Black Studies and the Totalitarian Mind

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There’s the academy, and then there’s the real world.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is the academy’s weekly newspaper of record, has long seemed interested in keeping, if not one foot, then at least a toe or two in the real world, publishing articles that are written in lively, non-academic prose and even, from time to time, in the name of intellectual diversity, running pieces that take a less than entirely reverential view of higher education’s left-wing orthodoxies.  It’s a delicate balance – how much heresy can you allow into the tabernacle without outraging the faithful?

The Chronicle‘s editor, Liz McMillen, found out the answer to that question other day when one of her regular bloggers, Naomi Schaefer Riley, as reported here recently by Arnold Ahlert, reacted online to a Chronicle piece entitled “Black Studies: ‘Swaggering Into the Future.” The piece, which celebrated an up-and-coming generation of Black Studies scholars who are “rewriting the history of race,” included descriptions of five supposedly exemplary dissertations produced by students in Northwestern University’s recently instituted Ph.D. Program in Black Studies.

What was the gist of these brilliant, pioneering scholarly works?  Well, one of them linked the subprime lending crisis to white racism.  Another argued, essentially, that black conservatives like Thomas Sowell are the tools of white racists.  A third celebrated Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm for confronting racism – and sexism, to boot.  A fourth assailed racial profiling – which, of course, is racism set in system.  Riley quite sensibly dismissed it all as “left-wing victimization claptrap.”  Her post unleashed a firestorm.  Hundreds of academics posted comments savaging her as a racist and accusing her of “hate speech.”  (Incidentally, Riley’s husband is black.)  Several thousand signed an online petition demanding her dismissal.  After holding tough for a few days, McMillen capitulated, firing Riley and posting a pathetic mea culpa in which she assured Riley’s critics that she understood she had made a mistake.

“We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles,” McMillen wrote.  “I realize we have made mistakes. We will thoroughly review our editorial practices…and strengthen our guidelines for bloggers.”  McMillen apologized, additionally, for an Editor’s Note in which, by inviting readers to debate Riley’s post, she had “seemed to elevate it to the level of informed opinion, which it was not.”  She even expressed regret for a tweet of hers which, she now realized, “did not accurately convey The Chronicle’s message.”  As if she had not already made perfectly clear her absolute, utter, and cringing contrition, McMillen concluded as follows:

I sincerely apologize for the distress these incidents have caused our readers and appreciate that so many of you have made your sentiments known to us.

One theme many of you have sounded is that you felt betrayed by what we published; that you welcome healthy informed debate, but that in this case, we did not live up to the expectations of the community of readers we serve.

You told us we can do better, and we agree.

As Riley noted in a follow-up piece in the Wall Street Journal, McMillen’s apology read “like a confession at a re-education camp.”  Which is only appropriate, given that the humanities and social sciences departments of American colleges today are indeed, to an alarming extent, precisely that: re-education camps.  The principal objective isn’t to teach young people facts or to train them to think; it’s to indoctrinate them with a rigid, well-nigh cartoonish set of left-wing certitudes about the evils of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, and about the intrinsic association of these evils with the West (especially with the United States) and with the villainous figure of the white male, whose historical oppression of certain groups – chief among them women and people of color – certifies members of those groups as official victims.  (As the case of Elizabeth Warren has reminded us, American Indians are near the top of the list of those academically certified groups.)

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  • mrbean

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    It’s shaping up to be a rough month for black-studies programs; a new turn of the wheel at UNC-Chapel Hill adds credence to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s assertion that it’s time to reassess their value and intent. Academic fraud perpetrated by the head of Carolina’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Julius Nyang’oro, has gotten so bad that North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation may be called in to investigate. The department seems to have gone rogue, according to a Raleigh News & Observer article: The findings of an internal UNC probe released this month found 54 classes within the department in which there was little or no indication of instruction. The review also found at least 10 cases of unauthorized grade changes involving students who did not complete their work.

