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…


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  • LN

    Though it is mired in racism — and I give her an extended side eye — I do think that Naomi Riley has a point.

    I remember a few years back when an interracial advocacy blogger started the “No Wedding No Womb” movement, encouraging black women not to have children out of wedlock. I know the movement was controversial, and definitely flawed, but I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback at how many women jumped to defend the right of black women to have children out of wedlock, and refused to acknowledge its contribution to poverty, crime, etc in our country.

    I don’t know HOW you start a serious conversation in black culture about the things that are OUR fault — the broken family structure, the devaluing of higher education, the “kill a snitch” culture, the rampant materialism, the disrespect of black women, the lack of attention to mental health, the poor diet — without being labeled a self-hater, or racist, or exonerating the “white man”.

    I mean, think about it. Think about the discussions that have captured the attention of ALL of black america in the past seven years. There was the Trayvon Martin case, the Sean Bell case, Hurricane Katrina and the Jena 6. All of those are CLEAR CUT incidences of blacks being discriminated against by whites. And I feel like THAT’S when we unite. THAT’S when we’re most comfortable.

    Where are the nationwide discussions among black people on education? On misogyny against black women? On health? There are pockets of progressive black people having these discussions but for the most part we are disinterested.

    I just wish that we were just as aggressive in attacking clear cut racism as we were about addressing the insidious cultural practices that keep many black people in a permanent underclass.

    • I remember the “NWNW” initiative and I thought it was absolutely a brilliant idea. Like you said, it did have its flaws but overall but I too was surprised at the backlash it received from both Black men and women alike. And in regards to your statement (“I don’t know HOW you start a serious conversation in black culture about the things that are OUR fault without being labeled a self-hater, or racist, or exonerating the “white man.”) that’s exactly how I feel and it’s why I don’t bother engaging in any dialogue about this topic with most Blacks/ African Americans. The fact that you’re quickly labeled as those things just shows how comfortable some people are in playing the victim- every issue HAS to be the White man’s fault, no way WE are accountable for whats happpening right now in OUR own communities.

      Overall I agree 100% with your comment, its exactly how I feel.

    • H

      You and Sasha are so right. Black people are not interested in solving problems because you have to talk about how things such as Ebonics, high drop out rates, OOW children in the 60% range, black on black crime, and low achieving students at subpar schools are problems caused by us.

      We have to have some comedian talk about these things so that we can laugh. We have to play it down. It is the same type of thing when Sherri Shepard and other black women questioned why that can’t find a good man. They couldn’t possibly believe it was something to do with them even though about 90% of the women in the audience were overweight and Shepard expected her man to help her with her wig and haircare.

      Look at how we can rally together for Trayvon Martin. Why can’t we rally together to move forward? Everything I’ve just said is a problem caused by us, but I’m sure a poster will come along to tell me that I actually hate black people. They will tell me that it’s not black people’s fault. All of those things are caused by racism from white people. Black people will never move forward because not enough of them have the mentality that you and Sasha have.

      It’s nice to know that there are some black people that can actually see that many of our problems come from other black people acting like fools. Every black person should read Bill Cosby’s book Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors. It talks about all the problems caused by us and solutions that can be easily done by us. We don’t need government spending to solve these problems. We need parents to take responsibility and start raising their children.

      It will never happen though. I need to move to another country where the black people are going to take advantage of a free education, not drop out of school and join gangs, not have children out of wedlock, and not complain about white people and history. Our ancestors in this country worked the hardest out of any group of people, overcame the most, and this generation is the lowest achieving group of complainers ever. It’s annoying to see how we’ve thrown so much away. Slaves risked being beaten for reading. Kids don’t even make good grades. Children risked being hurt trying to integrate schools. We are now in these schools under-performing and making excuses. Black artists fought to sing in white establishments, now we can sing wherever we want to and the artists rap about b***s and hoes. I’m a proud American, and I’m definitely a proud African American, but there are just too many black people figuratively spitting on what our ancestors accomplished in this country. Black people who know better but defend this nonsense are a big part of the problem.

