'The Unbearable White of Medieval Studies'


by Thomas J. Craughwell 

Losing our faculties in many more ways than one.

I put my title in quotation marks because it does not originate with me (I wish it had!). It is a jibe
coined by history professor Rachel Fulton Brown of the University of Chicago, who appears to delight in provoking her colleagues. She admires the wildly unfashionable ideals of chivalry — and she says so. In 2016 she posted on her blog a piece entitled, “Talking Points: Three Cheers for White Men.” And she insists that Western Civilization is “the source of those things which even [my leftwing colleagues] profess to value (tolerance, separation of Church and State, women’s rights).”

So, I wonder if the “Unbearable Whiteness” phrase was aimed at Dorothy Kim of Vassar College, who describes herself as a medievalist, digital humanist, and feminist. Professor Kim has asserted, “Medieval Studies has become the historical belly of white nationalism and white supremacy.”

Kim says that when she looks around a room full of medievalists, the crowd is just too pale. Assuming that is a problem — and I do not concede that particular point — what does the good lady have in mind? The answer is always the same: recruit more scholars of color for the faculty. That should be easy, right?

I am old enough to remember the late 1960s when student protesters held sit-ins at the offices of college presidents, or occupied entire campus buildings, demanding (among other things), a more racially integrated faculty. Fifty years later, once again we are hearing expressions of outrage that the percentage of faculty members at colleges and universities does not come close to the percentage of the U.S. population that identifies itself as people of color.

According to the 2016 stats from the U.S. census Bureau, 13.3 percent of the American population is black, 17.8 percent is Hispanic, 5.9 percent is Asian or Pacific Islander, and 76.9 percent is white. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of Fall 2013 (the most current data), 6 percent of faculty at colleges and universities were African American, 4 percent were Hispanic, and 10 percent were Asian or Pacific Islanders.
Why are there so few black, Hispanic, and Asian faculty members? Is race prejudice barring the post-secondary schoolhouse door against people of color? Keep reading at the American Spectator.



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