Jan 8. 2021
Patricia McGuire, Trinity Washington University
Higher education should be the great counterweight to government, the reliable steward of truth and knowledge against the corrupting tendency of politics to manipulate facts and tell outright lies as a means to gain and secure public support. Truth was one of the earliest victims of the Trump administration, with the president racking up more than 20,000 documentable lies across four years, according to The Washington Post.
Silence is the enemy of truth, and yet few college presidents dared to challenge this tsunami of official lies. Whether about immigrants or climate change or white supremacy or the Covid-19 pandemic, the president and his allies lied with abandon, and higher education remained largely silent. So, in the face of the president’s acutely manipulative lies about the presidential election, it was no surprise that colleges remained on the sidelines, raising no voice in defense of democracy in a timely way, saying nothing about voter suppression, allowing the corrosive effects of the repeated lies to inflame those Americans who are especially susceptible to demagoguery. The mob gained its energy by coalescing around the lies.
In our silence, we have allowed an even more insidious force to spread through the body politic — the racial animus and embrace of white supremacy that give so much energy to the mob. The real cause of the January 6 insurrection is the pervasive fear in one part of American society that the white majority is diminishing as Black and brown Americans grow in numbers and political power. The Trump administration inflamed this fear through rhetoric intended to stoke racial hostility, along with repeated actions to overturn achievements of President Barack Obama. Attempting to destroy the legacy of America’s first and only Black president has been one of Trump’s major preoccupations, part of his effort to remain in power. Few college presidents have had anything to say about this. Even historically Black colleges seemed co-opted by a president whose rhetoric perversely sought to portray himself as their savior.
read entire article in Chronicle of Higher Education