Jewish World Review March 3, 2004 / 10 Adar, 5764
Great minds should
tackle grim reality
Last week at New York University, a panel was presented under the title "Beyond Black and White at NYU: Racial Strategies in the 21st Century." It could have been on just about any American campus today because it reflected the distance that academics so often have from the particular problems of our moment and any concrete sense of what is to be done.
So many academics who have been hired to assess American problems as they arrive in the arenas of race, sex and labor have arrived at the same conclusion: They have bought into an idea of "progressive" politics that almost always closes them off into a mode of left-wing cliches that are no more impressive than those we get from the right.
Let's get one thing straight, however: The participants - NYU Prof. David Levering Lewis, author of an acclaimed W.E.B. DuBois biography that won a Pulitzer in 1994; NYU Prof. Angela Dillard, author of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Now: Multicultural Conservatism in America;" Prof. Michael Hill, author of "After Whiteness: Unmaking an American Majority," and NYU Prof. Pamela Newkirk, author of "Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media" - were about as far from being dumb and simple-minded as Savion Glover is from a suffering from a lack of rhythm.
Lewis is surely one of our most gifted historians and the rest of them are not bums, either. But the discussion drew a picture of demonic opposition in corporations, among Republicans and in the world of American journalism.
Not addressed was the fact that the lack of engagement on the part of black Americans is epidemic and more fundamental to their future than any crew of greedy corporate executives. Nor was the impact of technology on the workplace, which demands strategies that work down here on the ground.
What we need to learn is how and why certain schools such as the Kipp Academy and Thurgood Marshall Academy and others like them across this country have defeated the intellectual suicide of young black people. We need to prepare ourselves for the time when many people will be hired, assigned work, paid and fired through E-mail in a cyberspace world where race, class, sex and religion are all secondary to performance and competitive labor costs. That is how it is.
Strategies based in such hard facts could provide our nation with approaches that will transcend color in their effectiveness.
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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy
of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994, Always in Pursuit: Fresh American
Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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