  • mrbean

    2 of 2
    The internal probe began as part of an investigation into abuses in the school’s football program. The spotlight fell on African and Afro-American Studies when it was discovered that a football player had not only received illegal help from a tutor on a paper for one of Dr. Nyang’oro’s classes, but had plagiarized most of the paper (and plagiarized so badly that it was almost impossible not to detect it, though Nyang’oro still managed to do so). Scholarship football and basketball players took courses in the department at an exceptionally high rate — not likely a coincidence. It also may not be a coincidence that it was the African and Afro-American Studies department in which the corruption occurred; shoddy ethical standards go hand-in-hand with shoddy intellectual standards. Perhaps it’s time to consider dumping all college departments that exist primarily for political, not academic, reasons. Other ethnic studies, women’s studies, gender studies, and climate-change studies spring to mind.

  • Chezwick

    Please folks, copy this article and send it to your children in college or preparing to go. It is a primer on what to expect, a telling example of Orwell's concept of "thought crime".

  • Bamaguje

    Fat studies, Women studies, Black studies and other such nonsense…is there a market for graduates of these pseudo-intellectual claptrap?
    Does anyone outside the politically correct Orwellian academia hire these people?
    Shouldn't a balanced 'American studies' curriculum suffice to cover all such social issues – Native American, Black, White, Asian-American studies – rather than the racially divisive 'identity studies' that undermine racial harmony & subvert national unity?

    • dennis x

      Are you reffereing to white/ european his story?

      • mrbean

        Tell me about Yacub and how he created the blue-eyed devils in an experiment gone wrong 6000 years ago. Can you tell me why the blacks in evrey single African country run by blacks still only have an average life expectancy between 32 years to 41 years of age?

    • johnnywoods

      A "Black Studies" degree is as worthless as a degree in "Underwater Basket Weaving" and at least you may get a decent basket out of that. Instead of "Black History Month" we should study American history and include the actual accomplishments of Blacks ,women, etc.? So many Americans are woefully ignorant of this nations history as it is, "Black Studies"not withstanding.

  • Elmo Lewis

    All this fuss about Riley's departure from the Chronicle without anyone asserting that they have read beyond the titles of the dissertations she just knew we're invalid. Reading is fundamental, unless you write for Frontline, where conclusions are always foreordained!

    • Jay

      The blog post was based on the samples of the dissertations quoted in the article. These dissertations were held up as examples of excellence, the quotes were included to back up the claim of excellence and there is nothing wrong with posting a blog comment on that basis. Ms. Riley never claimed to have done any research besides reading the article. The idea that you have to read all the dissertations from beginning to end to have a valid opinion is absurd. Bad writing and poor reasoning are often evident in every paragraph of a piece. If something is written poorly it is poor throughout.

  • Tommo2

    Does the Black Studies course cover tribalism and how thousands of Africans were slaughtered, sold into slavery and oppressed by their own leaders – or are the students only interested in 'liberating' history about racism by white people?

  • logdon

    Black music is basically the blues and it's jazz offshoot.

    As callow youths in post war Britain we, searching for musical forms beyond the insipid Lipstick on Your Collar crooners lapped it up. First Bebop and then the Blues. The interesting (in hindsight) thing was that the audiences aching to see what Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann, Otis Rush and all the other Chicago greats could do on an unleashed stage were all white. And I can tell you not slightly tanned white but with utterly palid faces straining earnestly and eagerly to catch every nuance of this great and infectious musical form.

    The bug has stayed and along with jazz, blues makes up the bulk of my burgeoning cd collection. I recently bought three Crossroads Guitar Festival dvd's and love the way a racial mix showing utter respect for each others abilities and absolute dedication can perform with such unalloyed joy, it actually makes the heart soar.

    The little asides, winks and smiling glances say it all. They are brothers. Not black brothers but true in a completely colourblind sense, real joined at the hip traveling companions.

    Their journey is not based on any politicised racial factor. It's the music.

