All posts filed under: BLM

The Battle for Moral Authority

When Amazon rejected my documentary What Killed Michael Brown? from its platform last October, I was stunned by the rejection letter’s finality. The film had failed to meet Amazon’s “content quality expectations,” was “not eligible for publishing,” and there could be no “resubmission of this title and this decision may not be appealed.” After rereading the letter several times, I was left with the eerie feeling that I had done something immoral for which I deserved to be ashamed. Fortunately the film was written, presented, and narrated by my father Shelby Steele whose years as an acclaimed author and op-ed writer for the Wall Street Journal had made him a public intellectual. When I told the writers at the Journal what had happened, they responded with several critical articles, and Amazon promptly reversed its decision and agreed to host my film on their platform, where it remains to this day. But the initial rejection still bothered me. Was this a form of political persecution? The title of the film is certainly provocative and it offers …

A Student Mob Took Over Bryn Mawr. The College Said Thank You

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality, while making it easier for them to part with them.      ~Vaclav Havel Last week marked the end of a chaotic semester at Bryn Mawr College, a small women’s liberal arts college located outside Philadelphia. During the final weeks, Bryn Mawr students, including my own child, scrambled to pick up the pieces following a student “strike” that exacerbated the serious preexisting disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For a period of three weeks, few regular classes were held, activities were suspended, and student life (such as it was) became marked by the same toxic spirit of racism that the strikers claimed to oppose. Bryn Mawr is affiliated with nearby Haverford College, whose parallel meltdown in November was documented recently by Quillette. These two selective and well-funded schools are part of a so-called Bi-Co arrangement, which allows students to participate in joint classes and activities. Both share a similarly progressive commitment to …

Race and Social Panic at Haverford: A Case Study in Educational Dysfunction

“You have continued to stand as an individual that seems to turn a blind eye to the stuff that’s going on, as a black woman that is in the [college] administration,” said the first-year Haverford College student. “I came to this institution”—and here she pauses for a moment, apparently fighting back tears—“I expected you, of any of us, to stand up and be the icon for black women on this campus… So, I’m not trying to hear anything that you have to say regarding that, due to the fact that you haven’t stood up for us—you never have, and I doubt that you ever will.” The school-wide November 5th Zoom call, a recording of which has been preserved, was hosted by Wendy Raymond, Haverford’s president. At the time, the elite Pennsylvania liberal arts college was a week into a student strike being staged, according to organizers, to protest “anti-blackness” and the “erasure of marginalized voices.” During the two-hour-and-nine-minute discussion, viewed in real time by many of the school’s 1,350 students, Raymond presented herself as solemnly …

Reinventing Racism—A Review

A review of Reinventing Racism by Jonathan D. Church. Rowman & Littlefield, 250 pages (December 2020) If the release of Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism launched her into orbit, this past summer’s “racial reckoning” has made her a star. The book has been on the New York Times best-sellers list for a staggering 116 weeks in a row (and counting), while DiAngelo has been busy hosting workshops at universities and fortune 500 companies at perversely exorbitant fees. She gave an address to 184 Democratic members of Congress in the summer, and even made an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It would be an understatement to say that her work has polarized opinion. In the introduction to White Fragility, Georgetown University professor and public intellectual Michael Eric Dyson called DiAngelo the “new racial sheriff in town.” On the other side of the debate, the linguist and writer John McWhorter has called the book a “racist tract” that treats black people like …

Robin DiAngelo’s Misreading of Michel Foucault

This article is lightly adapted from the author’s new book Reinventing Racism: Why ‘White Fragility’ Is the Wrong Way to Think about Racial Inequality published by Rowman and Littlefield. Robin DiAngelo’s academic papers have consistently shown a tendency for indoctrination over debate. This tendency reflects a distrust of objectivity that stems from the influence of philosophers such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.1 While this is not the place for a deep dive into philosophy, the basic idea for DiAngelo is that power and knowledge are so profoundly connected that it is virtually, if not entirely, impossible to make an objective claim about what we know, because knowledge is never neutral. This view conflates objectivity and neutrality. It is also wrong. In the 2012 book she co-authored with Özlem Sensoy entitled Is Everyone Really Equal?, DiAngelo invokes Foucault’s panopticon to illustrate how “[p]ower in the context of understanding social justice refers to the ideological, technical, and discursive elements by which those in authority impose their ideas and interests on everyone.” For example, she writes about …

Victimhood or Development?

