Does St George embarrass Oxford ?

[750 words]    Prime Minister Boris Johnson wished everyone a Happy St George’s Day yesterday. He felt, however, the need to reassure people that it was alright to celebrate St George’s Day and raise a glass, “without embarrassment and without shame”.

Most people will understand why he felt the need to issue such a reassurance. People know that the thinking called ‘political correctness’ now enjoys the status of religious Orthodoxy among western intellectuals.

You will therefore look in vain to find any endorsement of St George’s Day on the University of Oxford website. In fact St George’s Day does not figure, even though the University of Oxford is set in the heart of England, with a distinctly English and Christian heritage – Dominus Illuminatio Mea is the university motto, a citation from the first line of Psalm 27 in the Bible.

English heritage, however, appears to be a source of embarrassment and shame.

Why ?

English identity is evidently heresy at a University of Oxford dedicated to today’s religious Orthodoxy. In fact, Oxford is a centre of evangelism for this Orthodoxy, with cutting edge apostolic credentials and intentions.

On St George’s day, the University website home page carried the headline announcement about a new bursary scheme for Welsh students. Earlier in the week, it carried the announcement of new studentships for BAME students.

One week ago today, an online conference was due to be held titled, “Dismantling Whiteness: Critical White Theology”. The explanatory notice opened with the words:

‘Whiteness is a claim to power, it’s a claim to rightness, it’s a racialized claim and there is no such thing as being white and being a Christian, you have to resist that identity.’ 

I wonder how that statement accords with the provisions of the Equality Act 2010.

I also wonder

  1. how such a statement accords with logic and
  2. how it accords with reality.

For the logic, my research led me to this at Inside Higher Ed titled Dismantling Whiteness in Academe. Salvador Vidal-Ortiz explains:

It bears repeating that the dismantling of whiteness (as structure) is different from white (as race). When we talk about race in the classroom, I always make sure to distinguish between a race, a group of people, and the system that races encode. Here, I talk about whiteness as a discourse that enables a set of practices, which activates, with its own set of codes, certain responses and actions. But I am not speaking of white people… 

I still did not understand why there should be a reference to the colour “white” when this does not concern white people, as such. Then I realised that the clue to the logic being applied here lies in the words,

the system that races encode

I see. The objection is to white ways of looking at the world, ie the way in which white people think and behave – a mindset which contrasts with the way in which non-white people think and behave.

But they have already determined that whiteness is bad. Seeing themselves as anti-racist, Inside Higher Ed cannot be guilty of being seen as racist themselves. So they contrive an academic looking justification to advance and justify their predisposition. 

Once you understand that the logic applied is psychological rather than rational, then the meaning becomes clear.

Of course, such logic is false, indeed disingenuous. But then my response is prima facie evidence that I am applying the mentality of whiteness. Mea culpa !

Well, that’s the logic. How does the assertion about ‘whiteness’ compare with reality ?

We know that there is a great deal to regret and to be ashamed of in the history of White European colonialism. A great deal indeed. Applying the normal, accepted standards of morality which every human being recognises, that history is indeed littered with White European abuse – shocking abuse. Much academic research is now assiduously devoted to exposing and recording all this abuse.

Quite rightly.

But there appears to be a distinct dearth of research concerning any possible benign effects of European colonial rule.

Evidence for the benign ?

Which system do young Hong Kong democracy activists prefer ? The one inherited from British colonial rule – the one with the rule of law which guaranteed individual liberty and property, and so enabled Hong Kong’s astounding success ? Or the one the Chinese government has recently imposed ?

Presumably the new Chinese system reflects the mindset of “yellowness”, while the system Hong Kongers patently prefer reflects  the “whiteness” which accompanied British imperialism.

Or is this really about human beings, ideas and power – not racial stereotypes.

Predisposition masquerading as academic assessment

[450 words] The Oxford University Press publishes a blog. OUP defines the blog as “Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World“. But that is not how I would describe one post I read. Dated 5th April 2021, the post is titled “Anti Asian violence: the racist use of COVID 19“. The third paragraph opens with the words:

From the outset of the pandemic, President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China Flu” and “Kung Flu”—both terms that cemented the association of the virus with Asian bodies and thus racialized a pathogen that respects no national borders.

I invite you to reflect on that sentence dispassionately and rationally. After all, it is an example of OUP’s “academic insight for the thinking world“.

So, what strikes you about it ?

Allow me to share what I think.

Firstly, I should point out that I regard Donald Trump as a conceited individual and that I am relieved he is no longer President of the United States of America.

That said, Mr Trump won the Presidential election in November 2016 and he also obtained the votes of more than 74 million Americans in November 2020.

My view of Donald Trump must therefore be put into another perspective. It is my opinion. It is evidently not the opinion of the millions of Americans who voted for him.

With reference to the comments about Covid 19, the following goes unrecognized:

  1. Covid 19 originated in China in late 2019
  2. the World Health Organisation sent a team of investigators to China recently to investigate the nature and origins of the virus
  3. the WHO team went to the market in Wuhan, the location believed to be the source of the outbreak
  4. a year ago, the Chinese authorities themselves identified Wuhan as the location of Covid 19’s first appearance
  5. the WHO investigation has concluded that the most likely explanation for Covid 19’s origins was a transition from animals to humans
  6. health concerns have been raised in previous years about Chinese markets dealing in exotic animals for human consumption – however
  7. local cultural resistance to reform has prevented the suppression of this dubious practice

None of this accords with the thesis advanced by Daryl Joji Maeda,  the author of the April 5th post at OUPblog. This suggests to me that the post reflects the worldview and predisposition of the author who fails to take account of the points raised above. To me,  it fails as academic insight for the thinking world – indeed it constitutes a predisposed political viewpoint passed off as academic insight.

So, I find myself asking:  Why does the publishing arm of the University of Oxford see fit to give a platform to such comment ?

OUPblog Reference:

Anti-Asian violence: the racist use of COVID-19 | OUPblog