Commenter Calls Me ‘A Dangerous Presence in the Political Discourse’

by Christopher Paslay

Instead of addressing my arguments, “social justice advocates” attempt to bully me out of the debate. 

Several days ago I posted a blog headlined “Inventing Racism in America’s Public Schools” which explored the notion that there are folks, mainly on the political left, who exploit race and racism in education for their own benefit; the Philadelphia Public School Notebook went on to link the piece in their January 23rd “Notes from the News.”  The blog also talked about the existence of racism in public schools, data on achievement and discipline, and linked no less than 17 sources as evidence—a book on racism, a speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, five education policy reports by Princeton’s Educational Testing Service (ETS) that spanned 25 years of American public education, an interview with a NYT bestselling author on racism, eight newspaper articles, and two public school related websites.

My conclusion was that although episodic racism still exists in isolated cases in classrooms, systematic racism is dying and other causes of the racial achievement gap—such as culture and home environment—should be explored.

Geoffrey Winikur, a White Philadelphia public school teacher, social justice advocate and facilitator for the Philadelphia Writing Project, publicly commented on my blog that I was “a dangerous presence in the political discourse” and claimed I made my arguments “without offering a shred of evidence.”  I guess 17 sources, including five from ETS covering 25 years of public education, isn’t “evidence.”  Winikur also said, “I love it every time you write a new article, because I know I’m in for a good laugh.”  Yes, a highly intellectual response to my arguments indeed.

This, of course, is nothing short of bullying—the kind of thing that happened to Samantha Pawlucy at Carroll High School last fall, the young lady who was asked to remove her Mitt Romney T-shirt by none other than her own geometry teacher because, allegedly, the teacher claimed “this is a Democratic school.”

Ben Shapiro analyzes this topic in his recently released New York Times bestselling book Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.  In his introduction he highlights how on March 10, 2011, President Barack Obama led a White House conference on the crisis of bullying:

The strategy here was simple. Obama and his friends in the media and on the organized left picked the one thing all Americans can agree on: bullying. They strategically placed President Obama at the head of the anti-bullying cause. Then came the brilliant gambit: they appropriated bullying to apply only to anything remotely conservative.

The Tea Party? A bunch of bullies. Religious people? Bullies. Global warming unbelievers, defense hawks, venture capitalists, fans of voter identification or traditional marriage, opponents of affirmative action, right-to-work advocates, supporters of Israel, haters of Glee? Bullies. Those who dislike President Obama? They were the biggest bullies of all. Liberalism and anti-bullying, it turned out, were—miracle of miracles!—one and the same.

Their twisted logic was deceptively easy. Liberals claim that they are all about protecting victim classes from bullies. Conservatives oppose liberals. Therefore, by definition, conservatives must be bullies. And bullies must be stopped.

The irony here is that the true bullies are the ones who callously attack those who disagree with their worldview, like Winikur’s statement that I’m “a dangerous presence in the political discourse.”

I’m not sure why fighting for colorblindness in society—judging people by their core values and not their skin color—is dangerous.  I’m not sure why treating minorities as equals and not as enslaved and oppressed is so worrisome.  I’m not sure why teaching young people that they are the captain of their own ship and not the victim of a corrupt system is a cause for alarm.  Or why the notion that there exist universal human values that transcend race, gender, sexuality and culture—values such as honesty, respect, integrity, loyalty, and hard work—is “Eurocentric.”

The lack of manners from disapproving social justice advocates didn’t stop with Winikur.  Another commenter wrote, “You’re doing what’s called ‘blaming the victim’ and it’s lame.”  The irony of this statement is that the issue of “blaming the victim” was addressed in the video interview I included with my blog post by NYT bestselling author of The End of Racism Dinesh D’Souza.  Interestingly, neither Winikur nor any of the other commenters took the time to click on the link and watch the video (one did, however, reference an article in The Daily Beast that smeared D’Souza because he had the audacity to respectfully challenge President Obama’s policies in a recent documentary titled “Obama’s America: 2016”).

Since none of the commenters took the time to even listen to what D’Souza had to say before smearing him, I’ll include his quote about “blaming the victim”:

“For a generation, people have said you cannot point at these problems because to do so is blaming the victim.  When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his report on the Black family in the sixties, the illegitimacy rate for Blacks was 25 percent.  He said it was a national tragedy and people said ‘you’re a racist, stop talking about it.’  And he did.  He hasn’t said a word about it since, and the illegitimacy rate for Blacks today is close to 70 percent.   So when these problems are ignored, they metastasize and become far worse . . .”

