The limits of Afrocentrism

The university’s decadent rituals of racial sin and expiation continue apace;  affirmative action hires and the ever-burgeoning student life bureaucracy make such self-engrossed wallowing intractable.  An “associate professor of philosophy” at Duquesne University, author of Black Bodies, Whites Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race, describes how he induces his white students, undoubtedly the most well-meaning, open-minded collection of human beings yet to walk the face of the earth, to own up to their racism:

My objective is not to nurture stultifying guilt in my white students, but to encourage them to listen carefully for racism in their inner voices, and to take note of how it affects their body postures and anxieties when around people of color. By publicly unveiling such realities about themselves, my white students pose aspects of their identities as problems to be challenged.

Like many such professorial scourges of whites, Professor George Yancy welcomes bouts of crying in his classroom, whether from the alleged victims or perpetrators of racism: 

An African-American student’s voice cracked as she explained to her white classmates that she was weary of their denials: “I’m tired of all of you saying that racism doesn’t exist anymore!”
There was an awkward silence as she began to cry. Some of her white peers looked away, some down to the floor. Others stared off, seemingly oblivious. I allowed the silence to linger, not wanting to detract from the intensity of the moment.
Afterward, many of the white students in that class began to listen with an attentiveness they had not shown before. Those who had seen themselves and the “postracial” world as colorblind were faced with an anomaly. Their classmate’s plea challenged their idea of themselves as “good whites,” forcing them to consider whether they had failed to take racism seriously.


Meanwhile, while such volleys of ignorant narcissism qualify as a university philosophy course, the greatest remaining font of racism in American society goes ignored in the academy:

[The owner and customers of a West African café in the South Bronx] have been taunted, . . . and [the] restaurant’s window urinated on. Someone tried to break into a diner’s car. Then there is the bullet hole in the front window, a mark from a gunshot through the window late one night last summer.
“Those people, they don’t respect African people,” said Mr. Barrie, a Sierra Leone native who settled in the United States in 1998. “I pay my bills, I pay my taxes, they still …” He trailed off.

The perpetrators of this hate campaign?  African-Americans, of course

“There’s a lot of tension,” [an assault victim] said. “Just yesterday, someone said, ‘What would you think if I came to Africa and tried to take your property?’ I told him, ‘Brother, I’m not taking anything from you. I’m just trying to live my life.’ ”
Zain Abdullah, an assistant professor of religion, race and ethnicity at Temple University in Philadelphia, says it is common for African immigrants to suffer harassment when they settle in traditionally black neighborhoods in big cities, like Detroit, New York and Philadelphia.
“Many African-Americans feel that the influx of Africans coming in represents a kind of invasion,” he said.

I witnessed this black-on-black animus myself in Cincinnati in 2001, at a time when the city was the target of a vigorous media campaign portraying it as a bastion of white racism.  African cab drivers told me that the only racism they experienced in Cincinnati came from black Americans, who resented their work ethic. 

As for black racism towards whites, it is so ubiquitous that even Barack Obama couldn’t help documenting its presence among Chicago church leaders in his “autobiography.”  

Chicago’s inner city still seethes with such anti-white hatred.  Yet that’s not what the chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis had in mind last week when he denounced a Chicago bar for its alleged racism.  The bar had prevented black students clad in gangland baggy pants and reverse baseball caps from entering.  Other blacks had no problems gaining admission and the manager was about to let in the teens in baggies until they crowded him and started shouting at him.  The incident “reveals that we still have much to do to overcome racism in our country,” intoned Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton.  For the last two months, the Chicago papers have been daily documenting gang murders and assaults, a problem perceived as severe enough to require a delegation from the White House.  The hapless bar employees offered “a sheaf of Chicago police gang intelligence reports” and evidence of nearby gang activity in their defense, to no avail.    The incident will undoubtedly be eagerly taught at Washington University and the University of Chicago as more proof of the insurmountable wall of prejudice facing blacks today.

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11 Responses to The limits of Afrocentrism

  1. mnuez says:

    I, for one, have ceased apologizing and qualifying. Racism claims are ridiculous hogwash and the mouths that quiver them should be shouted and mocked into stone silence. The culture war can only be won once it’s waged and waged it needs to be.

    To date, those gently critiquing the outer fringes of African violence and its defenders have done so primarily in fatalistic tones that were meant as nothing but therapy to people of already similar bent. I’m ending that. I’m speaking to the people of this country in their entirety and curtailing any racial-accusation nonsense as but the first step towards dealing with the far more serious issue of the high degree of violence among young men of African and Mexican descent.