    However when the camera pans to a whooping, ecstatic audience it's right back to Britain circa 1964. Where are the blacks?

    It may well be that in an airy and vapid, high fallootin' Black Studies academia, scholars may pore over what exactly did Robert Johnson mean when he wrote Come On In My Kitchen or Milk Cow's Milk Calf Blues but as for those people whose forefathers created this almost mystical form what do they care?

    In other words it's all a sham. It is in the words of VS Naipaul when writing of multiculturalism, 'jobs for the boys' and a self perpetuating, self gratifying machine designed not to help black people but to ensure their own sinecures.

    It is betrayal of the highest order. A cynical middle finger to reality created around fraudulent posture and paper thin flim flam.

    That’s what happens when politics sticks its boney fingers into every nook and cranny it can. The purity is corrupted and in its place, out from the rocks these people dwell under come the opportunistic sub lifes intent on stirring a grievance pot until they get their way and it all boils over.

    It would be laughably interesting to ask Al Sharpton or Charlie Rangel what they think of Son House, Lonnie Johnson, Fred McDowell or Gary Davis and the many other toilers who put their very souls into existing on the meagre pickings Blues provided.

    And on a final note when the players in Chicago did finally get their well deserved nice shiny Cadillacs who facilitated the money flow? Not these ‘studies’ charlatons but two entrepeneurial Polish Jewish brothers by the name of Chess.

    • DMW

      Was not there a movie in the past several years about Chess Records? Adrien Brody comes to mind.

      • logdon

        I've got a dvd I recorded from a TV programme, Roll Over Beethoven A History of Chess Records which tells the tale in some detail.

      • tagalog

        Cadillac Records.

    • dennis x

      Jazz , whose roots are founded originally in Black Gospel music, then into the blues is amerikkka only ORIGINAL form of music. It was ( the blues) ripped off by people like evlvis and pat boone. Black musicians were as a rule ripped off by white/ jewish promoters who often stole the rights to the music they had written.

      • logdon

        Your chronology is a bit shakey. Jazz, with its large or medium ensemble players centred around cities such as St Louis and New Orleans whereas blues was a country born form originating in the delta.

        As for ripping off, the first black record to hit American charts was Chuck Berry's Maybeline and without Chess it wouldn't have happened.

        Pre this breakthrough the music was released on race records intended soley for a black market and nowhere near the volume reach of mainstream.

        BB King states that prior to the Stones, Yardbirds, Cream and co sales were diminishing. After that it really opened out and suddenly the likes of Albert King and Albert Collins were playing the Filmore.

        Then there's that one man phenomena Jimi Hendrix who was tootling around the chitlin' circuit and minor clubs until Chas Chandler discovered him.

        Curb your jaundice. The triple k in your spelling is neither funny or clever. (However those klansmen were mainly Democrats. Something to ponder when you place your vote this coming Autumn).

        • fiddler

          He obviously borrowed that from Jeremiah Wright.

        • fiddler

          The late Senator Robert Byrd comes to mind — tut-tut we'll ignore that. Or, at least the media (the purveyors of all truth) will.

        • dennis x

          I do believe that Mr. Berry was preceeded by the likes of Billy Holiday, Mahalia Jackson to name a few. The order is correct, gospel, blues, jazz and then rock. Music like everything else was segregated. And the stones precceded the cream by a few years. Their 1st release being disraelite gears in ax. 1968. Jimmi Hendrix wasn't on the chitlin circuit, he was in great britan with the likes of eric clayton and bubby guy. He was discovered there. My perpective is Black , not yellow as in jaundice. Your correct , those klansmen were democrats, but their now all repubicans. PS-FOUR MORE YEARS!!!!

          • logdon

            I bow to your greater knowledge and obvious erudition.

          • johnnywoods

            Hey dumbass, I used to know many Klansmen back in the "bad old days" and none of them were Republicans, no not one.