Another objection made by Geoffrey Winikur (the White uber-liberal teacher who publicly commented that I was a dangerous presence in the political discourse) was one of cultural relativism, that my idea of “colorblindness” was really an effort to push America back to a Eurocentric state.  This was not only a humongous misinterpretation of what I argued constituted colorblindness (I don’t know how judging a person by their actions and values instead of their skin color is “Eurocentric”), but Winikur didn’t bother to click on the link to the D’Souza interview either, which already addressed this objection.  To quote D’Souza:

“That’s the legacy of cultural relativism . . . which says in effect that all cultures are equal and no culture can judge another by its own standards, and cultures should not impose values on each other.  I argue that this relativism played an important historic role . . . relativism was a way to undermine the old racism, which was based on a hierarchy . . . but it’s created a new problem.”

The new “problem” D’Souza explores is one of the functionality of culture, and how relativism has come to hide the dysfunction of some cultures.  Although it may be argued that no one culture is inherently better than another and that one culture cannot judge another by its own standards, things such as quality of life and manageability of life do exist.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that certain cultures in America as a whole have a better quality of life and have lives that are more manageable and functional than other cultures.  The racial achievement gap is one example.  The wealth gap is another.  So are homicide rates within cultures.  So are incarceration rates.  Out-of-wedlock birth rates, quality of nutrition, literacy rates, dropout rates, and the rates of college graduation are still other examples.  (To read the ETS reports on this click here, here, here, and here).

To suggest that all cultures are equal in terms of quality and manageability of life is ridiculous.  To suggest that the differences in quality and manageability of life among cultures is primarily the result of racism is also ridiculous.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Americans were “a nation of cowards” because we were afraid to talk about race.  What he seems to have meant by this was that not enough Americas were willing to talk about how White people oppress minorities.  I’d like to take Eric Holder up on his proposition.  Let’s talk about race in America, but let’s really talk about it—dirty laundry and everything.

But to truly talk about race would mean many folks, like Geoffrey Winikur, would have to address opposing arguments head-on and refrain from attempting to demonize those they disagree with.

Tragically, with the exception of publications such as The Philadelphia Public School Notebook—who have recently had the courtesy and open-mindedness to link my articles in their “Notes from the News” to open-up the much needed avenues of discussion (I’d like to publicly thank them for this, by the way)—it doesn’t appear as if honest and frank talk about race and racism in America is going to happen anytime soon.

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9 Comments

Filed under Achievement Gap, Multiculturalism

9 responses to “Commenter Calls Me ‘A Dangerous Presence in the Political Discourse’

  1. One correction….I listened to D’Souza’s point of view and commented on your blog in general. I also agree with D’Souza (and you) in that African Americans need to work harder to address the cultural issues that impact the problems in their communities that you mention (poverty, the achievement gap and so forth). However, I have to say that I was offended by a number of D’Souza’s claims especially when he spoke on Affirmative Action. I also have concerns about his so called “research” because from my personal experiences (as a Black woman and as an educator) I can tell you that institutionalized racism is living and well in public education and elsewhere. I also find it sad that you accuse people of bullying you simply because they do not agree with your perspective which seems (at times) to to be laced with passive aggression and “white denial”. Again, I am going to suggest that you take a look at “White Like Me” by Tim Wise. Perhaps this will broaden your perspective. Also, maybe you should take the time to talk with some people of color (teachers in particular) who have the heart to talk honestly with you about racism and how this plays out in schools (I explore this in my own blog). Furthermore, you also have to understand that any intelligent person will welcome a difference in opinion but, it can come across as condescending and insensitive when a person who is not black attempts to tell black people what they need to do to get themselves together and how racism is an excuse of the past. Finally, I want to say that I appreciate your commentary and I hope my thoughts do not encourage you to become defensive. Just trying to encourage the dialogue that can maybe help to bridge some of the gaps.

  2. phillystyle71

    Daninia,

    Thank you for your comments, which I admit make good points. I’m glad you are willing to look a race and racism in a broader light, and concede some of my own points. I also admit that my perspective is not all encompassing, and that there are other world views based on a different set of experiences. I’ve read a lot about White privilege and White guilt when I received my M.Ed in Multicultural Education (and what Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum calls “aversive racism”), and I’ll admit that racism is not totally over in America. However, sometimes I feel too much blame is placed on White people and the system, especially Whites who are open-minded and have nothing to do with America’s past or present sins, and that this is counterproductive. I grew up with a very diverse crew of friends, and now I have African American friends and colleagues who I talk politics with, and we are always very civil. Interestingly, I find that many African Americans are socially conservative–they are big on religion and God, live by traditional values, and are big on personal responsibility, especially when it comes to our students (not that I have issues with Black liberals . . . it’s the White liberal who in my mind seems the most patronizing and condescending . . . but again, this is a difference in life experiences). In my interpersonal world, there are few conflicts. It’s when I get up on the political soapbox that some tension starts, but I only write because I feel the need to keep things in balance, and to genuinely force people to drop the PC bull crap and just talk; for the record, I don’t consider people who simply disagree with me to be a bully–but when someone claims I’m a “dangerous presence in the political discourse,” I think this is more than a disagreement, it is an attempt at intimidation, AKA: bullying. In the end I think everyone is on the same page (most of us), and I like to push the envelope when it comes to race, because being polite and holding our tongues isn’t going to solve any problems, which is what this is really all about.

