Universities’ Social Justice Agenda Falsely Labels Whites and Christians as Oppressors, Says Professor

By Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac is a reporter based in Toronto.
July 12, 2021 Updated: July 13, 2021

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is a top issue for many Canadian universities, but an outspoken professor says such tolerance is not extended to some students and professors who are “excluded with impunity” due to being perceived as oppressors.

“When the universities say that they’re promoting diversity and inclusion, they really are not telling the truth,” David Haskell, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, told The Epoch Times.

Haskell, who has been a professor in the faculty of liberal arts at Laurier’s campus in Brantford, Ont., for the past 15 years, explains that diversity is promoted as being “related to immutable qualities such as the colour of people’s skins or their sexual orientation, but it doesn’t include ideological diversity.”

“There are certain groups that are not welcome … whether it is whites, or heterosexuals, or Christians, [whom] they have untruthfully categorized as oppressors. They don’t want to have the diversity when it includes those groups.”

Haskell has been a vocal defender of free speech at Laurier, along with Will McNally, a professor at the university’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. Last June, after the administration’s public claim in the wake of the death of George Floyd that Laurier was rife with “systemic racism,” the two penned a public letter noting that the concept comes from critical race theory and could have a negative impact on academic freedom at the school.

“The ideals of the university, particularly within the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences, are now informed by social justice, or also critical theory, and this critical theory is actually rooted in Marxist thought,” Haskell says.

Karl Marx’s idea was that there are the economically privileged and the unprivileged, or the economic oppressor—the capitalist—and the economically oppressed—the proletariat. However, Haskell notes that the designation has since changed.

“In Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, the majority culture up until a few decades ago was white, and at least in terms of the culture, Christian. The movement that we’re seeing now, the social justice movement, has removed the economic designation as the oppressor and made it a cultural designation. … So if you are a part of this class that was the majority culture, then you are the oppressor.”

The problem with this view is that it is “generalizing within groups” because there will be whites who experience disadvantage the same way as people of colour do, he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Wilfrid Laurier University Prof. David Haskell. (Courtesy of David Haskell)

Haskell pointed to empirical data showing that many Asian-Canadians are doing better than white Caucasians both financially and in educational advancement.

According to Statistics Canada data from the 2016 census, among non-immigrant South Asian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Canadians of all education levels across different fields of study, aged 25 to 64, each of those groups had a 2015 average employment income of between around $59,300 and $66,800, compared to $56,384 from non-immigrants not considered members of a visible minority group.

“Asian Canadians are not oppressing the Anglo-Saxon or the Caucasian Canadians, they’re not doing that. It’s simply that there are different choices being made. It goes to the level of the individual,” Haskell said.

“People at the university in the social justice movement are trying to say that a difference in outcome equals discrimination, and that’s just a complete logical fallacy.”

He says research by U.S. economists Thomas Sowell, who is a senior fellow on public policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and the late Walter Williams of George Mason University also concluded that it’s personal decisions rooted in cultural factors that lead to different outcomes, not racism.

However, they were heavily criticized for producing research that contradicted the prevailing political narratives.

“Both Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams are black men, but they were berated and vilified by many people in the progressive movement of the United States,” Haskell said.

“This betrays [universities’] false claim that they’re interested in diversity. When someone who is a person of colour speaks against the ideology that the left favours, they no longer consider that person of colour a representative of diversity.”

In a similar example, Rima Azar, an associate professor of health psychology at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, was suspended in May without pay for essays she’d written on her blog arguing that Canada is not a systemically racist country. Azar is an immigrant from Lebanon.

Russell Nieli, a lecturer at Princeton University’s politics department, is the author of “Wounds That Will Not Heal,” an essay that reviews some of the leading social science research on racial preference policies. His research has shown that racial preference policies such as affirmative action tend to reinforce negative stereotypes about their intended beneficiaries and lead to divisions in society.

Nieli put forward the principle of “reciprocity norm” as a way for society to become more harmonious, productive, and prosperous, without racial tension.

“Reciprocity norm says basically, I won’t favour my kin and clan if other people don’t favour their kin and clan. We’ll have a system that we all consider fair and just and leads to greater harmony,” he said during a 2013 conference titled The Battle Over Racial Preferences.

Haskell says that as soon as a group is allowed to have extra entitlements, “the whole thing falls to pieces.”

“I do not in any way think that white people should have extra benefits,” he said. “I want to just see everyone treated the same under the law.”

Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac is a reporter based in Toronto.