While this year has become best known as the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, it was also forty years ago that the first African-American Studies department was established, at San Francisco State University.
Forty-one fall semesters later, there are hundreds of such departments. Has what they teach evolved with the march of time? What should the mission of a truly modern African-American Studies department be?
The answer common in such departments is that the principal mission is to teach students about the eternal power of racism past and present. Certainly it should be part of a liberal arts education to learn that racism is more than face-to-face abuse, and that social inequality is endemic to American society. However, too often the curriculum of African-American Studies departments gives the impression that racism and disadvantage are the most important things to note and study about being black.
Continue reading What African-American Studies Could Be
I cannot reflect upon my four years at UC Berkeley without mentioning the word “Diversity.” When one’s college experience is oversaturated by incessant lessons in racial and ethnic awareness, the word becomes unavoidable in any mention of Berkeley. Berkeley’s particular concept of diversity seemed to avoid the basic goal of fostering cultural tolerance and understanding. Instead, it appeared to encourage a divisive culture of victimhood and entitlement.
Housing students by race seemed to me an odd approach to ending racial division. During my freshman year, I lived two floors below the African American Theme Program floor. Other such floors included the Asian Pacific American Theme Program, the latino-centered Casa Magdalena Mora, and the Unity House, a gay-themed housing unit that allows you to have a roommate of the opposite sex. From what I remember, black students were the only ones participating in the African American Theme Program. Though students of all races and ethnicities are allowed to live in any of the available themed housing units, rarely did I see students living in housing centered on a culture different from their own.
According to the UC Berkeley housing website, the benefits of living in a racially themed housing unit include field trips, retreats, and dinner with faculty.
The special perks of being a minority did not end in the dormitories. The Berkeley Student Life Advising Service offers academic guidance for underrepresented students. At Berkeley, underrepresentation is measured solely in terms of race, so a conservative student that is noticeably underrepresented in an overwhelmingly liberal campus need not apply. Meanwhile, minority students can turn to Summer Research Opportunities for Underserved Undergraduates for more academic resources
Continue reading Am I Diverse Enough Now?
Henry Lewis Gates, renowned Harvard professor of African-American Studies – which is to say, someone about as deep as can be gotten in the belly of the diversity-obsessed academic beast – said something quite remarkable the other day. Invited to address the graduates of Kentucky’s Berea College, founded in 1855 as the first integrated college in the South, from the speakers platform Gates trod very familiar territory. He lauded the benefits of affirmative action, and instructed the grads that it isn’t enough to “pay lip service” to diversity. But in an interview he gave an enterprising reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, things got interesting. Gates allowed that while he, the son of a janitor, had needed affirmative action to get ahead, his own privileged children did not; nor should they benefit from it. But poor white children should. “We need to get more black people into the middle class,” he concluded. “We need to get more white people into the middle class.”
One cannot help but wonder whether the learned professor realizes that such a position -support for economic affirmative action, but opposition to the kind based merely on skin color – is identical to that held by the nation’s leading crusader against racial preferences (and a man much detested by campus liberals and leftists), Ward Connerly. Indeed, in his successful fights on behalf of state initiatives to end race-based college admissions and government hiring in California, Washington and Michigan, Connerly has been bitterly denounced as a race traitor and worse for saying the very same thing; demanding, for instance, how affirmative action supporters can fail to see the elemental unfairness of a college admissions officer giving preference to the child of a black surgeon over the child of a white coal miner who would be the first in his family to go to college.
Continue reading Henry Lewis Gates: Ward Connerly’s Latest Supporter?