May 8, 2012, 3:33 pm
Last night I learned that Naomi Schaefer Riley has been fired by The Chronicle of Higher Education from her position as one of the contributors on the Brainstorm blog. It was a poor decision by The Chronicle‘s editors, one of whom, Liz McMillen, explains it in “A Note to Readers.” Ms. McMillen also apologizes “for the distress these incidents have caused our readers.” As it happens, I had just drafted for Innovations a short essay which among other things praised The Chronicle’s editors for not giving in to demands that Riley be fired.
The Chronicle’s change of heart took me greatly by surprise. As a writer whose contributions to these pages have often been assailed, I’ve come to trust that The Chronicle is pretty sturdy in its defense of the principle that dissenters from academe’s typical left-wing orthodoxies should be heard, and that dialogue–even if sometimes caustic–is…
May 4, 2012, 11:11 am
Yesterday, one of my former African-American Ph.D. students, Valerie Lundy Wagner, sent me an e-mail message asking if I had seen a post by Naomi Schaefer Riley, a blogger for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Valerie is now an assistant professor and faculty fellow at New York University and was a Ford Fellow while a doctoral student. Valerie does work related to racial and ethnic minorities and college achievement. She was deeply offended by Riley’s blog post, which ridiculed black scholars and made light of their research, based on no evidence, and wanted to know my take on the matter.
As someone who cherishes my affiliation with the Center for Africana Studies at Penn, I am also deeply offended by Naomi Schaefer Riley’s uninformed, dismissive, and downright racist portrayal of the work of black-studies scholars as well as her commentary on the specific black graduate students…
January 30, 2012, 7:22 am
In Arizona, textbooks that are inclusive of all Americans’ experiences are being banned because racists are afraid that when Latino students learn positive things about their culture and history, these students will feel empowered. Don’t we want all of our students to be empowered? Don’t we want our students to have the confidence to do their very best in school and in life? Don’t we want all of our children to learn the positive attributes of their ancestors? I know that my 12-year-old daughter is more respectful of individuals of other racial and ethnic backgrounds because she is familiar with their cultures and histories. She once proclaimed to me after reading a book about African cultures, “Children need to realize that the world isn’t merely about them. We are all connected and part of something larger than us.”
In Georgia, third-grade teachers assigned math…
March 18, 2011, 5:51 am
Most of us have heard about the young woman at UCLA who posted a video on YouTube that mocked Asian students. Alexandra Wallace made fun of Asian accents and language, saying “ching chong ling long ting tong.” Even more hurtful, she made fun of Japanese students who were calling their relatives in Japan after the recent earthquake and tsunami.
Wallace was in the UCLA library and was upset that Asian students were making phone calls to their loved ones, disturbing her study time. Instead of being empathetic to their situation, she went back to her room and made the video noted above and posted it on YouTube.
Since the time of the incident, UCLA Chancellor Gene Black released a statement noting his shock and that Wallace’s actions did not reflect the sentiments of the UCLA community. A significant number—37 percent—of UCLA’s students are Asian-Americans.
When my Asian…
January 6, 2011, 10:36 pm
In the past few days, the news and internet have been buzzing with talk of a new version of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Auburn University professor Alan Gribben’s new edition of the book replaces the N-word, which is used 219 times, with the word “slave.” According to Gribben, many readers cannot get past Twain’s use of the N-word to understand the commentary he is making about American racism. Gribben may have a point. However, Huck Finn was published in 1884, and with it Twain was pointing out the complexities of racism and prejudice in 1840s Missouri by depicting life as it was. As Twain wrote, Jim Crow laws were being passed throughout the South, denying civil rights to African-Americans at a rapid pace. Are we to erase this depiction and forget about it?
Although I abhor the N-word, sanitizing history does not sit right with me. It is important that…
December 7, 2010, 5:38 pm
Last week, William Galston, professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland and President Clinton’s first Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy, joined with David Frum, conservative pundit and former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, to issue a call in the Washington Post for a “No Labels Solution to Washington Gridlock.” Their idea is that we can restore civil debate in the United States if we reward elected officials that “reach across the aisle” and “criticize those who do not.” They are especially concerned to rule out of order two widely-deployed labels: racist and socialist. In their views, the terms applied to “legitimate policy differences” undermine “democratic discourse.” To stop this, Galston and Frum are launching a new movement at an event in New York on December 13, which they are calling “No Labels.” It will carry forward…