Every now and again, there is a manifestation of white privilege so brilliant in its ignorance, so delusional, that it actually makes me want to go back to my days of being a mental health professional and offer my services.
This happens to be the case with “The Chronicle” writer Naomi Schaefer Riley.
In a piece reeking with condescension and low-rent bigotry, Schaefer makes the argument that Black Studies is a superficial academic pursuit that hinges on “left-wing victimization claptrap” as demonstrated in dissertations by up-and-coming Black scholars in the field. Peering through her indignation at topics such as “Race for Profit: Black Housing and the Urban Crisis of the 1970s,” she pronounced the fruits of long nights of rigorous research “so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.”
Ms. Riley seems to believe that Black Republicans, such as Clarence Thomas — who have made a living being step-n-fetchit tokens — are being unfairly maligned by liberals who would rather cry racism than actually solve problems in Black America:
“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.”
She also has the audacity to say that President Barack Obama should be proof positive that “a change gone come,” (Sam Cooke’s words, not Riley’s) as if we should gaze upon him with pride on our Civil Rights mantles while employment, housing and education opportunities burn to the ground.
But at least a brother is in the White house, right? Cue George Clinton.
It is not surprising that Ms. Riley is so oblivious to “the white man’s” role in the prison industrial complex. Apparently she doesn’t realize that disparities in sentencing, especially as it pertains to cocaine vs. crack – which flooded our communities in the ‘80s under the Reagan administration – has played an integral role in the devastation that has plowed through Black America.
Perhaps Ms. Riley also doesn’t realize that sex education under the Republican agenda is reduced to one long advertisement for abstinence, while simultaneously working diligently to eradicate Planned Parenthoods in urban communities. This ensures that Black women in a certain socio-economic bracket who do dare to have sex, not only are vilified for it but forced to have these children “out-of-wedlock” or risk their wombs being labeled “dangerous” if they dare to choose termination.
Furthermore, it would be ridiculous for Ms. Riley to assert that Black people are wrong to look to “the white man” for issues with public education when it has been reported that Black students receive sub-par educations in comparison to their White counterparts.
Bottom line, unless Ms. Riley has completely lost her grasp on reality – if she ever had one – the “white man” is as responsible for the precarious position of Black America as Black America is responsible for stabilizing it.
Afrikans were physically and psychologically maimed by the slavery and the same holds true today. We continue to be marginalized by institutionalized racism, and adversely, are enslaved by shackles of our own making. I am not speaking of the very real dis-proportionate percentage of Black males in prison, or the alarming statistics that show Black women are paid a lesser salary for the same job as our White counterparts.
These truths are unequivocal.
I am speaking of the Willie Lynch mentality that forces us to direct our anger and frustration at our so-called “oppressors”, as well as destroying, rather than uplifting our communities.
But how can we ever understand that nuanced concept without Black Studies?
Answer that, Ms. Riley – or are you one of those White people who would rather have us ignorant and fighting amongst ourselves without ever gaining the knowledge necessary to move forward?
Students have been taught a revisionist version of history since this nation’s inception and African-Americans deserve as in-depth of an exploration into our ethnic specific culture as White Americans have access to by default.
Because “whiteness” is the dominant culture in this country, it stands to reason that race/identity is much less of an issue, so maybe Ms. Riley’s pompous dismissal of Black Studies can be understood in that context.
Maybe she is so oblivious to both the blatant and nuanced intersectionality of racism, oppression and education, that – in her mind — that baseless tirade she embarked upon made sense.
Or maybe she was puffing the Magic Dragon while she was writing — which is also completely believable — and forgot to pass.
I find it extremely difficult to believe that in sound mind and body, Ms. Riley positioned herself as a champion of the Tea Party of Tennessee who wanted to remove slavery from the textbooks and Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona who destroyed the ethnic studies program in the Tucson school district
Black Studies is not, nor will it ever be, filtered and diluted for those committed to preserving a fallacious version of United States history and I realize that makes some White people uncomfortable.
Get over it.
This isn’t about those same regurgitated facts that Black students are force fed since learning that “Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492,” without also learning that he was the first European slave trader in the Americas.
As Simone de Beauvoir said, “It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting.”
My father always taught me that “integration without education was the worst thing that ever happened to the Black community.” That is what these young Black Studies scholars seek to rectify and they should be passionately commended for their efforts, not ridiculed. This is about our story, our truth and our progression — which has nothing to do with whatever passive racist writers think we should be learning.
So do us all a favor, Ms. Riley. Next time you feel compelled to share your opinion on a history, present and future that has absolutely nothing to do with you…