The Corner

Reading Just

Okay, I’m off the radio. Let’s take a look at Richard Just’s defense. He starts by recounting all sorts of negative things from Hillsdale’s past in an effort to show that my own accounts of Hillsdale’s past are a bit rosey. Sounds fair. Except, the problem is that my observations (and Aaron Bailey’s) were on point. They spoke directly to the fact that Hillsdale’s own “good old days” were decidedly un-racist. In fact, Hillsdale’s record of inclusiveness shames Princeton’s (Just’s alma mater). Meanwhile, Just’s clips are mostly irrelevant chatter applicable to almost any college campus (what school hasn’t been called “Stalinist” by someone?).

Moving on, Just gets to the meat of his defense, which is worth reprinting here. He writes:

What do they mean by the phrase “the good old days”? It’s impossible to know for sure, of course, but Goldberg doesn’t offer any possibilities to counter my suggestion. By itself, that phrase could mean anything. Taken together with an all-white picture (in an age where the conventions of educational advertising, like them or hate them, mean that most schools use such photos as a chance to show off their diversity) and the ad’s rather glib denunciation of “politically correct” revisionism, it’s enough to make you wonder whether there is a racial subtext at play here.

Obviously there were a lot of things that were different about schools in “the good old days.” But segregation — both de jure and de facto — looms pretty large in that history. In the context of an ad that raises race implicitly by discussing “politically correct” revisionism, how can Goldberg find it so outrageous to wonder if “the good old days” doesn’t carry racial implications? And I’m not talking about the days of southern governors standing in schoolhouse doors and education being rigidly segregated by state law. I’m talking about that not-so-distant past, when parents of privilege in all parts of the country just didn’t have to worry about their kids going to school with blacks or Jews or poor kids because those kinds of kids didn’t go to the schools where they sent their children. If Goldberg doesn’t believe that such a time existed, he’s the one who’s engaged in a little revisionism. If he doesn’t think that nostalgia for such a time can be conjured — and perhaps intended — by an ad that invokes “the good old days” and refers implicitly to race, then he’s not living in the real world with the rest of us.

How lame. Just not only ignores what I wrote he — again — ignores the words actually in the ad. As I noted before, there’s a 7-point checklist on the ad which gives a good indication of what Hillsdale means by the “good old days” — as does the rest of the text. Not one of these points includes such phrases as “keeping the blacks out” or “preserve white privilege.” It’s full of stuff like “teaching moral character” and “appropriate and effective self-discipline.” Richard: that is the evidence you’re looking for.

I know it comes as a shock to the brand of (all-white) liberals who staff the ramparts at the American Prospect, but most conservative parents don’t think of Jim Crow when they hear about the “good old days” in education. If Just thinks white conservatives can never speak of the “good old days” without providing a cast that looks like America, he should just say so and defend his position.

Also, Just is now back-peddaling. Initially he said the racist implication of the ad was essentially obvious and “not too thinly veiled.” Now he’s merely saying it’s not absurd to hold out the possibility that such was the intent. Sure, sure it’s possible. But it is neither probable nor aparrent. And when things are not obvious they must be argued, not asserted. This is especially the case when more plausible and less slanderous explanations are available. For example, it seems to me that a far more likely explanation is that Hillsdale had no idea such an interpretation was possible since its conscience is clear and its own record on the issue is so exemplary. Reagrdless, if we could just get liberals like Mr. Just to employ Occam’s Razor when it comes to issues of race this country would be a lot healthier.

Indeed, the fact that Mr. Just’s first instinct is to assume racism on the part of others — rather than, say, read the text — reveals he’s the one fixated on race, not Hillsdale.

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