    Chris Paslay

  3. Your points are well taken Chris! I definitely agree in that the Black Community needs to do more to take control of its destiny. I also support the Black Conservative or “Boot Strapping” philosophy of working hard to overcome one’s obstacles be it racism or anything else. Thanks for providing the opportunity for dialogue…These conversations (although they might be uncomfortable at times), are a step in the right direction.

  4. phillystyle71

    Thanks, Daninia. Good conversation.

    Chris

  5. Quinn Burke

    Chris writes:

    “(O)ne did, however, reference an article in The Daily Beast that smeared D’Souza because he had the audacity to respectfully challenge President Obama’s policies in a recent documentary titled “Obama’s America: 2016”.

    This is untrue. Please re-read the article:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/21/the-rise-and-fall-of-dinesh-d-souza.html

    You’ll see that the article is particularly critical of D’Souza’s book The Enemy at Home, not for his “respectful challenge” (your words) of President Obama.

    I hardly think this often angry blog qualifies as a “dangerous presence” but it IS lousy to mis-represent information.

    I respect the author for his work as a school teacher in Philadelphia, but he spends too much time admonishing black people on these page. Chris, are there other issues out there troubling black communities besides them always making bad decisions? Can you thrown some of your good advice to the white people of Philadelphia as well, particularly some of us along the Main Line and other wealthy areas (who, I assume, you suppose wholly earned our success because we did things the “right” way)?

    • phillystyle71

      Hey Quinn,

      Take a good look at the date of the Daily Beast article you cite which is headlined “The Rise and Fall of Dinesh D’Souza: How a once-promising conservative scholar became a fringe huckster.” Is was published on October 22, 2012. Do you notice the timing here? If you are unable to make the connection and see the broader picture, I’ll help you do so. In late August of 2012, Dinesh D’Souza released a documentary titled “Obama’s America: 2016” which, as I mentioned in my last post, respectfully challenged President Obama’s policies. It was based on D’Souza’s latest NYT bestselling book The Roots of Obama’s Rage, and grossed $33,500,000 domestically and has become the #1 all time grossing conservative politically documentary in America, and the #2 all time grossing American documentary behind Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911. Needless to say, this pissed-off a lot of people (mainly liberals). Less than two months later, an organized smear campaign developed against D’Souza, and he was suddenly discredited and marginalized as a “has-been” and a “huckster” and a “hack.”

      Now lets go back to the Daily Beast article. It was put out on October 22, 2012. Are you seeing the connection? It demonized D’Souza and calls him “once-promising” but now a “fringe huckster.” Now maybe I’m dim-witted, but how is a guy who just published an NYT bestselling book, an all-time grossing documentary about the POTUS, a guy who made the rounds on the biggest political talk shows like O’Riley and Piers Morgan and others, a guy who is at the peak of his success, a “has-been”? I’ll tell you the answer: he’s NOT a has-been; the left is trying to smear him and discredit him. And BTW, if you want to bring up the scandal (real or invented) about him and some mistress which supposedly caused him to resign in disgrace as president from King’s College (do you see the timing here?), I don’t buy it; D’Souza has more money than Davy Crockett now (to quote Forrest Gump) and doesn’t need the headache of King’s College.

      So back to what I said about the Daily Beast article smearing D’Souza because of his film: YES, this is connected to his film, even if you don’t have the familiarity with D’Souza to comprehend this. So before you start telling me I “misrepresent information,” you need to take a look at the big picture. You also need to go back and review some of the 270 articles I’ve written on this blog since 2008 (covering dozens of educational topics) before you start lecturing me about the topic of my material. And since you’re so concerned about Main Line White Privilege and guilt, why don’t you be my guest and submit a piece all about it and I’ll post it on this site for all to see.

      Thanks for writing,

      Chris Paslay

  6. Quinn Burke

    Chris -

    Is D’Souza your cousin or something? The way you champion him is downright embarrassing. Yes, now it’s all clear–the virulent liberal conspiracy to smear D’Souza–such to the extent that they snuck a woman into his hotel room that night?

    Maybe black people SHOULDN’T follow his example as this is likely to increase the out of wedlock birth rates and general instability within the family unit.

  7. phillystyle71

    Quinn,

    I don’t champion him (although I do respect his ideas and critical thinking), I just wanted to set the record straight about me misrepresenting information on my blog. I take that seriously. I actually wish D’Souza was my cousin, then he could throw me some of his cash.

    Good point about the out-of-wedlock births (I don’t excuse D’Souza’s infidelity). :-)

    Chris

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