On October 20th, Brown University professor of economics Glenn Loury and Columbia University professor of linguistics John McWhorter were joined on Loury’s Bloggingheads podcast The Glenn Show by Shelby and Eli Steele to discuss the new documentary What Killed Michael Brown? The film is written and narrated by Shelby, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and an award-winning writer, and directed by his son, Eli. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that discussion. LOURY: What Killed Michael Brown? has already produced a lot of controversy. I hear that Amazon was a little bit reluctant to let you guys put your film up at their streaming service. I don’t know what that’s about, but the reviews that I have read are very positive, including the review that I offered here with John in our last conversation. So where did the idea for making this film come from? S. STEELE: This film came from the realization that we had a body dead in the street. We felt the whole American racial situation was somehow concretized, …

Does Racism Explain Black Disadvantage?

A foundational tenet of the Black Lives Matter and similar racial justice movements is that gaps between blacks and whites on many socio-economic measures are produced primarily by racism. Racial inequalities in educational attainment, financial success, social status, crime, and health are thereby transformed from inequalities to racial inequities. That is, differences between races are not seen merely as a demographic fact but as an indictment of the fairness of our society. Each new inequality uncovered, from the unequal effects of COVID-19 to sentencing in the court system, is offered as evidence for the charge of systemic racism and injustice. The possibility that inequalities might be a result of black culture, historical circumstance, or heritability is dismissed a priori or even ruled out of bounds. For example, research into the genetic basis of racial IQ differences will not be awarded grants from government or foundations, which makes it very difficult to pursue. The only exception to the prohibition on research into the genetic basis for racial disparities is in the medical area, where genetic explanations …

America Has Serious Problems. It’s Time to Stop Blaming Them on ‘Trumpism’

Donald Trump may have been defeated in his quest for re-election. But not so the shadowy ideology he supposedly champions. “Even in defeat, the embers of Trumpism still burn in the Republican Party,” declares the Washington Post. “Trumpism wasn’t repudiated,” warns a New York Times columnist. “Trump may be on his way out—but Trumpism marches on,” proclaims the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. At the Guardian, it’s “Trump lives on.” At the Chicago Tribune, “Trumpism has been vindicated.” The Daily Beast ran a piece entitled “This Isn’t Enough—We Wanted a Repudiation of Trumpism,” and, to hammer home the point, added an unsettling graphics banner that reads, “Dark Victory.” And what is this “Trumpism” of which they speak? It’s hard to say, since Trump himself was always a recklessly unpredictable populist who changed tune unpredictably to suit his own ambitions and vanities. But in the way the term is used journalistically, “Trumpism” often serves as a stand-in for all that is malignant in the world—a sort of Voldemort-like spirit nourishing itself on unicorn blood within the souls of …

PODCAST 121: Jamil Jivani on the Inconvenient Truth About Donald Trump’s Non-White Supporters

While Trump’s hopes of a second Presidential term seem to be vanishing, his surprisingly strong showing among Black, Hispanic, Muslim, and Asian voters is challenging the progressive claim that Trump’s primary appeal is rooted in racism. Quillette’s Jonathan Kay discusses these surprising election results with author and journalist Jamil Jivani.

For Five Months, BLM Protestors Trashed America’s Cities. After the Election, Things May Only Get Worse

This week marks the first time in living memory that widespread violence was widely viewed as a foreseeable, and even expected, outcome of an American national election. The votes are being counted just days after riots broke out in Philadelphia, causing the governor to deploy the National Guard in the largest city of a key battleground state. Since June, in fact, such scenes have been a common phenomenon in dozens of American cities. The Transition Integrity Project (TIP), a group that has opposed Donald Trump, ran simulations that foresee disruptions caused by pro-Trump actors. “During TIP’s exercises, Team Biden almost always called for and relied on mass protests to demonstrate the public’s commitment to a ‘legitimate outcome,’ with the objective of hardening the resolve of Democratic elected officials,” the group (somewhat predictably) reported. On the other side of the spectrum, the Texas Public Policy Center (TPPC) and the Claremont Institute cast TIP’s prediction as a “candid admission of the high likelihood of Team Biden encouraging street demonstrations that might spiral out of control.” The Claremont-TPPC’s …