During the Civil Rights era liberalism was none other than an extraordinary moral and social gift to black Americans. There can be no doubt about it: The Civil Rights Movement would have failed had it not been for the support of white liberals. Their support was a moral gift like none other.
Most interestingly, white liberals no longer play a supportive role in the lives of blacks. Quite the contrary, the defining feature of white liberals nowadays is none other than a horrific form of paternalism. And the case of Professor Carol Wain at Vanderbilt University mightily brings that out. To hear white liberals tell it, Professor Wain is a morally despicable and intellectually incompetent person; and that is for no other reason than the fact that she mightily embraces conservative values. I am not just speaking of Vanderbilt students here, but also of some members of the administration at Vanderbilt University.
For example, there has been moral outrage over her criticism of Islam. But it is stunning to me that there can be such outrage over her criticism of Islam, when there is virtually deafening silence over the stance of Muslim with respect to the horrific horror committed in France in the name of Islam. Have there been Muslims who have expressed their profound disapproval over what took place in France? Absolutely. But has there been a tremendous outcry on the part of Muslims across the globe? Not at all. Imagine that across the globe Muslims had gathered in the streets to protest the evil committed by various Muslims in France. The moral significance of that behavior would be off the charts. I find it rather interesting that the truth of the preceding two sentences seems to have been lost on liberals.
No doubt there are many ways to characterize the difference between contemporary liberals and contemporary conservatives. For me, the difference is that contemporary conservatism attaches tremendous importance to responsible behavior. And basic responsibility applies whether a person is rich or poor. More precisely, being poor is not ipso facto an excusing condition; for a poor person can have the wherewithal to perform various forms of just and morally decent acts. Being poor is not a barrier to a young person helping an elderly person to cross the street or calling a person’s attention to the fact that she or he dropped something. Quite specifically, being poor does not at all excuse acts of violence. After all, there is simply no respect in which committing acts of violence constitutes a form of personal social advancement in society.
As to the attitude of white liberals at Vanderbilt University towards Professor Carol Wain, my view is very simple, namely that there is a conception of white liberalism embraced by most academic institutions these days that has become horrifically paternalistic towards minorities and especially blacks. Countless many whites have more or less have embraced such paternalism, with one very untoward consequence being that minorities—blacks, in particular—are expected to show a general measure of obsequiousness to white faculty and officers of the institution.
It strikes me as obvious enough that the real problem that folks have with Carol Wain is that she is failing to show the obsequiousness that institutions of higher learning has come to expect of blacks. In other words, she has not succumbed to the prevailing attitude of paternalism towards blacks that nowadays is characteristic of so very many institutions of higher learning in the United States. And the attitude towards her op-ed essay concerning Muslims strikes me as clear proof of this. For there is an extraordinary evil that is being committed in the name of Islam by some Muslims without there being anything remotely resembling a tremendous outcry on the part of Muslims throughout the world, especially in both Europe and North America. It is utterly stupefying and ever so revealing that whites at Vanderbilt are more animated by the desire to criticize Wain for her critical op-ed essay of Islam than they are concerned by the reality it has not at all been the case that there has been widespread outrage on the part of Muslims throughout the world over the evil committed by Muslims in France.
Which is worse, (a) the criticism that Cain raised against Muslims or (b) the deafening silence on the part of so very many Muslims across the globe with regard to the horrendous wrong that was committed by Muslims in France? Notice that even if it is allowed that Cain’s critique of Muslims is wrong, it can nonetheless be ever so justifiably held that the deafening silence on the part of Muslims with regard to the wrong committed in France is surely much, much worse.
© 2015 Laurence Thomas