I'm probably not allowed to have an opinion on this because I'm white, but when you grow up as the oldest child in a family of five headstrong Irish-Italian mutts, not having an opinion is metaphysically impossible. We exit the womb prepared to comment on the skills of our mother's obstetrician, so of course I have something to say about Mizzou and Yale. And if the fact that I am white leads you to the pre-emptive conclusion that my opinion on this is worthless, you should jump right over this column and head to the sports section because, as we found out this week, football is the only thing that matters anymore.
It seems that college students today, judging from two very different campuses, have a heightened sense of grievance. They've been coddled by parents who themselves were ruined by a nascent philosophy of permissiveness. I'm not really referring to the whole sexual revolution thing, because that's a separate problem that has no particular bearing on the victimhood narrative. I'm talking about the idea that merely existing in this society of haves, have-nots and patriarchal privilege has taken a mighty toll on the fragile soul of the young academic.
While it may seem that the controversies at Yale and the University of Missouri are different (and in some ways they are), there is a common thread that runs through both tales ("A Tale of Two Pities," if you would) and that makes it very likely this disease will spread more quickly than the herpes virus at a Kardashian family reunion.
Once a chance to experiment
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It used to be that going to college was a chance to spread your wings and experiment with identity, with different value systems, with exotic experiences and with all of the things that help expand the mind. There were exceptions of course, like the giant exception I experienced when I went to Bryn Mawr College, which was essentially a four-year extension of my all-girls high school, only without the uniform. But for most people, college was an opportunity to push the envelope and touch the horizon (and use a lot of other tired cliches).
Nowadays, however, kids are more interested in finding something to be offended about than actually growing up. We hear about "trigger warnings," which are the passive-aggressive threats to free speech and which hide philosophical fascism in progressive clothing. Some of those triggers are words that might cause a girl who's questioning her identity (and which bathroom she belongs in) to feel uncomfortable. It's a very subjective standard and gives the benefit of the doubt to the overly sensitive darlings who went from pampered womb to pampered home to pampered dorm.
Which brings us to Yale. Last month, as Halloween approached, the administration sent out an email warning students not to dress in racially, culturally, and whatever-ly offensive costumes. For example, dressing as Pocahontas was a no-no because God forbid some random kid who'd been frightened by a Washington Redskins pennant might get his loincloth in a knot. Similarly, you would not be able to use blackface, or I suppose white face if you were going to be a mime, and forget about pulling out the mariachis.
However, if you wanted to go around as Christopher Columbus with a bloody hatchet in one hand and a fake vial of syphilis in the other, that would be fine.
Thinking that this was a bit over the top, a Yale faculty member wrote an altogether reasonable email rebuttal to the administration's edict, and the portal of Hell opened. Erika Christakis was stalked, slandered and threatened with dismissal when she had the audacity to suggest that students were mature enough to be a little, as she put it "obnoxious ... inappropriate, provocative or yes, offensive."
The nation soon found out that Yale only admits high-strung, histrionic drama queens who say things like, "To ask marginalized students to throw away their enjoyment of a holiday, in order to expend emotional, mental, and physical energy to explain why something is offensive, is -- offensive."
No joke, it's scary
I really thought that was a punch line to a bad joke, and I had to read it several times before I realized that it was meant to be a cri de coeur from a marginalized student who must have had a religious objection to feathered headdresses.
Yale is supposed to be an elite college, where only the brightest minds are allowed to roam. But it seems they've sacrificed their pedigree to accommodate some really hypersensitive minorities who take offense to anything that doesn't come in a nice innocuous package.
They want their "safe spaces," and don't want to deal with the real world, which includes racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other bad things that make the delicate flowers break out in hives before breakfast.
And instead of teaching them how to deal with it, the administration at Yale is patting them on the head like Cindy Lou Who and tucking them into bed.
At Missouri, the perceived problem was the same, although the response was less whiny and more of the show trial variety. Some students complained of "systemic racism" on campus, although they could only point to isolated incidents of the n-word being shouted at random coeds and a swastika painted in feces at a dorm.
Starved for attention
Not satisfied with the administration's response to their complaints, one fellow went on a hunger strike a la Bobby Sands, and the football team threatened to boycott their unimpressive season.
And the rest is history. President Tim Wolfe resigns, the chancellor resigns, mobs of students act like Bolsheviks rejoicing that the Romanovs have been deposed, and a journalism professor rallies her crew to muzzle ... a journalist.
Some say that this is a shining moment, one in which oppressed students took their lives into their own hands and fought back against the evil white patriarchy.
But as the daughter of a man who braved the KKK in 1967 when he went down to Mississippi to register voters, the real evil is authoritarian political correctness, and it's much scarier than any Halloween costume could ever be.
But what do I know? I'm white.
Contact Christine M. Flowers, a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. at firstname.lastname@example.org.