Scott N. Brooks, draped in a dapper shawl-collar sweater, looked out on the auditorium of mostly white students in puffy coats and sweats as they silently squirmed at his question.Did they literally squirm? If they did squirm, how would you know it was at a particular question, rather than at the banal restraint of another required session?
Why, he had asked, does Maria Sharapova, a white Russian tennis player, earn nearly twice as much in endorsements as Serena Williams, an African-American with a much better win-loss record?It depends on what the meaning of "it" is. We're comparing money made not in the playing of tennis but in the endorsing of products. What does it mean to be better at endorsing a product? But the students have no motivation to needle Dr. Brooks. They can see what they are expected to do, the coercion and pressure. They know they're supposed to say: It must be racist.
“We like to think it’s all about merit,” said Dr. Brooks, a sociology professor at the University of Missouri, speaking in the casual cadence of his days as a nightclub D.J. “It’s sport. Simply, the best should earn the most money.”
Maybe tennis is not as popular here as overseas, one student offered. Dr. Brooks countered: Ms. Williams is a global figure. As the room fell silent, the elephant settled in. Most sat still, eyes transfixed on the stage. None of the participants — roughly 70 students new to the University of Missouri — dared to offer the reason for the disparity that seemed most obvious. Race.Why is it daring to say what it's obvious the teacher wants you to say? The class was imposed on the students. They're required to sit through it. What might be daring would be to push the teacher back with the kind of statements that have been upvoted in the NYT comments section: "Sharapova looks like a Victorias secret model while Williams looks more like a NCAA football linebacker and that has NOTHING whatsoever to do with race, so don't make it about race" or "However, Serena IS muscular and she is not built with the long-legged model body of Maria. It's a fact that most women would prefer to be tall and thin. It's not a racist fact, it's simply a fact." It would be daring to say that from the classroom (as opposed to the comments section), because you'd risk becoming the lesson, as the teacher uses his superior power and experience to demonstrate why what you just said really is racist, including the part where you engaged in denial that it was racist.
The article continues:
The new frontier in the university’s eternal struggle with race starts here, with blunt conversations that seek to bridge a stark campus divide.But it's not a conversation. It's a leader with a lesson in front of a group that did not choose to engage over this topic. The text of the article — unlike the photo caption — has still not revealed that these students are submitting to a required session. Finally:
Yet what was evident in this pregnant moment during a new diversity session that the university is requiring of all new students was this: People just don’t want to discuss it.Human nature exists. Ironically, in an effort to elucidate the human nature that has to do with race, the university and the NYT act as if they are utterly naive about that human nature involved in the teacher-student power relationship and the resistance to coerced speech.
There's much more in this very long article, and I'm not going to discuss the rest of it, except to say that I was pointed toward it because of colleague of mine is quoted in paragraph 17:
Inclusion starts with ensuring that minority students are “not on campus in token amounts,” said Linda S. Greene, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has served in various administrative roles that included diversity work. While some universities, particularly wealthy elites and flagships, conduct outreach to minority high school students, Ms. Greene challenges them to be as committed to building diverse and thriving student bodies as they are to recruiting top-flight athletes. She advocates identifying, developing and nurturing minorities as early as kindergarten, and investing in research on initiatives that drive success. “The big picture for me is this: You can determine an institution’s priorities by its dollar commitments,” she said. “We know what it takes for stem cell advancements and transplantation breakthroughs. When diversity becomes important enough, those commitments will be made.”I agree with the suggestion that the most valuable efforts come in early childhood.