December 11, 2014

Outrage Culture: Don't Be Too Inclusive

Illustration of the sun.
Illustration of the sun. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Every once in awhile, a story comes along that manages to provide a perfect illustration of a serious problem that is tough to describe clearly and concisely. When such a story does emerge, we can often simply point to it and say, "This is the problem. This is what we've been trying to say." While it is difficult for any one story to capture everything relevant about a complex problem, some stories can serve as vivid and memorable examples. Such a story has now emerged that illustrates the problem with outrage culture and those who are accurately labeled social justice warriors.

This particular story came to my attention via Jonathan Turley's blog. Turley explains that Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, was recently pressured to apologize for an email she sent saying that "all lives matter" instead of limiting herself to "Black lives" following the recent grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York. It didn't seem to matter that McCartney sent this email in support of students protesting the decisions.
She was immediately criticized for being too inclusive and not saying “Black lives matter.” McCartney agreed that she was wrong and apologized to the whole school.
How dare a university president, tasked with representing all students, not to mention staff and faculty employed by the university, be so inclusive! She must not care enough about the systemic violence being perpetrated against Black people. You know, because she sought to be inclusive. Outrage!

If we are tempted to dismiss the howls of outrage McCartney faced from Black students on her campus as an isolated case, Turley notes that there is reason to believe otherwise.
This view is shared by commentators who have insisted that the failure to speak exclusively of Black lives makes people part of the problem.
Yes, if you spend any time on social media, this will not surprise you. Being too inclusive makes you part of the problem. It is almost as if all lives don't matter after all. If you do not limit yourself to the particular phrases selected and approved by the outraged on Twitter, you will be called out for hashtag crime or worse.

To recap, we have a case of a university president trying to reach out to upset students in an inclusive manner - as we generally expect our university presidents to do - only to be slammed by the outraged for being too inclusive. These are the fruits of the outrage culture we've embraced. How this sort of thing does anything other than undermine the quest to find solutions to the problem of police brutality against persons of color is beyond me.
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