    • Anon

      Woooooooooot!!! At EVERYONE of ya’lls comments. Frankly, the people who need to be MOST involved in those types of discussions are LEAST likely to want to hear it.

    • Pat

      +1 at everyone’s comments.

  • Kayla

    Can somebody please tell me who this “victim” is? People keep bringing him/her up with no facts or evidence to support their BS claims. All I have ever known in my life is hard-working Black men/women that want the best for themselves and their families, but that’s what self-hating, self-righteous, “Black People” group us together.

    • H

      @Kayla – This is exactly what I mean. When we talk about obvious problems, we are labeled self-haters. I was raised around high achieving black people as well. That is why I am concerned, because low achieving black people are everywhere, and they are making us ALL look bad. If you can’t see them, you are blind or simply choose to ignore it.

      The perpetual victims are mothers who have children out of wedlock with men that they know are dogs and then play the victim while the baby daddies are the big bad wolf. Just like the fathers who complain that the mother tricked them when they could have worn a condom or made sure the mother was on birth control. Another perpetual victim: mothers complaining about subpar schools where they basically send their children to be babysat. The schools are bad of course, but your children should be breezing through courses making A’s if the schools are subpar. They are not. They’re dropping out. Gangbangers who complain about the man throwing them in jail even though they committed the crime are playing the victim. Black people who go to college but have 3.0 GPAs when everyone else has a 3.5+ but cry discrimination when they don’t get the job are playing the victim.

    • edub

      H, I just want to say…THANK-YOU. I’ve given up, though because these “victims” are so steadfast in their ignorance.

    • Kayla

      @H&edub Let’s talk about FACTS. The fact is there are more WHITE welfare mothers than there are black. The number of WHITE babies being born out of wedlock is on the rise. So maybe you two should start criticizing them as well. No one is playing the victim, its just that you like white people are comfortable in casting black people in that role. Its one thing to get on a F**ckin blog and run your mouth about something, its another thing to actually help those same people you look down on. I help my people and community daily. What do you besides hate? If you’re not apart of the solution then you’re apart of the problem.

    • Anon


      Last time I checked we were only 12% of the population so OF COURSE there will be more white baby mommas. But the percentage of white children born out of wedlock is NOT 70%+. The majority of THEIR children are raised in functional communities. Lying to oneself is the WORST kind of lie in my opinion.

    • anon But the percentage of white children born out of wedlock is NOT 70%+.

      They are getting there. IIRC, 40 or 50% of White children born to mothers under 30 are OOW.

      This “thing” is going to spread.

    • H

      @Kayla – Cursing is not necessary, but it let’s me know I’ve hit a sore point. Anyway who cares about the rates of OOW births with white women? I am worried about solving these problems with black women. 70% of our children are born out of wedlock. That number is lower for white women. Should black people get some kind of certificate for there being more white women on welfare? Of course there are more white women on welfare. That’s because black people only make up 12% of the population.

      If there were 100 white women in a room and 10 black people in a room, and 10% of white women were on welfare, that is equal to 100% of black women! So we should be comparing percentages and not raw numbers.

      I commend you for helping in your community, but I hope you are calling out any fake victims because they continue to make their mistakes and continue to lay the blame on other people instead of taking responsibility. Solutions to many of our problems start on a household level.

      You should check out Bill Cosby’s book Come on People: On the Path From Victims to Victors. He talks about many solutions to our problems that any concerned parent can work on.

      Not pointing out people’s problems and not calling out fake victims is the problem not me shining light on what many people are doing. When people notice the things that they are doing to themselves, they can stop it and improve. This is a very good thing. Instead of worrying about looking bad, just accept responsibility and improve. I may sound harsh here on this blog, but anything I said can be said in a much milder manner. Start asking these single mothers why are they dating these losers. Start asking them why they don’t read to their children. Start asking them why they speak Ebonics around the children which is a bad thing which will hold them back in life. Start asking why they let their kids bring home bad grades. Explain to them in a nice way that these types of things are setting their kids up for failure in life.

