Yes, Please Read Them, Asshole

by zunguzungu

Dunno if you’ve seen it and lucky for you if you haven’t, but a person named Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote a blogpost called “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and after people pointed out to her that her post was racist and stupid, she wrote a followup post entitled “Black Studies, Part 2: A Response to Critics.” which was infuriating enough that I broke down and actually wrote something in the comment thread, which you’re free to click through and read.

Before that, though, you should read this eloquent response from the graduate students whose work she attacked:

As graduate students in Northwestern University’s department of African-American studies, we were thrilled with the informative and important article by Stacey Patton forThe Chronicle of Higher Education that looked at the state of our discipline through the lens of an important academic conference bringing together the 11 African-American studies doctoral programs together for the first time.

So imagine our surprise when almost two weeks after The Chronicle’s original article appeared, The Chronicle’s Web site published a lazy and vitriolic hit piece by blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley that summarily dismisses our academic work while debasing us as something less than “legitimate scholars.” Riley then holds up our research as the reason African American Studies as a discipline should be “eliminated.”

Instead of taking her own advice given to her readers to “just read the dissertations,” Riley displays breathtaking arrogance and gutless anti-intellectualism by drawing such severe conclusions about our work and African-American studies as a whole based on four or five sentence synopses of our dissertation projects.  In fact, Riley has never read our dissertations, as they are in process.  Nor has she read a chapter or even an abstract of our work, but that does not stop her from a full throttle attack on our scholarship and credibility.

When Rick Santorum took his failed campaign for the Republican nomination for President to Iowa, he invoked blacks on welfare as a campaign issue—in a state where African-Americans make up only two percent of the population.  He said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”

When Newt Gingrich had trouble drumming up interest in his failed political campaign, he began referring to President Barack Obama as the “food stamp president” and then told the NAACP that he wanted to address their convention to counsel, “why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

One can only assume that in a bid to not be “out-niggered” by her right-wing cohort, Riley found some black women graduate students to beat up on.  Despite her attempts to silence us personally, and indeed the discipline as a whole, her exhortations confirm the need for the vigorous study and investigation of black life in the United States and beyond…

Good lord, yes.

Also, see: Black Scholarship Matters and On the inferiority of blackness as a subject.