Occasionally, the racial victimology and extortion complex provides some entertaining and pleasant justice. The accusation that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger is insufficiently committed to diversity, and, by implication, is racist, is one of those moments.
The departure of two black administrators from Columbia has provoked the racism insinuations from two black Columbia professors. Delightfully, the New York Times saw fit to amplify their charges in a long, vacuous story on the front page of its New York section. Frederick Harris, the director of Columbia’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies, opined:
the departures “have shaken my confidence — as well as the confidence of many others at Columbia — in the ability of Columbia to maintain diverse leadership at the top.”
June Cross, an associate professor at the university’s Graduate School of Journalism, told the Times:
“I’m not saying race is the issue, but it is the subtext.”
Ungrounded innuendo doesn’t get any more devious than that. What does it mean for race to be a “subtext” but not an “issue”? This gem of obscurantism comes from a journalism professor, someone supposedly able to teach students how to write clearly.
Neither of the two departed administrators, Michele Moody-Adams and Claude Steele, are themselves charging racism—at least yet. Of course, Steele is exquisitely careful to preserve the legitimacy of all such racial accusations as a general matter:
the questions about racial implications, he said, were a “rational reaction.”
Really? “Rational” to cry racism without the slightest evidence of racial animus? And yet even Steele denies that in this case, his “identity” had anything to do with his departure.
Doesn’t matter. The racism charge is always available whenever anything happens to someone self-identified as black—even if that something consists of, in Steele’s case, magnanimously accepting what is undoubtedly a massively inflated salary at a rival prestigious institution (here, as the new dean of Stanford’s School of Education).
Fortunately, the present knee-jerk charge of racism couldn’t have happened to a more deserving victim. Columbia President Bollinger has crusaded for the need of universities to retain a robust system of racial preferences to combat the circumambient racism in our society, taking his defense of preferences at the University of Michigan law school and undergraduate college all the way up to the Supreme Court (he won an affirmation of those law school preferences in Grutter v. Bollinger, while losing on the undergraduate case in Gratz v. Bollinger). Moreover, Columbia has the largest percentage of black freshmen—almost 15 percent–of any of the top 30 universities (wonder how that happened?), reports the Times, and the second highest percentage of black faculty. And of course, Columbia has a robust diversity bureaucracy, including a “vice provost for diversity.”
Doesn’t matter. All a race-monger need do is to point to the lack of proportional representation of blacks in an institution (unavoidable in any organization with some semblance of academic qualifications, given the academic skills gap) and the racism case is made. The Times dutifully presents the allegedly damning statistics served up by June Cross, which are the sum total of racism evidence against Bollinger and Columbia included in the entire Times article:
At the Graduate School of Journalism, Ms. Cross said she was the only black woman with tenure, and one of three black people over all out of the more than 40 faculty members.
Let’s see: a 7.5 percent black representation on the journalism faculty—in a country with a 12 percent black population, much of whom lack advanced linguistic skills. That’s prima facie evidence of racism? Given the exhausting efforts made by every media outlet to find black anchormen, reporters, and editors, it could be that in fact 7.5 percent of all media professionals are black, but it is unlikely that black representation in the media is so much higher than that as to suggest that Columbia is discriminating against qualified black applicants (a hypothesis that is of course preposterous on its face, since the reality in every college today is precisely the opposite: there is not a single collegethat is not tying itself into knots trying to come up with any justification for bringing more blacks into the student body and faculty).
The fanatically multicultural, “anti-racist” Columbia Teachers College found itself in Bollinger’s position in 2008 when a black professor accused the college of “institutional racism.” In every such instance of delicious table-turning, when individuals or institutions who have made a career out of denouncing alleged bias in other institutions are themselves accused of racism, one always wonders whether the falsely accused victim has a little a-ha! moment, in which he entertains the thought: “Maybe the other entities that I have accused of racism throughout my career were just as innocent and well-intentioned as I am. Maybe this racism business has gotten out of hand—in fact, maybe it’s a racket.” Or does the self-consciously anti-racist victim of a false racism charge simply segregate off his current experience from what he knows to be the case in the rest of the world: That when other employers are accused of racism, it must be true, because we live in a racist world. It’s only in this one case where the complex has gotten out of hand.
It would be nice to know what’s going through Bollinger’s head at the moment: A sense of betrayal? Offended righteousness? Penitence? But whatever his state of mind, it’s sadly unlikely that he will reevaluate his understanding of the world. There is too much self-love involved in being an anti-racism crusader.