Social Justice vs. Truth

A look at the university’s new mission.

Jonathan Haidt, a professor of social psychology at New York University, argued in a recently published essay that while its traditional “telos” (end or goal) has been truth, within the last few decades the university has assumed another: Social Justice.

The university, however, can only have one telos.

The conflict between these two goals has raged for decades, Haidt claims.   Last year, though, it became unmanageable when student groups at 86 universities and colleges around the country issued “demands” to administrators, demands for Social Justice that, by and large, were met.  

The following statement is posted at

“We demand at the minimum, Black students and Black faculty to be reflected by the national percentage of Black folk in the state and the country.

We demand free intuition for Black and indigenous students.

We demand a divestment from prisons and an investment in communities.”

A statement of “principles” follows.  The Black Liberation Collective (BLC) opposes “anti-Blackness;” “sexism;” “ableism;” “capitalism;” “White privilege;” “inequality;” and “heteronormativity.”  It rejects as well non-violence considered as a principle in contradistinction to a tactic.

“Anti-Black racism is woven in the fabric of our global society,” says the BLC.  “When social systems are racialized by white supremacy, whiteness becomes the default of humanity and Blackness is stripped of its humanity, becoming a commodity, becoming disposable.”

The BLC is “anti-sexist” insofar as it affirms “the value of all Black women’s lives whether cisgender, transgender, or genderqueer.” In addition to rejecting “Eurocentric beauty standards that are made to lessen the beauty of Black women and Black women’s features,” being “anti-sexist” also means realizing that “police brutality, the prison industrial system, school to prison pipeline” and the like are aspects of “structural racism” that affect black women as much as they impact black men.

Black liberation entails “queer liberation” and “trans liberation.” “We also seek to destroy the heteronormative norms that dehumanize Black queer people,” the BLC asserts.  The “homophobia” within “the Black community” comes by way of “the same hands responsible for white supremacy.”

Presumably, “transphobia” within the black community is also a legacy of white supremacy. In cooperation with “cissexism” and “the gender binary,” “transphobia” has “been used as a means of invalidating and erasing our trans+ family members.”  The BLC pledges to “eliminate” such systemic biases.

These Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) are staunch opponents of “the capitalist notions of infinite profit, homogenized markets, and a privatized means of production.”  Capitalism, they insist, “is the economic system” that’s been “used to justify” the “oppression,” “marginalization,” and “exploitation” of blacks. 

Nor is the solution to this “oppression” to be found in supporting black-owned businesses.  The BLC explains that “we cannot adopt the patriarchal, exploitative tools of our oppressors as we seek liberation.”  Rather, the solution is to “dismantle anti-Black capitalist corporations that benefit from our oppression.”

It isn’t only the “capitalist corporations” that these students want destroyed.  They demand as well “the eradication of all institutional practices and policies that discriminate against the black community” and “the removal of all federal, state, and local government officials who do not abide by our principles.”

“The State and all its institutions that deny Black humanity and Black agency must be dismantled and replaced with those that produce Black liberty.”

Concerning its attitude toward America, the BLC is clear: “This country was built to systematically oppress groups of people, and the Black Liberation Collective will not stand for it.”

Haidt misspeaks in characterizing 2015 as the year when the university experienced a crisis of identity, an unmanageable conflict of goals.  To judge from the vast majority of liberal arts, humanities, and social sciences departments, Social Justice long ago eclipsed truth as the raison d’etre of the academy.  Interestingly, it is these SJW demands from last year that bear this out.

Perhaps it is because I’ve spent the last couple of decades in the academy in the capacity of both student and faculty that I may be more privy to this than are some others, but it’s painfully obvious that these student activists did not come up with these demands on their own.  If they didn’t have their professors actually write the demands for them, then the Black Liberation Collective unquestionably derived the concepts and language of their statement of demands from their mentors.

To put it bluntly, one must attend college, major in the liberal arts and humanities, and study under far left professors in order to think in the terms that are characteristic of Social Justice Warriors.

Leftist ideologues are training their students to bend the university to their will.  This is the first point. There is, though, another, a rich irony that is lost upon these self-styled radicals.

For all of their bluster over “systemic racism” and “structural white supremacy,” i.e. phenomena that are omnipresent and, hence, largely unconscious, these black students, their white collaborators, and their professors fail to realize that their thinking (for lack of a better term) on these issues is about as Eurocentric as one can get.  The “critical race theory” to which the BLC subscribe is a version of Marxism, the philosophical vision of a 19th century German-Jewish man.  The Marxist tradition within which they are enmeshed was fleshed out over a span of generations by mostly white heterosexual men.

But there’s more to it than this.

The idea that “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “transphobia,” “ableism,” and the like against which SJWs rail are evils to be defeated is itself peculiar to the moral traditions of European civilization.  If these “isms” and “phobias” are immoral it can only be because those who are guilty of them fail to judge the individual as an individual.  Color, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and so forth are neither constitutive of nor essential to the moral identity of the individual—but only if the framework of the doctrine of individualism is accepted.

Yet this conception of the sacrosanct individual is as Eurocentric as the proverbial “apple pie” is American. 

The Social Justice Warriors’ intellectual landscape is as much a European “colony” as was any West African country in the 19th or early 20th centuries. Those in the Black Liberation Collective have most definitely internalized the modes of thought of their “oppressor.”

Now, they would have been well aware of all this had they received a genuine education in college rather than a training in Social Justice.