On Wednesday, Amherst College in Massachusetts released a new “Common Language Document” for its students which lays out "definitions" about everything from capitalism to drag queens.
The document was released by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in an email to students.
“This project emerged out of a need to come to a common and shared understanding of language in order to foster opportunities for community-building and effective communication within and across difference,” the email said. “It includes a list of carefully researched and thoughtfully discussed definitions for key diversity and inclusion terms.”
The document attempted to “define” capitalism, calling it an “economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. This system leads to exploitative labor practices, which affect marginalized groups disproportionately.”
The term “Legal/Illegal” is deemed a “[h]ighly racialized term to describe a person’s presence in a nation without government-issued immigration status.” The "definition" goes on to call the term “not an appropriate noun or adjective to describe an individual,” adding that it is “often misused to designate certain undocumented members of a society (specifically people of color) to deny their contributions, right to exist and recognition as people within certain national boundaries.”
“Assimilation” is frowned upon in the document and explained as often happening “as a response to forms of oppression including but not limited to: xenophobia, racism, cisheteronormativity and religious oppression, among other types of oppression.”
The document claimed that there is no such thing as “reverse oppression,” adding “Oppression is predicated upon access to institutional power. Marginalized communities do not have access to institutional power.” The document listed the example that “women can be as prejudiced as men, but women cannot be ‘just as sexist as men,’ because they do not hold political, economic and institutional power.”
“American Exceptionalism” is defined as “A belief in the superiority, rightful leadership and special moral status of the United States and its people, originally grounded in 17th- century Puritan and Protestant religious culture,” adding, “This is generally expressed as sentiments that the U.S. is fundamentally different from other countries and therefore has unique rights and obligations.” The term is further mentioned once again under the "definition" of “White Savior Complex": “An attitude or posture of condescending benevolence based on the idea that white people inherently should, are in a position to and are qualified to 'save' people of color. This can be seen internationally as well as domestically. See Eurocentrism and American Exceptionalism.”
When the document turned to “Post-Feminism” it targeted women who chose not to defend themselves as feminists but instead focus on individual women.
“Distancing oneself from feminism while simultaneously championing the empowerment of individual women,” the document stated. “The premise of post-feminism is that we have moved beyond feminism and that sexism and misogyny are no longer operating. Post-feminism is rooted in the atomization and individualism of neoliberalism. Post-feminism is a paradoxical framework that is often used to do harm to women by distracting from the realities of gender-based oppression with individual success stories.” The stories, the document said, are “often of white, class-privileged, able-bodied, straight and cisgender women who deploy the empowerment of women to succeed under capitalism,” adding that “Post-feminism forwards the ideology of white supremacy.”
In a statement to The Daily Wire, the Amherst College Republicans said they had “serious problems” with the Common Language Document.
“While we appreciate the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s efforts to make all feel comfortable on campus, we believe they failed to reach their lofty goals today,” the statement said. “The statement upon release claims that the office put together this list, ‘in collaboration with various campus partners,’ yet we were never consulted, and have serious problems with some of the ‘definitions’ provided.”
The College Republicans said they took issue with the definitions of “capitalism” and “American Exceptionalism” among others.
“We believe in Capitalism and we believe in American Exceptionalism, yet, on the school’s website, these terms are attacked with derision. We believe in the sanctity of the rule of law, yet, on the school’s website, we are told this is ‘highly racialized,” the statement said.
“This guide does not, ‘foster opportunities for community-building and effective communication within and across difference,’ but instead paints members of the student body as morally incoherent for believing a certain way, the opposite of inclusion,” the statement continued. “All in all, if the purpose of a liberal education is to teach us how to think, and not what to think, as the school claims, they should let us do our job.”
UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, the college's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Norm Jones, sent an email telling students that is was a "mistake" to send the document from his office because "of the implication that the guide is meant to dictate speech and expression or ideology on campus." "It does not represent an official position of the College or an expectation that everyone on campus should use any particular language or share a point of view," Jones added. "The goal was to help create greater awareness of the ways many people at Amherst and beyond understand their own identities."