Last week sometime, I noticed that a few of the professionally outraged people I follow on Twitter were calling one of my editors at the Wall Street Journal racist. I know Naomi Schaefer Riley well enough to know that this is laughable. What did she do to warrant such a charge? Why, she criticized the topics of a few dissertations from black studies departments that were highlighted in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. Riley, who has long written about higher education, is one of the bloggers at the Chronicle's Brainstorm blog. Here's much of what she wrote in this blog post:
Then there is Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of “Race for Profit: Black Housing and the Urban Crisis of the 1970s.” Ms. Taylor believes there was apparently some kind of conspiracy in the federal government’s promotion of single family homes in black neighborhoods after the unrest of the 1960s. Single family homes! The audacity! But Ms. Taylor sees that her issue is still relevant today. (Not much of a surprise since the entirety of black studies today seems to rest on the premise that nothing much has changed in this country in the past half century when it comes to race. Shhhh. Don’t tell them about the black president!) She explains that “The subprime lending crisis, if it did nothing else, highlighted the profitability of racism in the housing market.” The subprime lending crisis was about the profitability of racism? Those millions of white people who went into foreclosure were just collateral damage, I guess.
But topping the list in terms of sheer political partisanship and liberal hackery is La TaSha B. Levy. According to the Chronicle, “Ms. Levy is interested in examining the long tradition of black Republicanism, especially the rightward ideological shift it took in the 1980s after the election of Ronald Reagan. Ms. Levy’s dissertation argues that conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, John McWhorter, and others have ‘played one of the most-significant roles in the assault on the civil-rights legacy that benefited them.’” The assault on civil rights? Because they don’t favor affirmative action they are assaulting civil rights? Because they believe there are some fundamental problems in black culture that cannot be blamed on white people they are assaulting civil rights?
Seriously, folks, there are legitimate debates about the problems that plague the black community from high incarceration rates to low graduation rates to high out-of-wedlock birth rates. But it’s clear that they’re not happening in black-studies departments. If these young scholars are the future of the discipline, I think they can just as well leave their calendars at 1963 and let some legitimate scholars find solutions to the problems of blacks in America. Solutions that don’t begin and end with blame the white man.
And how did academia respond to some extremely mild criticism? They flipped out. They kept flipping out. They lost their ever-living minds.
They claimed she was bullying kids (which is, apparently, what we now call people my age who are getting their doctorates). They were super upset that she hadn't read the dissertations for a brief blog post riffing on a sidebar from a Chronicle article. (Really.) Then they thought she couldn't criticize dissertations because she hasn't written one (worse, perhaps, she's written dissertation-length books that people have actually read and enjoyed). Finally, they said she was racist. One comment I read from the Chronicle web site suggested that Riley, who is white, really needed to sleep with a black man. A classy comment, I'm sure you'll agree, even if Riley and her black husband weren't expecting their third child in a few weeks.
Anyway, news comes tonight that Riley has been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness for her crime of pointing out how ridiculous a few black studies dissertations were. An editor announces they've fired her for her blog post.
We can all sleep safely now. Or as a friend wrote, "The liberal mob has spoken. The expiation has occurred. The new gods of diversity are satisfied. The sun will rise tomorrow."
This does confirm for me that academia is far and away the least tolerant, least diverse, least interesting and most petty environment in which to work.
And apparently it's also not very good at preparing students and professors for even the slightest of criticisms. But those folks on Twitter that I mentioned up top? Well, they're celebrating tonight.