Saturday, February 21, 2009

Black studies programs create a White frenzy

I read this story in the Houston Chronicle because I was interested in the topic.

The article was short and didn't offer much for me. Instead, what was more interesting was that it had received 193 comments, the very first one being,

"African American Studies" ???? Are there any "Irish American Studies"???? How about some "Italian American Studies" ???? Courses like this tend to exacerbate racial problems, not help. They tend to promote and perpetuate racial strife. Just read the first few comments and see if you agree.
So, I kept reading. (sigh) Same old stuff.

I guess the internet allows people to say directly and overtly what they think without the concern of looking someone in the eye and speaking to their face. I'm guessing the people who say these things probably don't know any Black people well enough to have the conversation with them anway. In a way, the internet is a good tool for this. Since we are a pretty segregated society, this allows Black people (if they even care to read this stuff) to affirm what they've always known existed (i.e. underlying racism, hatred, and scorn) and possibly even respond.

I don't get it, though.

Why is there so much pent up agression and anger about something as harmless as an African-American studies program? After I had written this blog, I came across another professor who shares my sentiment in his article, When are WE going to get over it?

I don't have a problem with an Irish-American studies program. Evidently, neither does Bridgewater University or New York University. Obviously the commenter and others I've heard with this same type of argument don't bother looking to see there are Irish American and Italian-American studies programs just like there are African American studies programs. Stony Brook University, Queens College, and others offer Italian-American studies. So yes, there are other cultural groups being studied in universities. Most reflect the region where they are located.

Even if there weren't Irish and Italian programs, why do White people get so bent out of shape when things like this come up? How many of these peanut gallery commenters are enrolling in the Irish American and Italian American programs? And why do they immediately begin talking about how if they had segregated themselves like that, they'd have been called racists?

The bottom line is if we incorporated other culture groups into our regular, on-going curriculum for *all* students throughout elementary, middle, and high school, we wouldn't need a program dedicated to the study of a specific cultural group to find out what the people from that group contributed.

And if we truly don't care what those other cultural groups did or didn't contribute, why are we so concerned and why do we raise such a fuss? Are we afraid that we might find out someone other than White people *did* contribute something?
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