    • tagalog

      Van Morrison, whose youthful experience matches yours in the area of appreciation of black music, as you undoubtedly know, wrote several songs about that experience in Ireland. At least one of them is on his Hymns To the Silence album. I think the song is either See Me Through, On Hyndford Street, or Take Me Back. It's been a while since I listened to that great album.

      Well, it wasn't just Chess Records; don't forget that Ertegun guy and Atlantic Records. Also Phillies Records and whatever label it was that Phil Spector's groups recorded on.

      • logdon

        The Ertegun brothers were a bit more on the soul side of things a la Ray Charles and Spector was a kind of outgrowth of Motown.

        The other main label was Modern Records and all it's affiliates owned by the Bihari brothers.

        John Lee Hooker recorded The Legendary Modern Recordings singles compilation on one of these, Ace and ace it is too.

        Boogie Chillen, Bad Boy, Queen Bee and Crawling Kingsnake all amazing templates for the boogie style so loved by many are all on it.

      • logdon

        I did harbour ludicrous ambitions to be a guitarist and whilst I still play, usually US or Japanese Strats through vintage valve or reissue US Fender amps, my ability is sadly outmatched by aspiration.

        Luckily I stuck with the day job in advertising, then my graphic design business which combined to earn me some money and have fun too.

        Isn't that what it's all about?

    • theleastthreat

      I have to say, that was an amazingly good post, not that my vouching for you will do you any good.

      • logdon

        Thankyou, leastthreat.

        As you'd gather, a bit of a passion of mine and better to get the facts straight.

  • sedoanman

    Sounds like McMillen just dusted off Juan Williams' dismissal notice from NPR.

  • BS77

    We need a new department in colleges….it's called Idiot Studies….where students can learn the facts about brainwashing, propaganda, mass delusions, historical revisionism, mob hysteria and general stupdity. Class dismissed!!!

  • Theo Prinse

    'Marxism' in South Africa.
    "Class Struggle" is a wrong term because mr. Vavi (Cosatu) thus refers to the working ‘class'.
    But the term "class" in Marxism explicitly belongs to the group (class) who owns the means of production.
    Of the social groups that owns external, physical means of production (machines, buildings, raw materials) and who have described these possession in abstract in title deeds – there are only two.
    1. The crony capitalists vs
    2. the venture capitalist or innovative entrepreneur …
    The community of workers by definition is not a class in the Marxist definition.
    ad.1 Crony capitalists – although once innovative – organized Trade Unions to collectively negotiate wages. Crony capitalists use(d) 'communists' to infiltrate the Trade Unions in the interest of the Crony Capitalists … syndicalism.
    Ad. 2 Innovation is the only source of wealth.
    Marx conception in his Das Kapital of a bodily and spiritualy force in the worker’s 'means of production "is some sort of early New Age Theory.
    This conception by Marx of a physical and spiritual creative inner force within labor as a ‘classical value defined means of production’ is his intellectual fiction.
    Mental abilities can only be atributed the classic 'value', 'Wert', 'worth'.after it has crystalized in matter outside the human body.
    3. Marx – and his "scientific" communism – wanted no political party but an idealistic 'revolutionary' Trade Union.
    Therefore, every communist political party is by definition Leninist "communism". Historically all communists and their political parties always merely have some "interpretation" of communism. In South Africa it is called communism: 'from an African point of view' … or 'of a special type'… On closer examination this South African communism is all folly. Allan Boesak's Belydenis of Belhar, Frank Chikane's Kairos document, the 'Atlantic Charter from an African point of view', Nat.Democratic Revolution NDR, Affirmative Action AA, Black Economic Empowerment BEE etc.
    4. Marxism is a reaction to the revolution in 1848 in Europe and the French Revolution. Marxism is a continuation of the dialectical philosophy of Aristotle, Georg Hegel… but applied by Marx on the Labor Value Theory of Adam Smith.
    Marxism is not an African philosophy but a European philosophy of the whites.

