Decline and Fall of Whiny Whitey

At the time I wrote my Whiny Whitey post, I was unaware that Naomi Schaefer Riley, or as I shall call her Little Miss Bigotpants, had already written a follow up that was even more ignorant and more characteristic of Whiny Whitey than her original post. And just one day after I wrote my totally mature and Safe For Work opinions on the intertubes, she got fired by CHE. Well, fuck. I feel dumb. I should have waited a bit. Ah, well, let’s take a look at these articles anyways.

First up, Little Miss Bigotpants’ follow up article, in which she makes excuses for the brain dead things she said in her earlier article.

I was never a big fan of the feminist mantra that the “personal is political.”

Hey, very first line and she’s taking a pointless swipe at feminists. What should you do when you’ve pissed off every race-conscious person on the earth? Make more enemies!

But the  corollary–that any political remark must be taken personally–seems in many ways even worse. My last blog post has earned me even more opprobrium than usual among the Brainstorm commenters, and it seems that they have decided to take as a personal attack something that is clearly not.

I didn’t take it as a personal attack. I just thought it was stupid. And ignorant. And racist. But I guess by making it personal you can make yourself out to be the victim. Ain’t that just like Whiny Whitey?

The comments regarding my post seem to boil down to the following:

I am picking on people because they are black (and I am a racist).
I am picking on people even though I don’t have a Ph.D.
I am picking on people who are too young and inexperienced to defend themselves.
I am picking on people even though I haven’t read their entire dissertations.

Alright, let’s take these one by one.

1.) Yes, you are racist.

2.) No, I don’t care if you have a Ph.D or not. Although I’m not at all astonished to learn that you lack it.

3.) No, anyone who says that is full of shit, just like you.

4.) YES YES YES YES YES. Jesus fucking Christ, how can you even type that without realizing, “Holy shit. I’m a complete asshole”?

My qualifications to post on this blog consist of the fact that I have been a journalist writing about higher education for close to 15 years now. My work has been published in every major newspaper in the country and I have written two books on the subject as well.

Glenn Beck has similar qualifications. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s batshit loco and a complete moron.

If the dissertations in question were written by white people, I’d call them irrelevant and partisan as well. Moreover, I have called other disciplines (having nothing to do with race) irrelevant and partisan.

It wasn’t the fact that you hated dissertations you haven’t read that makes you racist. It’s the fact that you can’t let black people talk about being black people without making it all about “white guilt”. That’s what’s so racist about you.

Unless The Chronicle features you in a piece, being a graduate student is just like being “invisible” (Ralph Ellison, please call your office).

You leave Ellison out of this, Little Miss Bigotpants. You clearly missed the point of Invisible Man.

 A word to the wise: If you’re trying to convince the wider world that black people in America are oppressed, I’d skip using the experience of black graduate students as an example.

Well, if you’re going to invoke Ralph Ellison and then attack black grad students, I have no choice but to quote Ralph Ellison. This is from “Twentieth Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity” (1953):

Perhaps the most insidious and least understood form of segregation is that of the word. And by this I mean the word in all its complex formulations, from the proverb to the novel and stage play, the word with all its subtle power to suggest and foreshadow overt action while magically disguising the moral consequences of that action and providing it with symbolic and psychological justification. For if the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison and destroy.

Obviously the experiences of Negroes–slavery, the grueling and continuing fight for full citizenship since Emancipation, the stigma of color, the enforced alienation which constantly knifes into our national identification with our county–have not been that of white Americans. And though as passionate believers in democracy Negroes identify themselves with the broader American ideals, their sense of reality springs, in part, from an American experience which most white men not only have not had, but one with which they are reluctant to identify themselves even when presented in forms of the imagination.

Something tells me that on the question of “Do we need more black scholars to bring racism to light?”, Mr. Ellison will not be on the same side as Whiny Whitey.

Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

Now this is some grade A hackery right here. This woman seriously thinks it’s unreasonable for us to expect her to read something before she comments on it. In fact, she thinks that we are being ignorant for expecting her not to be ignorant. How dare we suggest that she should do research on a thing before she writes about it!

