Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The 2L At The Center Of The Yale Email Controversy: 'We Must End The Culture Of Performative Repentance'


Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Trent Colbert (Yale 2L), Why I Didn’t Apologize For That Yale Law School Email:

ColbertWe must end the culture of performative repentance. ...

I don’t believe that the now-common ritual of compelled apology, complete with promises to “grow” and “do better” (their words, but ones I’m sure you’ve seen many times before) helps anyone, or is even intended to. If we continue to indulge this culture of performative denunciation, the very idea of an apology will lose its meaning.

It might be tempting to view my story as one about conservatives being discriminated against and prevented from sharing ideas freely in elite educational spaces. After all, Eldik explicitly identified my “association with FedSoc” as an especially “triggering” factor for students. But I believe this diminishes the full significance of what happened.

The important questions are about the wider culture that made the administration's intervention possible in the first place. Before they ever step inside a classroom to learn torts or contracts, first-year students are required to attend diversity and inclusion training which teaches us to see racism all around us in the form of microaggressions and implicit bias, prioritize lived experience, and engage in the confessional sacrament of acknowledging one’s privilege.

The Black Law Students Association President wrote in a recent email that calling someone out “is not an act of oppression; it is an act of love and compassion.” But calling people out at Yale Law School goes further than just informing others of an action that may have caused offense. Here, calling people out means relentlessly demanding the offender admit fault and beg for forgiveness—as my experience shows, this pressure comes from students and administrators alike.

Our most prominent student organizations are affinity groups defined primarily by racial identities. As a member of the Native American Law Students Association, I appreciate the importance of cultural heritage, but obsessing over race as our primary organizing principle is unhealthy and divisive. It should not infuse our perceptions of the world to the degree it does.

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