    • tagalog

      If the Crony Capitalists are the ones who organized trade unions to collectively negotiate wages, how come they hired gun thugs or deployed the National Guard to shoot them down when they tried to do so?

      If the "community of workers" is, by definition, not a class in the Marxist definition, what constitutes the "working class" that Marx so frequently refers to?

      Marxism has been sold for more than 150 years as a "scientific" analysis of the economes of ALL societies that are industrialized, whether white or not.

      If you've managed to struggle your way through all 3 volumes of Das Kapital, you are truly a paragon of patience, and Alexander the Great would have been wise to get you to be the person who untied the Gordian Knot. I was only able to get about halfway through Volume I, and that was a memorable experience in reading the unreadable.

  • clarespark

    It is important not to blame all black people for the peculiar institution of African American Studies. Powerful white liberals and their foundations must take the blame, as I demonstrated here: http://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enab…. I quoted from historical materials that are widely available, yet ignored.. And don't miss the horror of the Shirley Sherrod case at the bottom of the blog. The title is "White Enabling of Black Power."

    • johnnywoods

      Might I recommend an excellent book by Thomas Sowell? "Black Rednecks and White Liberals". In it he deals with actual history rather than manufactured variety of the "Black Studies" movement.

      • clarespark

        Thanks for the reference. I always enjoy Thomas Sowell and trust his insights and clarity.

  • Guest

    A view of black run America. To see the reality Google hip hop world, or go to stuff black people don't like for an informed view. Bow down and worship at the feet of an oppressed minority who is unable to help themselves. We must constantly help them. They could be so great if only they were empowered. Just look at south Africa and or Haiti.

    • dennis x

      How many of those white trash trailor park meth smoking whites get goverment help? This counrty was stolen from the Red man and build on the backs of the Blackman and Yellowman.

    • Ghostwriter

      Great! I'd have to say that both Guest and dennis x are both idiots. Guest's dumb comments remind me of mrbean's comments. Bigoted and stupid. And then we have dennis x,the Farrakhan disciple. He proves that there are black bigots as well as white bigots. Both revel in ignorance and stupidity.

  • tagalog

    Time to bring back the concept of the first two years of a four-year college education as the time for the required courses, followed by declaring a major at the end of the sophomore-beginning of the junior year, with some required courses for completing that major, and a few elective courses designed to complement one's major.

    The era of the History of the Movies, The Sociology of Algebra, Survey of Science Fiction, and The Comic Book as Literature may at last be coming under scrutiny. At long last.

    If members of protected groups can't keep up with that, tough.

  • dave

    Hey, hold on now, movies, sci fi and comics are excellent artforms and deserve study. Need to have some fun classes at college.

  • guest

    Yeah i remember the hatred and rage when Berlioz ripped off Beethoven

  • Been There Myself

    Universities stink all over the place, and the faculties also. There are rare exceptions, very rare. Don't forget that thousands of academics, over six thousand of them, signed a petition demanding Riley's ouster. More than 6000 totalitarians, all of them going after the job of one honest writer of a good, right, and necessary article she wrote. Listen up all you SUCKERS at Northwestern in "higher education" being trained by robots to be robots yourselves: Get Out While You Can Still Save What's Left Of Your Abused And Battered Hearts & Minds Before It's TOO LATE!

    • tagalog

      I got a pretty good college education in my first two years at the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, and didn't get nearly as good a one at the college where I went for the last two years, NYU.

  • Schlomotion

    OK, a little reality here. I just read Naomi Schaefer Riley's rant that got her fired from the blog. She doesn't even go into any of the arguments presented in any of the papers. No exegesis, no analysis, just a rant. In reality, she has a different opinion than the students about each of the thesis papers, but seeks to deprive them of the right to conceptualize and present theses in college. That's simple political censorship under the color of academia.

    Secondly, I thought she was a teacher, a professor, not an "affiliate scholar" of a Bradley Foundation Kulturkampf think tank and Wall Street Journal tabloid Taste columnist.

