Monday, February 04, 2008

The soft racism of low editorial expectations

Sorry about all this. I'm as sick of the whole Afrocentric business as you must be, but I didn't feel I could let this one pass.

In keeping with its tradition of scraping the very funkiest gunk from the bottom of its barrel of well-meaning but illiterate fools (other examples here, here, here, and here), the Toronto Star has well and truly outdone itself for offensiveness and stupidity with today's guest columnist, Donna Bailey Nurse.

It has to be seen to be believed:
... If slavery were truthfully taught, if black students had the opportunity to learn the depths of the depravity their ancestors were subjected to – for hundreds of years – they could never feel anything but pride and gratitude, and absolute wonder, that their people even survived. The fact that black people feel shame about slavery – and white people not so much – is just one indication of how dishonestly history has been taught.
Two things here. One: if the topic of slavery is not being "truthfully" taught, then Ms. Nurse would do well to give us at least one example of the current teaching's errors. Ms. Nurse does not do this for the rather obvious (if sad) reason that she has mistakenly used the word "truthfully" when she meant to say "adequately." Even then, however, she is not absolved of the responsibility to tell us what makes the current teaching inadequate. The suggestion implicit in her argument--that it must be so (i.e. inadequate) because of the apparent lack of "pride and gratitude, and absolute wonder" of black youth for their ancestors--is itself dreadfully inadequate, as it is, alas, too too easily falsified. She forgets that this is the dilemma of all history: however much it is taught, it is rarely properly understood, and even more rarely felt.

Two: that "fact" that she mentions towards the end of the second paragraph--i.e. "the fact that black people feel shame about slavery – and white people not so much"--is not a fact at all. Indeed, I should say it's a calumnious falsehood on a very grand scale.

She goes on (my emphasis):

For me, black-focused schools are important because they will offer black children a more complete and truthful history of people of African descent – Africa being the common denominator.

This will enable them to better assess the world they live in. A truthful rendering of history explains why 40 per cent of black youth in Toronto are in danger of dropping out. A truthful rendering of history explains why one-quarter of all African American men are in jail. It explains the bloody chaos that is Africa today, and why Senator Barack Obama's candidacy means so much to so many.

A fairly simple problem here. The emphasized sentences make no damn sense! (In fact, one could even read them as saying that black youth are dropping out because of a "truthful rendering of history" ... The sort of hateful idea that has found any number of people in front of hate crimes tribunals.)

I'm not certain the truth about history will do much to enhance the cultural esteem of white students, though perhaps ultimately, that's what we need – for black people feel [sic] a little better about themselves and for white people to feel a little worse.
Well ... I ask you. What?