The Corner

I Was Wrong But…

I shouldn’t have said that the American Prospect was all-white. I assumed that from some of the earlier blog posts about the magazine’s racial make up. Sorry about that.

The fact that it is not all white was brought to my attention by Melanie Alston-Akers. She writes:

“….Well, I’m not white and neither are others on our staff. If Goldberg’s going to fling absolutes around, he should get them right.

And as far as the ad goes, it does have an only-certain-people-are-wanted-at-this-school flavor. I saw it immediately. Goldberg probably did not because many white people, of all political persuasions, are blind to the racial implications of things around them.

When I looked at the ad, I saw a school where I didn’t think my family would be wanted. Reading the small text was not on my agenda after I saw the photo and the accompanying caption. “Good old days” is a loaded phrase and has been, particularly for blacks, for a long time in this country. That’s not the fault of black people. But that’s not something that many white people are going to see or recognize or care about.

Hillsdale may have fabulous racial diversity, but you can’t tell that from the ad. The ad shows white, I saw white, and I assumed white. Not because I’m a liberal, but because I’m not white. And I’m certain that there are plenty of other blacks and other people of color — regardless of their political views — who would feel the same.

My responseSorry, I really don’t buy it. One person’s feelings — or many people’s feelings — do not have an alchemic effect on the motives of others. If the ad makes a black person feel unwelcome — or if it makes them feel like a giant frilly duck for that matter — that doesn’t speak to the intent of the person(s) who designed the ad. If you think the effect of the ad was racially insensitive why assume the intent was racially insensitive? I know liberals are fond of pointing at things like disparate impact and then backfilling racist intent to explain why the impact is disparate. But I think such arguments are often ludicrous.

Plus, while I’m not familiar with Melanie Alston-Akers, I’m skeptical of her claim that such inferences have nothing to do with her being a liberal and everything to do with her being black. I’m sure it’s possible that other blacks of different political persuasions, including conservatives, would draw the same conclusion as her about the ad. I am also sure that many blacks would not (I know this because I heard from some). I do not think those blacks are any less authentically black. In other words, what explains Ms. Alston-Akers inference is not her skin color but the ideological, political and culture views she brings to the table. Simply because she instantly felt unwelcome might be good proof Hillsdale shoud rethink its ad campaigns, but it counts for exactly zero toward Richard Just’s still-outrageous assertion that Hillsdale is cynically racist in its appeals.

Moreover, if Ms. Alston-Akers can’t bother squeazing into her “agenda” the time it takes to actually read the words in the ad before reading the minds of those behind them, maybe she should get into a business that doesn’t require relying on words for a living.

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