    Thirdly, she doesn't even look like she does in that doctored glamor photo. She looks like this: http://naomiriley.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/

    Clearly, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture is not dead.

    • wctaqiyya

      Really? Do you think her appearance is pertinent? Please say you are kidding dude. As for those students having a right to submit politically correct drivel, sure they do. Since it just degrades the value of their school, their professors and their thinking, who cares? But if they have a right to say stupid things, I know it's stupid because the entire premise is flawed, surely that fired gal also has the right to express her less than perfect opinion? Thought so.

      • Schlomotion

        It is pertinent. It is a layered onion of fraud. Fake-pretty doctored photos, pseudo-intellectual credentials, faux-political rant, misrepresented reason for firing, and bogus job. This is tabloid journalism inside of tabloid journalism. The face is photoshopped, the career is photoshopped, the academic authority is photoshopped, the woundedness is photoshopped, and even the basis for firing is photoshopped. This kind of crying "wolf" only subtracts from people who are genuinely fired for genuine whistleblowing.

        • wctaqiyya

          Hah! So you did have a point, glad I was able to squeeze it out of you. But I still don't care if her photo was shopped, it means nothing. I'm not sure what you mean about her authority and career being photo-shopped. Mr. Bawar ascribes no special credentials or authority to her, she is offered as the author of an article, nothing more. Now, if Mr. Bawar is crying wolf or blowing a false whistle, you should counter his specific charges with your more accurate, factual corrections. My issue with Mr. Bawar's post is his acceptance of the idea that isolated slices of politically soothing history can be a legitimate way for blacks and women to study history. This is silliness. It is also insulting to the intelligence of blacks and women. Can't they handle the complete historical picture? Let's see now, since American Indian students might get upset if we teach them the immigrants nearly wiped them all out, lets just teach them about their history before 1492. That will make them feel good about themselves. What a fine idea. Say, if we teach blacks nothing but slavery, Jim Crow and Negro spirituals, will they be more or less likely to integrate themselves into contemporary society and leave their slavery mindset behind? Golly, hows that working out? Don't even get me started on women, their self image has been so badly damaged, they have permanent PMS. But I rant, my apologies.

  • wctaqiyya

    Mr. Bawar,
    There is no more a valid 'black studies' program pretending to be the study of history than there is a legitimate one legged white women program. The study of history includes what happens to everybody, or it should. You are still trapped in the fatally flawed idea that by subdividing a serious discipline into politically palliative morsels, it will help us to understand the human condition, where we have been and where we are going. Not so, sir. The problems you complain about in this post begin with the artificial segregation of historical studies into racial or sexual folders. Those folders are a fraud because history does not happen to certain groups of people in isolation or with one hand tied behind it's back or with a wink and a nod to other groups. It either happens to everybody or we don't call it history. In the case of those confused professors, we call it gazing intently into their belly buttons. Please follow your faulty logic to the study of medicine, if you will. Do doctors go to school and take special courses on Black or Native American medicine? Well, maybe they do by now, I don't know. OK, do astronomers have a course for Black star gazing? Nope. There are no women's star gazing courses either. Thank God. Is there a reason for not having segregated astronomy courses? If you don't know, you are lost. But at least I tried. Cheers.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'm not sure about black studies,but I do know one thing. I wish that our resident bigots mrbean and dennis x would wise up and stop their endless stupidity. Just reading these two idiots makes my brain hurt.

  • http://frontpagemag.com Daniel Fagan

    Any one stupid enough to get an advanced degree in this bogus nonacademic clap trap deserves what they get, extensive periods of unemployment. Stupid is as stupid does, spend several years of your life and a small fortune to get a piece of paper that no one with the means to hire you has one iota of respect for, in a discipline that is more inclined to have the same credentials and proof as alchemy or astrology. Ever read one of their professional journals? Are there any in these relics of a bad decisions,(relevance) in the 60s and early 70s that have added anything to a dialogue or critical peer review. Nope, it is just a leftist echo chamber.

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