After dismissal as a contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm blog, author Naomi Schaefer Riley on Tuesday defended her controversial April 30 post, “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations”, in The Wall Street Journal. In “The Academic Mob Rules,” Riley criticized the Chronicle for reversing course on its initial defense of her blog post and subsequently dismissing her.
Eliciting an outcry from readers, the April 30 post characterized “dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black studies graduate student” as “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap.” The post led to more than 6,500 people signing on to an online petition seeking Riley’s ouster from the Chronicle.
While accusing the Chronicle of subjecting her post to arbitrary standards, Riley expressed frustration with critics, charging that the climate of American higher education is inhospitable to the critique of academic content.
The following is from Riley’s Wall Street Journal opinion article:
My critics have suggested that I do not believe the Black experience in America is worthy of study. That is not true. It’s just that the best of this work rarely comes out of Black studies departments. Scholars like Roland Fryer in Harvard’s economics department have done pathbreaking research on the causes of economic disparities between blacks and whites. And Eugene Genovese’s work on slavery and the role of religion in black American history retains its seminal role in the field decades after its publication.
But a substantive critique about the content of academic disciplines is simply impossible in the closed bubble of higher education. If you want to know why almost all of the responses to my original post consist of personal attacks on me, along with irrelevant mentions of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and George Zimmerman, it is because Black studies is a cause, not a course of study. By doubting the academic worthiness of Black studies, my critics conclude, I am opposed to racial justice—and therefore a racist.
The entire article can be read here.