Tag Archives: The Chronicle of Higher Education

Table For Two: T.F. Charlton and Tressie McMillan Cottom On The Aftermath Of The CHE Fiasco

T.F. Charlton: With the NSR debacle I’ve been thinking about the over-scrutiny of Black Studies and black scholars (and black people in general). It seems to me that in public and scholarly discourse we’re always on the defense, while by comparison whiteness is under-examined both in the public sphere and in academic circles. What are your thoughts on that?

Tressie McMillan Cottom: To the binary of offense-defense might I also add the third, implicit position: taken-for-grantedness. The idea that there is some knowledge whose superiority is assumed and, thus, is never engaged in playing either defense or offense is particularly interesting to me. In this way, Black Studies shares a similar subordinate position with many other disciplines (liberal arts, Ethnic Studies, language studies, etc.).

Charlton: I’ve also been thinking about who has access to important platforms like CHE and how they use them, who’s visible and has the weight and credibility of established media outlets behind them (like NSR taking her crocodile tears to Fox and WSJ, e.g.).

McMillan Cottom: This is what I really want to explore. It’s what I try to get at in my latest (and last!) post on the whole situation. I will add that I think the current decline of traditional media offers a narrow, but nonetheless present, opportunity to reconfigure the distribution hierarchy.

Also interesting: the way the framing of the story became about one white woman’s aggrieved feelings. I’m not sure if that is a function of modern media essentially cutting and pasting every previous story and calling it “news” or if it’s the phenomenon bell hooks and others term “white woman victimhood.” It’s likely both. And, again, those with different opinions have no recourse in reshaping the narrative.

Continue reading

On The CHE‘s Reinforcement Of Suspicion Of Black Academia

By Guest Contributor T.F. Charlton

Courtesy The Atlantic Wire

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, La TaSha B. Levy, and Ruth Hays: they’re the doctoral students Naomi Schaefer Riley smeared–in unprecedented fashion–as inadequate, irrelevant scholars, in The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) based on nothing more than their race and field. But media coverage of the controversy has barely noted their names or their response to Riley; even black commentators have framed Riley’s comments as solely an attack on Black Studies.

Riley’s argument was not only aggressively ignorant and racially aggrieved; it has a clear racist pedigree. Mockery of PoC scholars and ethnic studies is hardly new–as Riley herself is aware–and somehow thinks justifies her piece (“The content of my post, after all, is hardly shocking; the same thing could have been written 30 years ago”–not the defense she thinks!). Suggesting that PoC should debate our lives and our scholarship with white people who are ignorant and resentful of our very existence isn’t just white privilege–it’s white supremacy.

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that this debacle, and the media response to it, tell a story about the subtle ways in which white supremacy remains deeply embedded in our culture–in the media, in academia, and in our “national conversation” about race and racism in general. Four ways this story is about white supremacy:

1. The coverage of the controversy has centered Riley and erased the black women she attacked.

Instead of focusing on the people Riley bullied, the media has allowed her to paint herself as a victim of perfectly reasonable consequences of her own unprovoked attack and distract from the real issues by claiming she would make the same attacks on old white men doing Black Studies. Influential conservative writers have rallied to Riley’s defense. There’s been a similar lack of concern about “intellectual freedom” for the fields Riley believes shouldn’t exist, notwithstanding that ethnic studies are under very real attack right now by white legislators abusing their power to encode racial fears and resentments into law.

Taylor, Levy, and Hays don’t have the media contacts or influence Riley has. They’ve been forced to defend their work against attack rather than making a positive case for it on its own terms. Anyone would be angry and humiliated to suddenly find themselves the subjects of a hostile conversation framed to be of little relevance or benefit to them, their work, or their field.
Continue reading

The Inferiority Of Blackness As A Subject

By Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom, cross-posted from Tressie MC

I am writing this very quickly while on the side of Interstate 20. I am also struggling mightily to not use my colorful repertoire of insanely rhythmic and appropriate curse words. Thank me later.

Today The Chronicle of Higher Education published a blog entry from Naomi Schaefer Riley entitled “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.” I refuse to link. They do not deserve the traffic. Google it or take my word for it.

Continue reading