Post # 551 SPEARFISHING IN ACADEMIA (a pliny Editorial)

We have close friends who happen to be instructors in the liberal arts as well as the professions, at local colleges.  We and these friends share compatible views on the issues of the day, including, the need for further significant progress in civil rights, the rectitude of governmental policies of empathy and assistance to the needy, and an enlightened concern for environmental issues, including global warming. In addition to the pleasure of social interaction, we have the stimulating benefit of hearing their views concerning their respective disciplines as well as being kept abreast of the events and contemporaneous atmosphere at their respective higher institutions of learning.

Before proceeding to our theme, for reasons of clarity and to avoid inaccurate assumptions by readers,  still unfamiliar with our known political and social philosophies, we would make the clear and unequivocal declaration, that we are, and have always been, zealous supporters of the principle of equal opportunity and civil rights for all, as well as commensurate social standing for all Americans. As can be noted, we, in our essays, have ardently endorsed the moral principles of equal justice and opportunity for all, as the only appropriately American way of life; and have eternally promoted full acceptance and amicable social interaction between all members of society.

At the same time, we have deplored those who, for any manner of unhealthy, immoral and un-American reasons, derive some atavistic, neurotic benefit from asserting the irrational principle of superiority of  light skin over dark, and who have asserted that preposterous Gulliver’s Travels style irrational delusion, by acts of discrimination against fellow Americans, gifted by nature with darker skin.

It must be borne in mind that slavery, the permanently shameful scar on American History, was legally ended in the middle of the 19th Century, historically speaking, a relatively short time ago. In recent decades, America has indeed made many significant positive changes regarding the previous unjust appraisal and rights, constitutional and otherwise, of black Americans, which, hopefully, will be pursued to its moral and legal completion. Much of the improvement in equality and justice, (and enforcement of the Constitution) was, by unfortunate necessity, effectuated by Statute and litigation. Healthy and appropriate moral improvement in the minds of (too) many citizens has yet to satisfactorily evolve and, unfortunate to say, it appears that it will take yet more earnest dedication and time to cure the pathology of bigotry. Until such time, it does seem appropriate and understandable that many of our affected minority fellow citizens are (justifiably) impatient.

The total absence of any responsible programs or needed National efforts regarding this important issue by the administration of President Trump, (to the contrary, his subtle support of hateful Christian White Nationalism) has not speeded up the unreasonably slow progress of the country’s moral evolution, to the goal of a fully just society. Nor (to our present theme) does the neurotic, egotistical arrogation of this validly existing major historical injustice, by an individual for personal use based on unrelated personal reasons, possibly help. This practice of personal piracy of this important issue may have its unrelated basis in an insecure persona or the projected and unrelated angst of personal life problems. Disappointed people who may, conceivably, based upon unrelated feelings of emotional stress, need to publicly exhibit such translated feeling of undisputed righteous empowerment, where not at all warranted, relevant or useful, by publicly and angrily asserting themselves regarding the subject of racial prejudice, do not further its amelioration.

Let us, for the moment return to those Collegiate instructor friends, discussed at the beginning of this mini essay, in order to proceed to our salient point. We would again confidently assure the reader that such friends are individuals who are, inarguably, enlightened, perceptive and free of prejudicial preferences, whose stated goals are only to impart to their students the required didactic information relative to their respective subjects. Each of them has, over time, related, several uncomfortable and insulting anecdotal incidents, in which an identified one or two students of color have suddenly interrupted the progress of their lectures by aggressive outbursts of rage, allegedly based upon the lecturer’s use of a vocabulary word or reference, claimed “racist” or bigoted. As specifically related, these sudden classroom outbursts are perpetrated as a shocking and insulting disturbance to the instructor; who, in each case, as advised,  does aspire to vocal sensitivity as to the potential nuanced perceptions of her selected words in the present context of minority injustice. Such alleged claims of racial insensitivity and insult have been related to us, by these instructors and we have generally found that the rendition of the “racially insensitive words” as related to us, indicate no reasonable or rational basis for a public affront of bigotry or a charge lack of racial sensitivity.

For analogic illustration, the reader has doubtless seen, in documentary film or magazines such as National Geographic, photographs of people, residing in the islands of the South Pacific, who, by tradition, fish with a spear, instead of a fishing rod. In “spearfishing,” the fisherman stands on the bank or in the shallows of a body of water and hurls his spear at the sudden perception of a fish deemed suitable for the family dinner table. With such analogy, we find that there appear to be modern day American people, understandably angered and disappointed by the slow progress on the road to racial equality, but who, for reasons, solely residing in their persona, attend at a lecture to await the possible appearance of a vocabulary word, with perceived potential for  interpretation (or misinterpretation) as racially insensitive and, like the alert spear fisher, abruptly hurl their angry accusations of bigotry, like a spear, at the surprised lecturer.

We are entirely supportive of the need for sensitive awareness, especially mandated in this unfortunate age of racial and sexual injustice, usually (mis-)named as “political correctness”. We are of the opinion that the word, “political” (but not the practice) is not relevant; the socially acceptable level of awareness is properly termed, empathic, or respectful, not political.) Every self-respecting, right thinking individual, (especially lecturers) with any degree of social awareness, is aware of the social and empirical necessity to choose his spoken words in accordance with their possible potential for nuanced interpretation or perception in an undesirable context, or as objectionable, to any group or ethnos. But the individual student who, with the intense scrutiny (analogous to the spear fisher) on the body of words, impatiently awaiting for a target (in lieu of the educational benefit from apprehending the contents of the lecture)  and analytically on the alert for the sudden utterance of a vocabulary word,  potentially capable of perception (or ultra-sensitive and manufactured misperception) as insulting to minorities, is in empirical effect, slowing the rate of necessary progress toward racial harmony and equality.

As an alternative choice to disruptively and angrily, hurling her (analogous) fishing spear, previously held at the ready, for the appearance of certain perceived evocative words, it would seem more beneficial to the cause of civil rights, considerate to the instructor, and additionally, more useful, sensitive and less selfishly disruptive to the conduct of the class, if the complainant chose to meet after class with the instructor, for a discussion of either, a more rational interpretation, or if otherwise appropriate, a newly informed and sincere apology.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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