‘White-Informed Civility’ Is the Latest Target in the Campus Wars

“Civility and White Institutional Presence: An Exploration of White Students’ Understanding of Race-Talk at a Traditionally White Institution,” describes a need to stamp out what they call “whiteness-informed civility,” or WIC.

.. One, that civility, as currently practiced in America, is a white construct. Two, that in a campus setting, the “woke” white student’s endeavor to avoid microaggressions against black peers is itself a microaggression—a form of noblesse oblige whereby white students are in fact patronizing students of color. Not only that, but by treating black students with common courtesy and expecting the same in return, white students elide black grievances, bypassing the “race talk” that is supposed to occur in preamble to all other conversations.

.. Something similar is happening in collegiate debate, where historically high standards of decorum are under siege as manifestations of white patriarchal thinking. So are the factual and logical proofs that debaters are normally expected to offer in arguing their case. Some participants are challenging the format, goals and ground rules of debate itself, in some cases refusing even to stick to the topic at hand.

.. Again the driving theory is that all conversations must begin by addressing race. As one top black debater, Elijah J. Smith, writes, debate must, before all else, “acknowledge the reality of the oppressed.” He resists the attempt on the part of white debaters to “distance the conversation from the material reality that black debaters are forced to deal with every day.”

.. Increasingly at major competitions, there must be a pre-debate debate on the terms of engagement: whether students are required to cite proof or are free to argue wholly from their feelings and so-called lived experience. Far from being banned or even maligned by debate judges, such antics increasingly win converts and, not coincidentally, matches.

.. “Arguments don’t necessarily have to be backed up by professors or written papers. They can come from lived experience.”

.. a cynic might conclude that the unstated goal is to make it possible for students of color to succeed academically by talking about nothing but color, thus allowing race to inflect whole areas of inquiry to which race is irrelevant