This University’s “Anti-Bigotry” Reading List Includes Book That Calls Conservatism, Racism “The Same”

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A nearly two-century-old D.C.-area university has landed in hot water after including a book that conflates American conservatism with racism on its book list to help students spot and fight bigotry.

According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, George Washington University’s Office of Diversity placed Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same on its “Solidarity Resource Syllabus” meant to help students “actively and effectively … [combat] injustice.”

“Conservatism as a philosophy and ideology … is and always has been hostile to the aspirations of Africans in America, incompatible with the struggle for freedom and equality,” the book, written by San Francisco State University professor Robert Smith in 2010, reads in part. “Repeatedly I was asked, ‘Are you saying that conservatism is racism, that all conservatives are racist?’ Aren’t there black conservatives? Are they racist?’…. My answer to most of these questions was a qualified yes.”

The Free Beacon continues:

GWU hosted a number of online programs focused on racism as the nation’s capital and other major cities became the sites of mass protests and, in some cases, riots. The university sought to educate students through programs titled, “Non-black people of color conversation: Role in anti-blackness,” “Conversation about the role of white people in racial justice and anti-racism,” and “Unconscious bias workshop for faculty.” In an email to attendees, the office of diversity boasted that 5,000 people registered for events in the past month.

The workshops culminated with the July 9 release of a 21-page “#GWinSolidarity” syllabus that links to outside resources on the black experience, white allyship, decolonization, and gender and sexuality. GWU and the office of diversity did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Google document containing the syllabus was removed from public access on Wednesday—shortly after the Washington Free Beacon contacted administrators.

Thankfully, some voices on campus are speaking out against the questionable choice for the booklist. Rather than educate, political science professor Samuel Goldman argued that such books aim to reinforce ideology. Although the relationship between American conservatism and racism should not be ignored, Goldman adds that the recommendation gives a very narrow view on the controversial topic.

“Recommending this book as the sole resource on the topic gives the impression that GWU is promoting a specific orthodoxy rather than inviting students to study and reflect,” he said.

The book is academic in nature, Smith explained, rather than partisan. He defended his book as a “historical, philosophical, and empirical study,” that is more useful today than when it was published in 2010.

“I think the book … is useful to conservatives as well as liberals, and in light of Trump’s blend of traditional and paleoconservatism is even more relevant today,” he added.

Conservatives on campus held the book as yet another example of anti-conservative prejudice in academia. College Republicans spokesman Patrick Burland told the Free Beacon:

The GW College Republicans are disappointed that our university, which has been committed to academic freedom, would include works in their syllabus that falsely equate conservatism and racism,” Burland said. “The philosophy and ideology of conservatism does not know any one race, color, or creed…. It’s deeply troubling that GW would chill the voices of students of all backgrounds who identify themselves as conservatives.

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