Monday, October 17, 2005

Diversity Ingrates

From Inside Higher Ed:

. . . an article on a book titled Exposing the “Culture of Arrogance” in the Academy: A Blueprint for Increasing Black Faculty Satisfaction in Higher Education.
The book is based on surveys of and interviews with black faculty members and the experiences of the two authors: Gail L. Thompson, an associate professor of education at Claremont Graduate University, and Angela C. Louque, a professor of education at California State University at San Bernardino.
Inside Higher Ed goes on to interview Thompson:
Q: Can you define the “culture of arrogance” in the title of your book?

A: In the book, we describe the “culture of arrogance” as a mindset that is based on four beliefs: (1) whites are smarter than blacks; (2) blacks do not have the aptitude to do outstanding work; (3) whites know what’s best for black students; and (4) the research of black scholars is inferior to the work of whites. As we state in the book, this mindset, which “is based on negative beliefs that equate African Americans and black culture with pathology and inferiority is rooted in racism and deficit theories,” has “created a culture of arrogance in American society, especially among educators.”


Q: How pervasive is racism in academe today?

A: Eighty-four percent of the questionnaire respondents in our study said that cultural insensitivity is common at their institution and 84 percent said that racism is common. Seventy percent had experienced racism from one or more colleagues, 51 percent had experienced racism from an immediate supervisor, 57 percent had experienced racism from other administrators on campus, and 74 percent had experienced it from students. Nearly 70 percent said the racial climate at work affected their job satisfaction, and nearly 70 percent said it had caused stress for them.
Given that college faculty members are overwhelmingly liberal, voted for John Kerry and (in most institutions) a majority probably favor affirmative action quotas and preferences, why are they being described as Klansmen or some such?

Indeed, many (if not most) of black faculty in the survey were the beneficiaries of affirmative action preferences. Why aren’t they grateful to their white liberal and leftist patrons?

We, of course, have several theories about this.

1. Maybe they don’t know how their own rhetoric plays to people who aren’t politically correct — which includes most students and a considerable number of faculty. For example, what about “negative beliefs that equate African Americans and black culture with pathology?” In reality, your standard victim studies course in academia (of the sort that Education majors at Marquette have to take) equates black people with pathology. Of course, one is supposed to take a liberal view of the pathology. One is supposed to infer from the large number of black males in prison that the criminal justice system is racist. One is supposed to infer from the large number of black students who drop out of high school that we need to pour more billions of dollars into the system of public education. One is supposed to infer from the amount of black poverty that there need to be more affirmative action preferences.

But students and some faculty may not draw the desired inferences. They may accept the equation of blackness with pathology, but not see that as requiring the standard liberal policy agenda. If this is so, what we have here is black faculty — hired by liberal and leftist whites precisely to talk about pathology in the black community — facing the fact that the indoctrination doesn’t work the way they (or their white patrons) would prefer.

2. Next we have the “grievance collectors” theory. Perhaps blacks in academia are socialized to be grievance collectors, keen to find examples of racism, discrimination or even mere “insensitivity.” They are supposed to be finding these things in white society at large, in the media and among their students (especially Republican students). But perhaps they can’t switch grievance collection mode off. Perhaps they turn it on their white liberal and leftist colleagues, and the administrations of the universities where they work.

There is, of course, poetic justice here, since it’s white professors who played a large part in socializing black faculty to be grievance collectors, and who created the demand for grievance collectors in places like “diversity” courses.

3. Finally, we have the possibility that black faculty really are being treated shabbily. Consider, for example, the claim that white faculty believe that “blacks do not have the aptitude to do outstanding work,” or “the research of black scholars is inferior to the work of whites.” When black faculty have been hired on the basis of affirmative action preferences, and hired not because they are doing cutting edge research but to teach victim studies courses or add “diversity” to the faculty, it’s all too easy for other professors to be condescending, good intentions notwithstanding.

Are black faculty victims here? Yes, but several layers of ideology prevent many (and maybe most) understanding the real nature of the victimization. And their willingness to play the race card when convenient leaves us without much sympathy.


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