I realize I’m a little behind the times on this, but life, as John Lennon once said, is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. Travel and a touch of illness have prevented me from ringing in on this topic, but I hope it’s better late than never.
Let me, in the interests of full disclosure, make one thing clear before I begin: I am a white male. This has not, to my knowledge, influenced my opinion of the events below to any great extent. If I am wrong, I am willing to be corrected – at the very least, I’m willing to have a discussion of the subject in question, and I would encourage comments.
To the point: the Carleton University Student Union vote to drop Shinerama as a fundraising activity in support of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Here is the motion that was voted on, in the CUSA’s own words:
Whereas Orientation week strives to be inclusive as possible
Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their diverse communities
And whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men
Be it further resolved that: The CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week.
Ummm… What? My first thought upon reading this was, “They can’t be serious. This is a joke, right?” Sadly, no. Apparently, the fight against the historical white male hegemony legitimately includes the right (nay, the duty!) to refuse to canvass for funds that would cure a particular disease, due to the fact (entirely wrong) that the white male oppressor is the primary victim. I suppose, if you can’t defeat them ideologically, just let ’em die. I acknowledge that the CUSA has apologised for this boneheaded move, but I’d like to try to understand what would motivate such a decision in the first place, if possible.
First of all, a university would be one of the last places that I would expect to see decisions made based on incomplete or clearly flawed information. A simple visit to the CCFF website would seem to be in order. Nowhere on the CCFF site does it indicate anything in regard to incidence of the disease based on racial or sexual characteristics. The information gathered, if any, must have come from somewhere else, probably the deep recesses of some radical tree-hugger’s mind.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly to my mind: what would it matter if the information were correct? Does the ‘fact’ that white males are afflicted make the disease any less serious or worthy of a cure? In the interests of some dogmatic pursuit of ‘Diversity’, are you willing to devalue the lives of individuals whom you judge as unworthy due to their skin color? Prostate cancer can, logically, only affect males – is it therefore sexist to refuse to search for a cure, or to raise money for that search? In a decision like this, which was the crucial criterion that tipped the balance toward support – whiteness or maleness?
I, as a sociologist, and as a person who has read with interest on a wide range of historic topics, understand and support the understanding that the ‘white’ race as a whole was responsible for atrocities, genocides and many other terrible acts. In addition, I recognize that the male sex (not gender – that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of clams) has been responsible, and continues to be responsible around the globe, for oppression of women, denial of rights, and other egregious violations. These facts are not in dispute. But do these facts alone make a disease ‘tolerable’ if it effects only members of the above two groups?
Consider the following: Sickle-Cell Anaemia, a blood disorder which seriously limits life expectancy, is found almost exclusively among natives and descendents of populations from sub-saharan Africa. Under a similar rationale, using a lack of ‘disease diversity’, the fact that it effects members of one race, this disease would also be excluded from any fundraising efforts at CU. Is this a valid decision? Is this any more or less tolerable because the race in question is different? I would say, emphatically, no.
I don’t have an answer, and I’m sure people will take exception with an extreme example. My point is that this type of decision, whatever the motivation, is wrongheaded and shows just how far dogmatic pursuit of any goal or any ideology can do nothing but damage the society it purports to help. Political correctness, taken to illogical and prejudicial extremes, does not rectify or balance the crimes and outrages of the past – it creates and rationalizes new ones.
Apology or not, this is a black mark on universities in many peoples’ minds. Before the CUSU decides to raise money to cure any disease, they had better try to cure their own sickness first.
It’s a Fundamental Flash Fact.