Volume III, Issue I Spring 2004

Academics and race fixation

It seems that more and more, we live in an age of irony. Great irony.

For instance, those who still believe in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of a color-blind society, one in which everyone is judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin are now to be branded as naïve at best. Perhaps closet racists.

Clearly, clinging to such wide-eyed notions of social justice make one suspect in the value system of modern academia.

Exhibit A: The campuses of the Claremont Colleges, tucked between Los Angeles and San Bernardino, are in an uproar over race. It began in the spring semester when a visiting professor claimed her car had been vandalized with racist slogans. College administrators shut down the campuses, students staged sit-ins and organized rallies and marches – all in the name of diversity.

Only it turns out that the professor vandalized her own car. Eyewitnesses reported seeing her slash her own tires, and she was unable to give a consistent account of the alleged crime to different police agencies.

After a week of self-righteously accusing their fellow students and the surrounding community of bald-faced racism, did the protestors apologize?

Well ... no.

In fact, a professor of history and black studies was fearful that if the allegations that his colleague trashed her own car prove true that "people will say 'see, they're blowing this all out of proportion. There are no real incidents of racism.'"

Exhibit B: Over at the University of California, trustee (and San Diego Padres owner John Moores) was censured by his fellow board members for daring to question the university system's commitment to ignoring race in admissions – as required by law.

To be sure, the trustees vote to censure was 8-6, hardly an overwhelming statement. And given that Moores was a major sponsor of a failed ballot measure to ban the government from asking people their race, it's fair to wonder if Moores (a major Democratic Party source of funds) wasn't being punished more for his maverick politics than for any real misbehavior.

Still, the UC system is in disarray, its future funding seriously jeopardized by the state's financial crisis – and the trustees choose to waste their time chastising a fellow board member for the diversity of his opinions?

Exhibit C: The Jazz Journalists Association was recently rocked by accusations from some black members that whites who write about jazz are engaged in some sort of moral high-handedness or are trying to control the history of jazz. The turmoil is roiling an organization that was founded to help promote a musical form created by black Americans – how a racial divide in the group is supposed to help the musicians or the music is a bit beyond this dues-paying member.

(Let it be noted that Turbula doesn't ask its writers what color they are. We care only if they can write with passion and knowledge.)

Finally, there was this gem in the news: California attorney Eva Paterson, reacting to a proposal to allow students at the University of California to choose "multi-racial" when asked for their race, apparently saw no irony in simultaneously describing herself as a "civil rights attorney" and arguing that a color-blind society is "not possible nor advisable."

Were Dr. King still with us and in need of legal counsel, one wonders just where he would turn to find a friendly ear.

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