“[Kendi] artificially divides the world into ‘racists’ and ‘anti-racists’ with no middle ground allowed for people who are merely not racist,” Jacobson said. “This creates a coercive dynamic of compelled activism and crushing of dissent that is unhealthy to an educational environment.”
The Cornell Daily Sun student newspaper asked to interview me about our new website, criticalrace.org, which has received enormous media attention and well over a million page views since launch on February 2, 2021.
I agreed to the intervivew, but requested the questions and answers be in writing, as I had done with student reporters for the Sun in the past, so that the exchange was precise. The Sun posed 17 questions to me, which I answered in detail spanning almost 2000 words. Very little of it made it into the Sun article, so I am printing the entirety of the written interview at the bottom of this post.
The Sun article focused on student “reaction” to the website, Students Weigh in on Critical Race Theory Database Launched by Law School Professor. (As we’ve noted before, the Sun only accepts comments via its Facebook post page.)
The only students quoted were student activists and groups pushing for CRT and so-called “anti-racist” mandates and agenda, so it’s not clear at all that the article presents a representative range of student body reaction.
Here are the quotes attributed to me in the Sun article:
According to Jacobson, the idea to create the site came about in early September, when a letter detailing a list of demands to create anti-racist action on Cornell’s campus began garnering support from hundreds of faculty, students, alumni and staff. Jacobson attributes the creation of such demands to the summer Community Book Read: Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist.
“[Kendi] artificially divides the world into ‘racists’ and ‘anti-racists’ with no middle ground allowed for people who are merely not racist,” Jacobson said. “This creates a coercive dynamic of compelled activism and crushing of dissent that is unhealthy to an educational environment.” ….
* * *
Jacobson believes critical race theory sows division in society.
“I consider some of the activities of critical race training to be against the best interests of our society and country by pitting people against each other based on race and creating artificial distinctions that make society less cohesive,” Jacobson wrote in an email to The Sun.
Jacobson said when it comes to anti-racism initiatives, he believes there’s a difference between voluntary study and requirements. Jacobson, a strong proponent of free speech, added that students should have the ability to learn about anti-racism if they choose, but mandating it harms freedom of expression on campus.
“I am focused mostly on the administrative mandates that are under consideration at Cornell and have been enacted elsewhere, as well as campus culture, which impose on and force students to adopt a particular viewpoint,” Jacobson said in an email to The Sun.
In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Jacobson described anti-racism as racist. “It’s current discrimination in order to remedy past discrimination is the ideology,” he told Carlson.
Here are the “reactions” from two student activist leaders as quoted in the Sun:
Some student leaders strongly oppose Jacobson’s incendiary comments.
“[Jacobson’s] stance, in particular, the anti-racism is racism — it’s merely another false reverse racism claim,” said Daniel James II ’22, Industrial and Labor Relations Student Government president and founder of the podcast “Black Voices on the Hill.” “I think that his behavior is symptomatic of the fact that there is still a generation of white stoic professors and racist professors who refuse to be educated, and who would rather preserve the white status quo.” ….
“Anti-racism and critical race theory classes, they’re not blaming anyone, they’re blaming whiteness as a social construct, and at the end of the day, whiteness not only harms Black and brown folks,” James said. “Whiteness and white supremacy, in particular, harms white people as well.”
The Cornell Abolitionist Revolutionary Society is an organization that is leading the effort to disarm and abolish the Cornell University Police Department, and supports the implementation of anti-racism initiatives at Cornell.
Angeliki Cintron ’22, a member of CARS, told The Sun that anti-racist work involves dismantling racist structures. Cintron further highlighted some ways Cornell can work toward becoming an anti-racist institution including abolishing the CUPD, divesting from private prisons and taking a firm stance against the prison-industrial complex.
Cintron recalled when Prof. David Collum ’77, chemistry, also faced backlash in June 2020, when he defended alleged police brutality — statements which Pollack characterized as “not just deeply insensitive, but deeply offensive.”
“The fact that they can say all of that and not face any consequences from the administration here is really telling that all of their commitments to anti-racism is pretty performative,” Cintron said. “Anti-racist reforms involve taking some power away from the administration and giving it back to like students, faculty and community members, and maybe that’s something that they just don’t really want to see happen.”
[With regard to the accusations against Prof. David Collum referenced in the article, see my post Will Cornell Apologize To Chemistry Prof. David Collum After Charges Dropped Against Buffalo Cops?]