But this is also the right wing in a fucking nutshell. Not only do they refuse to study the things they pontificate upon, they take offense at the suggestion that they should. This is Don McLeroy saying “someone’s gotta stand up to experts…” This is Cooper Lawrence attacking a video game she’s never played. This is nothing short of the insistence that stupidity is superior to intelligence, ignorance is better than knowledge, intellectual laziness is preferable to critical thought. The Republican party is positioning itself as the Pro-Stupid Party. And after openly admitting that she thinks she doesn’t have to read something before she attacks it, Whiny Whitey has the gall to say this:

Such is the state of academic research these days. The disciplines multiply. The publication topics become more and more irrelevant and partisan. No one reads them. And the people whom we expect to offer undergraduates a broad liberal-arts education (in return for billions of dollars from parents and taxpayers) never get trained to do so. Instead the ivory tower pushes them further and further into obscurity.

How do you know this if you’re not reading it? How the fuck can you claim to know the state of any type of research that you don’t read? The mind boggles. On the American Right, in 2012, it is apparently acceptable to say, “I don’t read it, because I know it doesn’t matter. And I know it doesn’t matter, because I don’t read it.” All hail idiocy.

Well, anyways, the CHE finally came to their senses and fired her ass. Cue the right wing outrage and victimization:

As a blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education Naomi Schaefer Riley is paid to write about what is going on in academia from her perspective. She was doing her job when Riley wrote about the failure of black studies at American universities, citing PhD dissertations as evidence of the weakness of the discipline .

The response to her post can be summed up as follows: She’s a racist and she should be fired.

Yeah, you kinda left out the part where she didn’t read the dissertations she cited. But I understand why you left it out. If you included it, that would make it harder to make her look like a victim, what with her being an obvious hack and all. The right wing needs a narrative, and silly things like facts won’t get in the way of that!

But personal attacks and false accusations of prejudice are the only things academics can offer in the face of legitimate criticism, it seems. Perhaps Riley should take it as a compliment that not a single one of her critics has managed to defend black studies or the dissertations the field produces on their own merits.

Maybe no one has defended the dissertations because they haven’t been completed or published yet. Yes, that’s right. The grad students that Riley attacked have responded, pointing out that the CHE article Riley was attacking was about research still in progress. So, again, let’s take a look at what constitutes “reasoning” for the American right: If a right wing hack attacks research she knows nothing about (while openly admitting she knows nothing about it), the “liberals” are at fault if they can’t defend research that hasn’t been published yet.

So what’s really going on here is that conservatives are inventing a fairy tale land in their heads, and then mocking “liberals” for not knowing what’s going on there.  Hahaha, stupid “liberals”, you don’t know what I made up in my tiny little brain right now. That makes you dumb. You’re dumb if you can’t read the minds of stupid people like me.

I put “liberals” in scare quotes because this isn’t really about conservative versus liberal (without quotes). There are legitimate arguments to be made on both sides (I side with the left, but I acknowledge that I might be wrong and conservatives might be right). This is about the hacks and nutjobs who have hijacked the American right and turned it into a fucking freak show. And when they say “liberal”, what they really mean is “smart, sane person”.

There’s a point to be made here, and it saddens me that it needs to be made: Stupid is not a point of view. Willful ignorance is not a virtue. “I don’t know, so I’m right” is not a political position. We need to have a mature discussion about race in this country, but we can’t so long as one side of the debate consists of people who refuse to admit racism exists because they pretend it doesn’t exist. We can’t have a productive discussion about race when one side insists that what goes on in the real world outside of their imagination doesn’t matter. We can’t talk about race when it’s considered acceptable to treat what white people imagine black people might say as if it were the same as what black people actually have to say.

And this all boils down to the point that I really want to make, and I absolutely fucking hate the fact that I apparently have to make it: What black people have to say matters. You can’t just fucking invent imaginary black people and expect that to pass as an adult debate on race. You have to read the actual writings of actual black people. If you refuse to do that, then your opinion on race in America is utterly irrelevant. And if you think that this puts an unreasonable burden on you, then you’re a stupid fucking racist.


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