    None of this is to say that I’m advocating any drastic policies such as deportation or anything similarly draconian. In fact I’d advocate light SOCIALISM such that there will be less of a wealth gap between the innately more and the innately less capitalistically able. My crossed fingered hope is that this might do something to lessen violence in this country and generally increase the happiness of my fellow citizens. But whether it does or it doesn’t, I’m shouting in the ears of all of my countrymen that there are important truths to be told regarding the Blacks and there place in this country, namely that the primary cause of their lesser wealth is a result of natural selection and not racism and that anyone who dares to engage in even the slightest whimper of a witch hunt for “racists” is an enemy not only of his direct victims but of all men for he perpetrates and perpetuates a lie that emboldens those who have lately engaged in horrific levels of vilence and thus ensures that torturious muggings, rapes and murders will continue to plague my family and yours in the future.

    Shut the mouths of the racist baiters.

  2. Asher says:

    I’ve taken to denying that there is any such thing as racism. And why should there be any such admission, such any phenomenon can be reduced to more simpler causes. Southern segregation? Just an attempt to keep black men from having sex with white women, to keep black men from sexually competing with white men for white women. But since sexual competition occurs within ethnic groups, it is adding an unnecessary variable when you include race. Sexual competition is sexual competition and race is superfluous because everything has already been reduced to one variable. BTW, any example of “racism” can be defused by this simple rhetorical trick.

    Ah, the joys of reductionism.

    “Racism” is a product of a melding of Freudian psychoanalysis, Marxian class-analysis and Christian moral metaphysics, although some would say the second was the inevitable product of the third. It’s an emotional sleigh-of-hand that plays on the emotional concerns for the “less fortunate”, and combines that with a devious rhetorical flourish regarding who we should consider “less fortunate”. In reality, once you jettison concern for the less fortunate as the primary guiding moral principle the entire edifice falls on its face.

  3. Asher says:

    The only response to the “structural racism” trope is to retort that “well, if that’s racism then I don’t give a rat’s ass about racism”. Who knew that “Who cares?” would become a perfectly good intellectual response in a supposedly serious setting, like a university.

  4. Cass Rice says:

    I think that most people don’t care much about skin color. What they care about is behavior, and black ‘culture’ in many ways is very negative. Couple that with the alarming crime statistics of blacks and hispanics, and it’s lunacy to suggest that those factors are not going to influence the ‘comfort factor’ of whites among minorities.

  5. Clark says:

    I’ve seen too much overt racism to think it isn’t there. And one thing to keep in mind is that even if it’s only 2-5% of people doing it, that means the average African American will encounter a lot of it during the year even if it makes up only a “fringe” group of whites.

    That said I’ve also seen the tensions between Africans and African Americans. (And that very dichotomy is why I hate the term “African America” which seems more suited to Africans of recent immigration than those whose ancestors primarily came over more than a hundred or more years ago) I do see many whites being more accepting of African immigrants than African Americans with a particular dress or accent. While some of this can be said to be a critique of culture, some is just unnoticed racism. And even the appeal to culture often is unfair. There’s a lot about African American culture I dislike. (The tendency among much of it to excuse blatant misogyny for one) But then there’s a lot among rural white southern culture I dislike and much among traditional cosmopolitan suburbian culture. Just because there are things in a culture you dislike is no excuse to prejudge all members of a group.

    That said, if you want to be respected, dressing and acting like a criminal is not the way to make friends.

  6. F. Le Mur says:

    “I’ve seen too much overt racism to think it isn’t there.”

    One can’t avoid it.

  7. Asher says:


    You’ve yet to establish that there is any such mind-independent “thing” as “racism”.

  8. Michael says:

    I am a philosophy instructor at a top 50 university, and i am somewhat concerned with the implications about the academy you leave to your readers. Yancy seems to be, judging just by this article, a rather crappy, narcissistic teacher, but he is an extreme outlier, in philosophy at least. Of the many thousands of philosophy classes taught each day, the vast, vast majority are focused upon well-defined and rigorous problems in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and so on. In general, this seems to be the case: University administrators spout out a lot of nonsense about diversity and sensitivity to non-academic audiences, but this only very rarely reflects anything that’s actually going on in the classrooms. So maybe you’re right about the ‘real’ racism, but your post suggests some connection between our purported blindness to this and what’s going on in the academy–in fact, there’s basically no connection whatsoever.

  9. Kevembuangga says:

    Here is a potentially devastating case against multiculturalism that will be deliberately ignored.
    Look in the PDF at the chapter about “Fairness and Cooperation in Economic Decision Making”…
    Primitive cultures are better “rational economic players”, purely self-interested. 😀

  10. Caledonian says:

    Of the many thousands of philosophy classes taught each day, the vast, vast majority are focused upon well-defined and rigorous problems in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and so on.

    A well-defined problem within an incoherent and poorly-defined subject is nonsense.

  11. Michael says:


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