Racism and the PC Inquisition

Monday last week, The Chronicle of Higher Education announced that Naomi Schaefer Riley was fired from their blog "Brainstorm" for writing that black studies programs should be "eliminated" because they are "left-wing victimization claptrap."  The next day, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported that a staggering 54 classes were suspected of academic fraud at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Every single one of those 54 classes were within UNC's Department of African and Afro-American studies, according to a UNC investigation.  Is it pure coincidence that academic fraud found such a welcoming and statistically remarkable home in the black studies department?  Or is it predictable that the department with the most rigid PC orthodoxy created a cloister for academic fraud? 

The incessant pressure of political correctness is not just an academic matter.  Any standard of conduct, any law, any test is called racist if preferred groups on average can't meet the standard, follow the law, or obtain identical scores compared to non-minorities.  The result can only be described as a PC Inquisition, which gives rise to orthodoxy with real-world consequences.  In general, any discussion of pressing social problems is silenced if minority groups are described as responsible for their own actions and circumstances.

The current era of intellectual dishonesty and pathological guilt hustling began in earnest with the 1965 Moynihan Report.  Senator Moynihan was berated as a "racist" for suggesting that the weakening of the black family would lead to social chaos, even though he blamed family breakdown on joblessness and the lingering effects of slavery.  Today, William Julius Wilson, perhaps the most respected sociologist in America on questions of race and poverty, has repeatedly vindicated Moynihan's report, calling it "an important and prophetic document."  It took decades of tragedy and pious fraud for society to eventually face up to the costs of broken families.  Yet the PC Inquisition continues to distort our discussions of key issues like education and crime.

University of Pennsylvania researchers Erling Boe and Suie Shin stunningly concluded that a "major impediment to higher average achievement scores in the U.S. is the performance of its black and Hispanic students."  Boe and Shin note:

If these minority students were to perform at the same level as white students, the U.S. would lead all the other G7 nations (including Japan) in reading and would lead the Western G5 nations in mathematics and science, though it would still trail Japan in these subjects. [1]

 Yet the American educational "system" is constantly blamed for the underperformance of certain groups of students.  The "system" is also blamed for the false crisis of the "achievement gap" between minority and nonminority students.  PC bureaucrats are willing to sacrifice the interests of talented students in pursuit of social engineering projects.  The Washington Post reports that honors classes are being abolished from the curriculum in Fairfax, VA, and in many other schools around the country.  Schools generally have three tracks of courses: basic, honors, and advanced placement (AP).  Honors classes are being eliminated because "traditionally underrepresented minorities" are not taking enough AP courses.  The fact that many non-minority students benefited from and enjoyed the honors courses is beside the point in a PC regime.

The topic of race and crime is taboo, especially amongst those who consider themselves daring and broad-minded thinkers.  The trend of racial "flash mob" violence by black teens against "random" non-black victims has gone relatively unnoticed, when it should be a national scandal.  Several people have died in separate incidents of the "knock-out game".  As for crime rates overall, the picture is stark: the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control lists the homicide rate per 100,000 as 23.1 for blacks, 7.8 for Native Americans, 7.6 for Hispanics, 2.7 for whites, and 2.4 for Asians.  The reality of crime in America is that the white and Asian homicide rate is on par with Finland's.  The American black homicide rate is on par with those of Zambia and Rwanda (22.9 and 26.6 per 100,000, respectively).  Any discussion of "America's" supposedly violent culture that does not take race into account and disaggregate the statistics is terribly misleading.

America is not alone in suffering from the PC Inquisition.  England is in uproar as a gang was recently sentenced for operating a child rape ring.  As many as 50 girls were victimized, and some were just 13 years old.  One girl was reportedly raped 20 times in one night.  Police and social workers likely delayed the investigation because the suspects were all Muslim.  Every one of the victims was white.  Complaints to social workers and the police were initially ignored because they were "petrified of being called racist," according to former liberal Labour MP Ann Cryer.  "They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them."  Presiding Judge Gerald Clifton said to the convicted: "All of you treated [the victims] as though they were worthless and beyond respect[.] ... One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion."  It is being widely reported in the British press that the victims were "singled out" because they were "white, vulnerable and under-age."

What the British MP said of the British state and social workers is true of many in our own society as well.  Many would rather avoid being called racist than deal with issues in front of them, no matter what the cost or who is suffering.

In this intellectually stagnant milieu, we find a Northwestern black studies Ph.D. student claiming that Thomas Sowell, Justice Clarence Thomas, and John McWhorter are part of an "assault on the civil-rights legacy."  That slur passes without challenge by fawning liberal academics, yet Naomi Schaefer Riley is dismissed for condemning black studies.  Evidently, the left allows strong language so long as heretics are being scorned, but when the heretics speak, they had better watch their tongues.

Riley's piece appeared on April 30. On May 3, the Chronicle editor evidently didn't have a problem with Riley's piece: as Jonathan Last at Weekly Standard points out, The Chronicle originally invited their readers "to debate Riley's views, challenge her, set things straight as you see fit."  But by May 7, The Chronicle changed its approach and dismissed her.  What happened in those few short days?  A PC purge, undertaken with the zeal of the Inquisition.  Racism is the new heresy.  As with every observation about racial issues, Riley's remarks represented a heresy.  She failed to genuflect to groups that have been officially declared beyond criticism.  We are truly in a period where ideology and tribal loyalty have placed free inquiry on the defensive.

Political correctness is proselytized and defended by American liberals with a greater level of zealotry than that found in any form of mainstream Judeo-Christian religious belief.  There is no religious institution with the power to rival the combined Holy Office of the media, the academy, and the political soapbox.  The incantations of victimization and anti-white hostility echo from universities -- more so than from any other source.  It is commonplace to hear complaints about the ideological narrowness of universities.  But the problem is worse than many imagine: in the humanities and social sciences, the bias is so strong that even the New York Times has taken notice.

Since left-wing academics encourage drawing lessons from "anti-colonial struggles," universities should be equally open to scholarship drawing lessons from the experience of whites in South Africa or the former Rhodesia and applying those to our understanding of race relations in modern America.  There is a very specific reason why anti-colonial studies are encouraged and rewarded, while the latter is effectively prohibited.

Meanwhile, we are left with the awful spectacle of American college students finding solace within violent third-world revolutionary fantasies like Franz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth.

Whites have rightly come to see anti-white bias as a bigger problem than anti-black bias, according to interesting recent research by Harvard's Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers of Tufts University.  But the Inquisition continues; the left places no limit on the lies, excuses, white guilt, cultural degradation, and bad policy that flow from political correctness.  The only limit will come when people of all races confidently stand for colorblind justice and free inquiry.  That would mean that individuals and groups are respected -- or criticized -- based on the content of their character as it is revealed by their actions. 

John T. Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences '07; JD, Emory University School of Law '11) is a writer living in Atlanta, GA.  Comments, criticism, and news tips are welcome at jthomasbennett@gmail.com.

[1] Erling E. Boe and Sujie Shin. "Is the United States Really Losing the International Horse Race in Academic Achievement?" Phi Delta Kappan. Vol. 86, Issue 9. May 2005.

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com