University's Anti-Bigotry Reading List Includes Book That Equates Conservatism With Racism

GWU's racism 'resource syllabus' draws ire of students, faculty

George Washington University / Screenshot from Twitter
July 15, 2020

George Washington University is urging students to read Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same in an effort to educate them about the dangers of stereotypes and discrimination.

The "Solidarity Resource Syllabus" released by the Washington, D.C.-based school's Office of Diversity provides students with a reading list that focuses on racism in the United States. Among the 126 books that the university says "actively and effectively … [combat] injustice" is San Francisco State University professor Robert Smith's 2010 book that equates conservative beliefs with bigotry. That label applies to all who subscribe to right-leaning beliefs, including people of color.

"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 reads. "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."

"Anti-racism" books have emerged atop Amazon's bestseller list following George Floyd's death in police custody in May. Among them are Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility and Ibram X. Kendi's How To Be An Anti-Racist. Smith's book never made it to Amazon's bestseller list, but his work is used in leading college textbooks on American politics.

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.

Not everyone on campus is thrilled with the reading list endorsed by university administrators. Political science professor Samuel Goldman said that such books aim to reinforce an ideology, rather than educate. He added that the relationship between American conservatism and racism is important, but the recommendation gives a 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.

Smith said the book is academic in nature, rather than a partisan polemic. 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," Smith said.

Campus conservatives expressed disappointment that the school would promote a book that equates their beliefs with racism. College Republicans spokesman Patrick Burland told the Free Beacon that GWU's recommendation is another example of prejudice against conservative voices on campus.

"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."