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.