Whether you prefer to call it “wokeness,” “social justice politics,” “successor ideology,” or some other term, a couple of recent headlines illustrate that militant progressivism is still very much an active force in mainstream institutions.
First, a case of campus craziness at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. A faculty member was fired for doing something that was, in the words of Hamline’s associate vice president of inclusive excellence (AVPIE), “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic,” according to The Oracle, Hamline’s student newspaper.
The story is so absurd that one could easily mistake it for satire. During a lecture on religious art, a professor included two images of medieval paintings of the Prophet Muhammad in a presentation. A Muslim student was offended by this and reported the professor to university administrators. As is natural to most higher education bureaucracies these days, Hamline’s administration responded in the dumbest way possible and fired the professor.
In short, academic freedom was trampled because a student claimed to be harmed. To be perfectly clear, this is not an interpretation of what happened. It is what Hamline University explicitly said occurred, writing “respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom.”
Christiane Gruber, a professor of Islamic Art, wrote a nice piece in New Lines Magazine on the incident that provides context on the paintings and Islamic artistic traditions. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but she summarized the situation well: “Through conflation or confusion, Hamline has privileged an ultraconservative Muslim view on the subject that happens to coincide with the age-old Western cliche that Muslims are banned from viewing images of the prophet.”
While we've come to expect such nonsense from the dean state, a far more concerning incident occurred at the Washington State Supreme Court in October.
A unanimous opinion held that if a party involved in a civil lawsuit merely alleges that racial bias impacted a trial’s outcome, a court “must hold a hearing on a new trial motion” if the accuser “makes a prima facie showing” that an “objective observer could view race as a factor in the verdict, regardless of whether intentional misconduct has been shown or the court believes there is another explanation” (emphasis added).
One does not need to be a lawyer to see the absurdity of this decision, but it gets worse. “At that hearing, the party seeking to preserve the verdict bears the burden to prove that race was not a factor.” In other words, the winning side has to prove they were not racist, rather than the losing party having to prove that racism in some way affected the outcome.
For a more detailed discussion of the ruling and its chilling implications, see this Washington Free Beacon article on the matter.
Between the latest case of campus craziness and the stunning decision from the Washington Supreme Court, there is no disputing that social justice politics is alive and well as we head into 2023.