Dartmouth is catering to, not ignoring, its black students

Joe Asch notes the difficulty that Dartmouth’s black students have had in citing grievances that would cause a rational person of good faith to become enraged. The complaints cited by Jennifer McGrew, for example, cannot rationally explain why angry black students would confront, curse at, and in some instances assault white students in Baker Library.

Even Randall Kennedy, an African-American law professor at Harvard whose academic work has often focused on race and who certainly is no conservative, has trouble making sense of black dissatisfaction on campus. He writes:

Racism and its kindred pathologies are already big foes; there is no sustained payoff in exaggerating their presence, thus making them more formidable than they actually are.

Disturbing, too, is a related tendency to indulge in self-diminishment by displaying an excessive vulnerability to perceived and actual slights and insults. Some activists seem to have learned that invoking the rhetoric of trauma is an effective way of hooking into the consciences of solicitous authorities. Perhaps it is useful for purposes of eliciting certain short-term gains.

In the long run, though, reformers harm themselves by nurturing an inflated sense of victimization.

The “solicitousness” of Dartmouth towards its black students is manifest from the extent to which its curriculum caters to them. The College’s African and African-American Studies Department offers, by my count, 52 different courses for the 2015-16 academic year, not including independent research and senior thesis offerings. Among the courses are (with apologies to spell check):

The Black Sporting Experience
Constructing Black Womanhood
Toni Morrison
History of Jazz to 1965
Postcolonial African Drama
Colonial and Postcolonial Masculinities
Religion and the Civil Rights Movement
Dave the Potter: Slavery Between Pots and Poems
Food and the African World
Affirmative Action in Brazil
Women and Gender in the African Diaspora
Prophetism in the Black World
The Harlem Renaissance

Something for everyone, it seems.

By way of comparison, how many American History courses (excluding those dealing with black history) is Dartmouth offering this academic year? I count 29, give or take one or two depending on how broadly one defines American history.

Finally, to make sure we are comparing apples to apples, how many of the 52 courses offered this academic year by the African and African-American Studies Department are specific to the United States? It looks to me like 17 are, with eight or nine of them devoted to black history, as opposed to literature, music, and the like.

Given the rather modest representation of blacks in the American population, it seems to me that, if anything, Dartmouth is paying a disproportionate amount of academic attention to African-American history. Similarly, I suspect that it is paying a disproportionate amount of attention to the whining of the College’s African-American students.

Doing so will only produce more grievances and, perversely, probably more anger.


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