Puzzled Penn Politics Professor

Adolph
Reed, who professes political science at Penn, has a
snarky
OpEd
in the New York Times
today, “The Puzzle of Black Republicans.” Professor Reed is puzzled
why any blacks would vote for Republicans, and why anyone thinks it’s
newsworthy that a “token” black has just been appointed to the Senate
from South Carolina, “the home to white supremacists like John C. Calhoun,
Preston S. Brooks, Ben Tillman and Strom Thurmond.” “The trope of the
black conservative,” he concludes, “has retained a man-bites-dog
newsworthiness that is long past its shelf life. Clichés about fallen barriers
are increasingly meaningless; symbols don’t make for coherent policies.”

In the
19th Century, of course, and well into the early career of Strom Thurmond white
supremacy was not limited to South Carolina, or even the South, but an
impartial observer (as opposed to a Penn professor of political science) might
think that Tim Scott’s defeating the sons of Strom Thurmond and former Gov.
Carroll Campbell in a Republican primary for what became his House seat was
indeed a sign of progress. Apparently Professor Reed, however, believes, that
any black who is not in lockstep with what Reed is pleased to call “black
interests” is, by his definition, not merely a token but a “cynical
token.” Thus Reed notes with evident scorn that “[a]ll four black
Republicans who have served in the House since the Reagan era — 
Gary
A. Franks
 in
Connecticut, 
J. C.
Watts Jr.
 in Oklahoma, Allen
B. West
 in Florida and Mr.
Scott — were elected from majority-white districts.”

Reed in
short places a political science veneer on the naked racialism recently on
display when ESPN’s Rob Parker (actually, ESPN’s former Rob Parker, since he
was fired over the comment) asked whether Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin
III is “a brother or a cornball brother?” Unfamiliar with the term,
Lee Habeeb looked it up on UrbanDictionary.com and found, among other definitions:

Cornball brother: An
African-American man who chooses not to follow the stereotype . . . life
choices include marrying white women, being a Republican, and not being ‘down
with the cause.’

Reed’s
piece contains predictable and expected bias, such as his unsupported reference
to the “thinly veiled racism of the Tea Party adherents.” (If it’s so
“thinly veiled,” why do commentators like Reed always fail to point
to evidence or at least examples?) And his piece is also occasionally
factually-challenged, as when he claims that one of the reasons “arch
conservative[s]” like Scott and Justice Clarence Thomas “are utterly
at odds with the preferences of most black Americans” is that they oppose
abortion. However, a
recent
survey
 by the Public
Religion Research Institute, which it
claims is “the most comprehensive public opinion
survey on abortion and religion among the two demographics and included more
than 800 interviews each with black Americans and with Hispanic Americans,
bolstered by focus groups,”
found that 51% of black Americans believe that
having an abortion is morally wrong” compared to 33% who say that
“abortion is morally acceptable .”

What is
more troubling than Reed’s politically correct bias and corresponding factual
looseness, however, is his relentless emphasis on “black interests”
and “black preferences,” measured, presumably exclusively, by black
partisan voting habits. Most Jews vote for Democrats; does that mean
conservative, Republican Jews are therefore somehow less authentically Jewish?

This
emphasis on a hard and fixed black identity rooted in, or at least revealed by,
partisan voting habits also has some troubling implications (as if more were
needed) for “diversity”-justified racial preference policies. For
example, a leading justification for needing a “critical mass” of
black students offered by the University of Michigan in Grutter — quoted
and accepted by Justice O’Connor in her
majority
opinion
 — is that “when
a critical mass of underrepresented minority students is present, racial
stereotypes lose their force because non-minority students learn there is no
‘minority viewpoint’ but rather a variety of viewpoints among minority
students.”

Penn,
like all elite universities, has striven to increase its numbers of black
students and faculty, but I’d be very surprised if their number includes many “tokens”
who added much “diversity” to Prof. Reed’s viewpoint, and I suspect
he would be, too. I’m not aware of any studies that attempt to demonstrate that
increasing the proportion of black students at highly selective schools from around
4%, a likely number in the absence of preferential admissions, to the
“critical mass” of (somehow consistently) around 10% typically
includes enough “tokens” or “cornball brothers [or
sisters]” who “are not down with the cause” to justify the
racial discrimination necessary to admit the” increased numbers necessary
for a “critical mass.”

In any
event, as Roger Clegg and I argued in Reason No. 8 of our
recent article in Academic Questions that discussed 10 reasons
why we are “Against ‘Diversity,'”

… [t]eaching this five-word
truth, “Blacks don’t all think alike,” can hardly justify institutionalized
racial discrimination. A law school might, instead, simply assign to its
students selected opinions from Justice Thurgood Marshall, on the one hand, and
Justice Clarence Thomas, on the other.

Or, at
Penn, a selection from the writings of Prof. Reed and another black professor
at Penn who disagrees with him on what constitutes “black interests,”
if one can be found.

John S. Rosenberg

John S. Rosenberg

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

2 thoughts on “Puzzled Penn Politics Professor

  1. It is very simple. Reed is an old fashioned racist, even though he himself is black. In his mind, Americans who have a non-white skin color can not think for themselves. They must blindly follow the democrats or be deemed a token.
    What a sad little man.

  2. I would say that Professor Reed’s op-ed is much worse than snarky. It is offensive, in that it implies that black people are incapable of understanding that the statist agenda of the Democrats is harmful to their interests (as well as to the interests of almost everyone else). Has Reed never encountered the work of black scholars who argue against the leviathan state — scholars such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams? Perhaps not. Leftist academics are notorious for the blinders they wear, reading only books and articles that reinforce their notions about the world.

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