It’s unfortunate that the Sun’s generally good article is being promoted by the Sun on social media as me being “under scrutiny.” To the contrary, it’s Critial Race Training and its Kendian “anti-racist” deception that is under scrutiny.
Here is the full interview.
What was the inspiration for the database? How was this idea created?
The immediate impetus to create the website was an early-September 2020 Demand List signed by multiple programs and hundreds of faculty, students, alumni, and staff, demanding that implementation of President Pollack’s July 2020 call to “embed anti-racism across” the campus include race-based hiring and promotion, the elimination of colorblind hiring practices, and other race-based practices.
This troubling explicit advocacy of racially discriminatory practices in the name of “anti-racism” did not come out of nowhere. In June 2020, Cornell designated Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist as a Summer Community Book Read. Kendi advocates that “[t]he only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination” and artificially divides the world into “antiracists” and “racists,” with no middle ground allowed for people who are merely not racist. This creates a coercive dynamic of compelled activism and crushing of dissent that is unhealthy to an educational environment.
Whatever President Pollack’s intent in using the term “anti-racism,” it became clear that much of the campus interpreted it as Kendi used it, and that posed a threat to academic freedom and free expression. Looking at this unfold, I was convinced that most parents, alumni, and prospective students had little idea how rapidly events were devolving at Cornell.
It was only after the September Demand List was released that the Legal Insurrection Foundation, of which I am President, decided to take research we had been doing and turn it into a separate website and database to provide an easy platform for parents and students to know what was happening at Cornell and elsewhere.
What is the purpose of your database?
The database is an informational resource for parents and students as to Critical Race Training on campuses, including so-called “anti-racist” training, which sometimes is mandatory, sometimes voluntary. The database is neutral, and just as useful to those who want such training as to those who oppose it.
There is a strong demand for this information, as evidenced by over 1 million page views since launch last week.
Contrary to some media portrayals, we do not advocate avoiding the schools listed or any particular school. As we say on the website: “This is not a list of schools to avoid, it is a database to provide parents and students with information from which they can make informed decisions as to what is best.”
What do you hope to achieve with it? Or what is the main goal?
The main goal is to provide information in an easy format that allows individuals to make decisions as to what is best for them.
How do you define Critical Race Theory?
Different scholars define Critical Race Theory in a variety of ways, and the field has evolved over the years. Our focus is not an academic debate over Critical Race Theory, but on training and programming that coerces students, faculty, and staff, into adopting a single viewpoint under administrative and social threat, with the attendant damage to campus free expression and academic freedom. That is why we use “training” in the title of the website and database.
What are your thoughts on critical race theory? What are your main criticisms of it?
See prior answers.
How do you feel about it being applied to university anti-racism initiatives?
What are your thoughts on Cornell’s anti-racism initiatives? Any criticisms? Any praises?
The initiatives are not final and still are subject to Faculty Senate recommendation and then approval by President Pollack. A key factor for me will be the element of coercion and mandate in the final result, including required student curriculum and faculty programming, and the requirement of so-called “anti-racist” activism for promotion and professional advancement. Also worrisome is the possibility of forcing faculty to incorporate these so-called “anti-racist” efforts into their own course curriculum, which is a violation of our academic freedom and imposes an ideological orthodoxy.
The risk is that so-called “anti-racist” training and programming at Cornell will resemble such efforts at some other colleges, where sessions turning into race-shaming and racial kafkatrapping (use of denial of an accusation as proof of the accusation). These trainings exploit and perpetuate racial stereotypes, and individuals are demeaned and held responsible for historical wrongs they didn’t commit based on their skin color. Rather than broadening campus intellectual life, such trainings narrow the scope of acceptable discourse and bully dissidents into silence.
Cornell already has a serious problem with lack of free expression. A survey last year by free speech groups ranked Cornell 40th out of 55 schools surveyed. Cornell did poorly on student willingness to express viewpoints on campus, especially as to affirmative action. That survey comports with my experience that many students are afraid to express views that go against the campus activists for fear of retribution. Cornell is at risk of making the existing free expression problem substantially worse.
Already, however, staff mandates have been imposed and made part of staff annual reviews and promotion; there is a lack of transparency as to what the mandated training consists of, as those modules are not publicly available as far as I know. Staff are most at risk, and there needs to be greater transparency and protection of differing views.
On Tucker Carlson you said “Anti-racism does not actually mean what people think it means. It actually is very racist,” Could you expand on that statement? What does anti-racism actually mean? How is it racist?
