They’re moving to cancel Luke Skywalker.
A group of five woke college professors from the University of Michigan and Arizona State is cautioning campus radicals to avoid using an umbrella acronym for programs that promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
That’s because the shorthand – JEDI – is code for the dominant white patriarchy and a slew of other ill-tempered things.
In an article last week in Scientific American magazine – which once focused on science – the profs noted, “At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build ‘justice’ into the more common formula of ‘DEI’ (an abbreviation for ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process.”
But using the name of those courageous, galactic guardians who resist the dark side in order to fight evil also refers to something more sinister.
“Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning — and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion,” the professors wrote.
“The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have,” they add. “Our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely.”
They provide five reasons why:
First, the Jedi are “inappropriate mascots” for social justice, they argue, because they are “a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of ‘Jedi mind tricks,’ etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or ‘Force-sensitivity’).”
Secondly, George Lucas’ “Star War” series features a “problematic cultural legacy.” “The space opera franchise has been critiqued for trafficking in injustices such as sexism, racism, and ableism,” the authors maintain. “Star Wars arguably conflates ‘alienness’ with ‘nonwhiteness,’ often seeming to rely on racist stereotypes when depicting nonhuman species.”
That also means the series’ creators are meanies to archvillain Darth Vader, whose physical disability is associated with “machinic inhumanity and moral deviance, presenting his technology-assisted breathing as a sinister auditory marker of danger and doom.” Beyond being overloaded with white male characters, they add, “the franchise’s cultural footprint can be tracked in the saga of United States military-industrial investment and expansion.” Accordingly, “At worst, this way of branding our initiatives is freighted with the very violence that our justice work seeks to counter.”
Thirdly, the term JEDI links social justice initiatives to “corporate capital,” meaning the company many see as the real Evil Empire of the entertainment industry, Disney.
“JEDI/Jedi is more than just a name: It’s a product. Circulating that product’s name can promote and benefit the corporation that owns it, even if we do not mean to do so,” they write.
In other words, “We are, in effect, providing that corporation — Disney — with a form of free advertising, commodifying and cheapening our justice work in the process.” Moreover, they note, “Such informal co-branding entangles our initiatives in Disney’s morally messy past and present. It may also serve to rebrand and whitewash Disney by linking one of its signature product lines to social justice. After all, Disney has a long and troubling history of circulating racist, sexist, heterosexist and Orientalist narratives and imagery, which the corporation and its subsidiaries (like Pixar) are publicly reckoning with.”
Fourthly, with an argument that circles back to their second point, the profs maintain that using JEDI really signals the revenge of the nerds.
“Aligning justice work with Star Wars risks threatening inclusion and sense of belonging,” they write. “While an overarching goal of JEDI initiatives is to promote inclusion, the term JEDI might make people feel excluded. Star Wars is popular but divisive.”
How so? “Identifying our initiatives with it may nudge them closer to the realm of fandom, manufacturing in-groups and out-groups. Those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Star Wars — including those hurt by the messages it sends — may feel alienated by the parade of jokes, puns, and references surrounding the term JEDI,” they say.
The authors note that studies have found that the “presence of Star Wars and Star Trek memorabilia (such as posters) in computer science classrooms can reinforce masculinist stereotypes about computer science — contributing to women’s sense that they don’t belong in that field.” “At a moment when many professional sectors, including higher education, are seeking to eliminate barriers to inclusion — and to change the narrative about who counts as a scientist, political scientist, STEMM professional or historian — adopting the term JEDI seems like an ironic move backward,” they contend.
Finally, the term JEDI itself can distract from the things it supposedly stands for.
“When you think about the word JEDI, what comes to mind?” they posit. “Chances are good that for many, the immediate answer isn’t the concept ‘justice’ (or its comrades ‘equity,’ ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’). Instead, this acronym likely conjures a pageant of spaceships, lightsabers, and blaster-wielding stormtroopers,” they write.
Such a distraction, they say, can led to terms like justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion being “robbed of their specificities and differences,” lapsing into mere “institutional buzzwords that are more slogan than substance.” “We must be more attentive to the meanings and particularities of our words, not less” they advocate. “JEDI does not help us with this. Now is not the time to confuse social justice with science fiction.”
“Put simply,” they conclude, “the baggage of Jedi and Star Wars is too heavy to burden our justice-oriented initiatives with and may actually undermine these efforts. … It should give us pause if we are anchoring our ambitions for a more socially just future in fantasies so dated that they were, at the time of their creation, already the distant past.”
Some conservatives might actually agree with the profs: It may be bad to associate the proponents of JEDI and other Social Justice Warriors with a plucky band of underdog everyman, like Luke Skywalker, who heroically battle to help good prevail over evil.
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