John Mcwhorter

A Medal Not All Are Eligible for

LL Cool J was one of eight winners this year of the Hutchins Center’s W.E.B. Dubois Medal, Harvard University’s highest honor in the field of African and African America studies. It is awarded to individuals “in recognition of their contribution to African American culture and the life of the mind.” We notice that many expected […]

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Cognitive Dissonance and Historically Black Colleges

Should all-black colleges exist in 2010? No, some say. After all, it’s been almost fifty years since segregation was outlawed in America. And most Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are of also-ran status, doing their best, but hardly the bastions of excellence that so many were in the old days. Graduation rates are low […]

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What African-American Studies Could Be

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 […]

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What Black Studies Can Do

“If I couldn’t study something that’s about myself then I wouldn’t want to be here,” the black sophomore once told me, explaining how crucial to him it was to be able to major in African-American Studies. It always stuck with me. The African-American Studies department he was a major in was one of about 300 […]

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The Murder At Harvard

A few weeks ago a teenaged pot dealer was shot dead in a Harvard dormitory. That alone was depressing enough. However, Harvard suspects a black senior, Chanequa Campbell, of an association with the pot dealer — Justin Cosby, also black — and last week was barred from her dormitory and prevented from graduating. Campbell grew […]

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Stanford ’89, A Happier Takeover

By John McWhorter Debra Dickerson said of the Cornell students who took over Willard Straight Hall at Cornell in 1969, “What they actually wanted was beyond the white man’s power to bestow.” Even after they were granted a Black Studies department as they demanded, a core of black students remained infuriated at Cornell as still […]

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Probing The Black-White Achievement Gap

The Kellogg Foundation is funding a survey of four college campuses by Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and the Educational Testing Service to examine how students of color’s experiences on college campuses impact the notorious black-white achievement gap. Namely, it will examine how the students feel “welcome and unwelcome, respected and disrespected, supported and unsupported, […]

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A Look At Real Diversity

I have been teaching a class at Columbia on Western Civilization since September. The class is highly diverse. By that, I mean that among the 21 students there is an Orthodox Jew, a child of Russian immigrants, and a couple of Korean-Americans. Plus a Chinese-American. And one of them grew up in France; just why […]

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Diversity In Linguistics

Since the Supreme Court last week decided against Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky’s policies of assuring a certain degree of racial diversity in public schools, we have heard much about the undoing of Brown v. Board. However, I have a hard time mourning the decision, though the brute notion that we must ignore race to get […]

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