demonstrates how both overt white-supremacist claims and seemingly more inert nationalistic claims about “unity” and “freedom” both enable and erase ongoing harm to marginalized communities.
Set aside the super lazy invocation of racism, which has really come to be defined in recent years as “anything which irks leftists.” Set aside the woke bingo card contained within her essay (buzzwords which appear include the stuff quoted above as well as “Indigenous peoples,” “genocidal,” “weaponized,” “land dispossession,” “segregation and racial hierarchy,” “Donald Trump,” and so many others). Set aide Ms. Dysart’s citation of alleged mass unmarked graves found at state schools for First Nations children in Ontario, which roiled the North American left last year and led to the dipshit Prime Minister demanding an apology from Pope Francis right up until rational people investigated and determined that the story had been grossly misreported by academic leftists and their media allies. Set aside the fact that the experts she marshals in support of her argument are all fellow progressive academics who reside in the same ideological bubble as she does. Beyond all that, the dumbest aspect of her argument is that the litany of white colonial settler sins throughout Canada’s history which Ms. Dysart so painstakingly enumerates has absolutely nothing to do with the truckers’ current grievances, despite her attempt to link them through the crazy and frankly obnoxious notion that “freedom” is a white concept which has no truck with people of color. Good lord.
I’m not surprised that this sort of piffle is being peddled by academic historians. Frankly, the discipline has been ruined by the faculty lounge crowd for some time now, and there is a reason why a set consisting of the best-selling authors in historical nonfiction and a set consisting of the leading historians in academia would have pretty much zero intersection on a Venn diagram. No doubt Ms. Dysart will eventually receive her sheepskin in full robe and tam, and will go on find some cozy sinecure at a middling university where she can indoctrinate young mushminds in her silly delirium.
But I do blame the Washington Post op-ed page editor for publishing this crap. Surely there has to be some point at which even a left-leaning editor says to him or herself, “No, this probably isn’t a good topic for yet another white privilege screed from a woke academic.” This really ought to have been just that instance, but it would seem that the WaPo is happy to champion mediocrity so long as it generally reflects the preferred progressive narrative. As Jon Levine and others have pointed out, the final submission wasn’t even properly copyedited and continues to contain a very clunky sentence that any competent editor would have caught: “The belief that one’s entitlement to freedom is a key component of White supremacy.” Perhaps not even the copyeditors at WaPo are willing to actually read Ms. Dysart’s dreck. Democracy may indeed die in darkness, as the paper is so fond of telling us, but democracy also dies in dumbness, which the Washington Post is making manifest these days.