Fall is approaching. Classes at colleges and universities throughout the land are about to resume. That means yet more opportunities for students and faculty to be told that they are committing microaggressions and that they must bow their heads in shame, therefore.
I wondered what one is supposed to do when one has made some innocuous comment (e.g., “Good point!”) that is taken by someone else as patriarchal (I am a woman—can I be patriarchal?) or whatever and responsible for shattering that person’s psyche, undermining his or her personal identity, insulting his or her racial or ethnic heritage, etc.
Where does one turn for the very latest and last word (I wonder if mixing metaphors is a microaggression--so many things are these days) on matters of self-abasement in America academia?
Why to the Harvard University Office for Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, of course.
It has created a handy-dandy document called The Calling In and Calling Out Guide available for download for all you white supremacists (i.e. any white person), homophobes, misogynists and other designated creeps out there that need to know how to abase yourself at a moment’s notice.
But first, let us address what it means to be “called in” and “called out.”
According to the Guide:
Calling in is an invitation to a one-on-one or small group conversation to bring attention to an individual or group's harmful words or behavior, including bias, prejudice, microaggressions, and discrimination
Calling out is bringing public attention to an individual, group, or organization's harmful words or behavior
Hmm, so one has to explain to someone who takes umbrage at what he or she takes to be a “microaggression,”—oops, sorry. One is invited to explain what one meant. And if one declines to grovel, “public attention” is brought. Uh, huh. Like cancel culture campaigns? A university-led investigation?
We are told:
Note: Calling in and calling out are not mutually exclusive strategies. Depending on the situation, calling out could precede calling someone in for a follow-up conversation.
Ah—one can be traduced on Twitter or by a campus publication and then called in for a little chat afterwards.
An example of a “calling in” question is given in the Guide as:
“What is making you the most fearful, nervous, uncomfortable, or worried?”
For many people who have been “called in” the answer might be, “Oh, I suppose I am always a little worried when my academic career could be destroyed by quasi-Maoists who are eating away the foundations of academic freedom.”
An example of a “calling out” comment is given in the Guide as:
“That’s not our culture here. Those aren’t our values.”
Wait—I thought the whole point of an Office for Diversity is to encourage, um, diversity. I guess “values” are not part of that. Race and gender are.
And what is the target of the calling in and/or calling out supposed to do to show atonement for a slight? That was my question at the top of this post (well done on getting this far, intrepid reader!). Pause. Listen. Acknowledge. Reflect. Repair the damage done and change your behavior going forward.
Not a word about defending yourself or any indication that you might have the right to tell the other person, tactfully, to buzz off.
The Guide says soothingly:
Remember: You're not a bad person. You are an ever changing and evolving person and this is just one step in your growth.
Good old Harvard—always a dependable source of slightly threatening psychobabble. Accusation is empowering. Humiliation is therapeutic and conducive to growth. What a fine lesson to be teaching the youth of today.