    • H

      For me a lot of my solutions are similar to what Cosby says. Stop talking in Ebonics around your children. Don’t let your children watch violent things on TV. No, don’t let them watch TV period. Give them a library card and make them read for fun. Reading IS fun! Make them get A’s in school. Email teachers to find out about homework for the week or even every day. Teachers could start sending notes about daily homework to parents in email so that the kids can’t lie. They can email report card grades so that kids can’t lie.

      Don’t accept bad grades. Stay involved at school. Put your kids in a music program or an art class. Figure out an effective way of disciplining your children. That doesn’t have to be spankings, but it needs to be effective. Don’t let your kids disrespect other adults. Teachers should be allowed to discipline your children. That doesn’t mean spankings, but other discipline should not result in you coming to the school and telling the teacher off. Encourage good behavior. If your kid makes all As, take them on a trip. Buy that cute outfit they have. Biggest of all: STOP REWARDING BAD BEHAVIOR!

  • Dalili

    This was an article posted on the Chronicle so its content doesn’t surprise me in the least. In her rebuttal to the criticismreceived about her piece, Ms Riley had this to say in part:

    “Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.” Oh?

    My issue with people like Ms. Riley is they use their biased and half-baked opinions to trivialize and dismiss issues that are otherwise important to other people (this isn’t limited to POC). Had she done her research she would have discovered other dissertations stemming from Black Studies courses that have addressed issues affecting the African American community but then again, she most likely wouldn’t have read them as they don’t support her myopic opinions.

    • iQgraphics

      Geeze man! I’m gonna have to agree with you based on that quote.

      And add that I blame the internet for this. Yes, the world wide web has opened up avenues for opinion editorials however, they are being misconstrued as fact. They have made a mockery of the practice of journalism.
      No more do we demand footnotes, accredited sources and bibliographies.

      I refuse to go on a rant based on a rant that is completely bias and BASELESS! (and bullsiht)

    • J

      No need to worry for you, now. Her pen has been silenced. Where has that happened before…”you can do it your own way, as long as it is done just how I say”? She no longer has The Chronicle as a forum to debate her “myopic” opinions…debate was not a option The Chronicle and it followers were willing to accept. Perhaps debate would expose flaws in ones thinking whether it be the authors or readers, yes?

  • iQgraphics

    This makes me wonder what the “Global Studies” curriculum looks like overseas.

    Although I have not yet read the true article this editorial is referring to, it seems to be the antithesis of “Freakonomics”… or if not contrary, at least trying to dispel or negate the governments role in certain holding patterns purposely placed on ethnic communities.

    I’m gonna check it out.

    • apple

      i dont even think people in other countries know black people are here i have heard several times from black people who went overseas and people couldn’t grasp how you could be black but still be american at the same time… still doesn’t explain how they all knew that michael jackson and tupac were from america tho :-/ lol

  • Wow!

    She is kind of right.

    She is calling out the black intellectual class that pulls a Henry Louis Gates, Bill Cosby, or any other black person with years in academia highlighting old problems, complaining about new school ways of doing everything from courting, entertainment, to parenting, but offer no intelligent solutions or resources.

    Speaking of Cosby, this woman’s response and many of the things that have come out in the last few years from white folks is right in line with one of our great and admired intellectuals “putting out the dirty laundy” a few years ago to the applause of all us overly educated folks with our noses up and our distance from the centers of the issues certain. More than a few white folks sighed in relief because it validated things they wanted to say. Whether you agreed with him or not this is a byproduct of his useless unproductive rant. The Laundry is now being folded with group hands.

    • Toppin (Formerly Known As Just Sayin’)

      Ummm Bill Cosby DID offer a solution: Raise your gawdamn kids and STOP outsourcing your responsibility as a PARENT.

      The real problem is people like you wrote his solution off as “too simplicity” or wrote him off as being “elitist.”

      Be honest with yourself. Black Americas problems are coming mostly from the poor, uneducated/under-educated set….not its intellectuals.

      Here is a tip: White people can see YOUR dirty laundry on the NEWS every single night. Stop worrying about what they think and start doing better.

    • Wow!

      Your motives on this site when you post are s very suspect, Toppin, so there is no need for me to say anything but the following: Based off our different loyalties and view of the world I’m comfortable in our differences in opinion. Thanks for commenting!