I’m jealous. I write over 200 blog entries trashing everything from Black Lives Matter to trans-activism to indigenous land claims to Israeli Apartheid to … And what do I get? Nothin’! Frances Widdowson, a tenured professor at Mount Royal University (MRU), defends the use/mention distinction vis a vis the n-word, and what does she get? A petition approaching six thousand signatures demanding her dismissal. This is precisely the kind of infamy I covet. She gets it. I don’t. It’s not fair!
Without the use/mention distinction moral and political discourse would be impossible. The social justice warrior wants to rail against the use of the n-word. Fair enough. But how did any of us learn what the n-word refers to without having been taught what it refers to? And how could we have been taught it refers to the word “nigger” without the teacher mentioning the word “nigger”? So one can’t mention the n-word without having mentioned – or without relying on someone else having mentioned – the word “nigger”. So to have mentioned the word “the n-word” just is to have mentioned the word “nigger”.
The six thousand people who’ve signed this petition are too stupid to pee. Now if only they were students and faculty at the University of Lethbridge (U of L) rather than at MRU, I could earn my fifteen minutes of infamy by mispronouncing the name of a certain country in Africa. “It’s pronounced with a soft g rather than a hard one? Well how was I to know that?”
Okay, that was unfair. The petition was not about Frances defending the use/mention distinction. It was her opining that a) the residential school program was not an attempt at genocide, and b) the program gave indigenous children an opportunity for an education they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
But hang on. The residential school program was at worst an attempt at cultural genocide. But the phrase ‘cultural genocide’ uses ‘genocide’ as a mere metaphor, whereas “the residential school program was an attempt at genocide” does not use the word ‘genocide’ metaphorically. So Frances was right, was she not?
And by ‘education’, I take it Frances meant the ability to read and write. Would they have acquired that ability had they been left in their communities? Hard to say, but I think it’s not unreasonable to suppose they would not. Whether acquiring that ability was or was not a good thing, or even if it was a good thing, whether it was worth the price these communities paid for it, is a completely separate question, the answer to which is neither included nor embedded in Frances’ claim. So right again!
And so, yet again, the six thousand people who read (or more likely heard) Frances’ remarks as racist are too stupid to pee. Now if only they were students and faculty at the U of L rather than at MRU, I could earn my fifteen minutes of infamy by repeating these two claims. Except, try as I might, I wouldn’t earn fifteen seconds of infamy by doing so, because the five hundred indigenous students at the U of L are not too stupid to pee. They know perfectly well that if their grandparents were victims of genocide they wouldn’t be here whinging about it. And if their grandparents hadn’t been given an opportunity to learn to read and write, neither in all likelihood would they, and if they hadn’t had that opportunity there wouldn’t be five hundred indigenous students at the U of L.
Well, maybe MRU has lower admission standards than the U of L.