The term “anti-racist” as used by activists is a linguistic sleight of hand and deception. Ibram X. Kendi, the person most identified with the term “anti-racist” and whose book was promoted by Cornell, advocates current discrimination as a remedy for past discrimination. I specifically mentioned that point during the Tucker interview as an explanation for what I meant: “It’s current discrimination in order to remedy past discrimination is the ideology.” Such “anti-racist” discrimination on the basis of race fits the traditional definition of racism, and is prohibited by applicable federal and state law, and Cornell policy.
The experience at Cornell is bearing out my concerns, with hundreds of faculty, students, and staff demanding race-based hiring and promotion, among other race-based activity, as part of the so-called “anti-racism” initiative. Cornell is heading in the wrong direction, one set in motion by the university itself last summer. Hopefully, the Faculty Senate and ultimately President Pollack will pull back before irreparable harm is done to the university educational environment.
In my view, the answer to racial discrimination is to lessen racial discrimination, not to impose new forms of racial discrimination.
Why is it important for parents to have access to a database like criticalrace.org? Why is it important for students to have access to this information?
The information we link to is public, but it’s not always easy to find. We save parents and students time and effort by putting it all in one place. The massive traffic to the website, over 1 million page views since launch last week, reflects that parents and students want this information.
How do you respond toward concerns that your criticism of CRT and antiracism initiatives may alienate students of color from participating in your securities clinic?
I stand for equal treatment of all people without regard to race, which is consistent with federal and state law and Cornell’s non-discrimination policy. Why would someone object to me taking the same position Cornell already takes on non-discrimination? Additionally, I don’t think we should presume that all people of a certain skin color think alike; I don’t accept that in general or as to Critical Race Training or Kendi-style “anti-racism” training. My criticisms of so-called “anti-racist” training is to affirm the need to treat people as individuals without regard to skin color. My course continues to be oversubscribed, and we regularly have a very diverse student enrollment, so such concerns are misplaced.
What do you see as a better solution for racism in America opposed to using anti-racism initiatives?
We need to stop dividing people into racial categories and designing initiatives by such group designations. Focus on individual rights, including the right to fair and equal opportunity and treatment. By affirming the dignity of the individual, we will create a positive environment for change, rather than the so-called “anti-racist” construct which pits groups against the other and creates an artificial divide between “anti-racists” and “racists.” I believe that most people fit into neither group, they simply want to treat others with respect without regard to race, and to be treated the same way. We should focus on what we have in common, rather than what separates us.
Do you believe there is a racism problem in America at all?
Yes, of course racism is a problem and is something we need to continue work to solve.
Do you believe systemic racism is present in America? Why or why not?
I don’t believe that America is systemically racist in the way that term is used by so-called “anti-racist” activists. Our system and laws stand against racism, and that is embedded at almost every level of government and increasingly the rest of society. The goal should be to help this systemic anti-discrimination live up to its promise, not to tear down the system itself or engage in our own retaliatory discrimination.
In 2020, Former President Trump signed an executive order to strip critical race theory training from the government budget, and President Biden has recently revoked this order, what implications does this action have?
My understanding is that Trump eliminated the types of abusive race-shaming tactics in government agency training, including segregating people by race for training purposes, that had been exposed in a series of leaks. The net result of the Trump Executive Order and the Biden revocation of the Order is that we are back to where we were before Trump’s EO.
Did you agree with Trump’s stance of calling the training “un-american”? If you did, do you still believe it is un-american?
I consider some of the activities of Critical Race Training to be against the best interests of our society and country, by pitting people against each other based on race and creating artificial distinctions that make society less cohesive.
You speak a lot on how universities using antiracist initiatives “indoctrinate” students into leftists ideologies, what exactly do you mean by indoctrinate? How specifically are universities indoctrinating students?
I distinguish voluntary study from mandates. If a student voluntarily wants to take such courses or engage in such training, that’s fine. I am focused mostly on the administrative mandates that are under consideration at Cornell and have been enacted elsewhere, as well as campus culture, which impose on and force students to adopt a particular viewpoint. This harms campus free expression because it sends a message that only one viewpoint is acceptable.
What are your thoughts on the student effort to disband the CUPD?
CUPD seems to play an important role on campus, so I don’t understand why students would want to disarm or eliminate CUPD, which would decrease security and require outside police agencies to enter campus more frequently.
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