17 May 2012
In “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations” (Chronicle of Higher Education April 30, 2012), Naomi Schaefer Riley got herself fired from her job there for racism. Despite the fact that she married a black guy.
Here is a question worth asking (for women only, of whatever race): How big a racist can you be if you are not black and consent in public to marry a black guy you know and like, who takes you out to dinner, flashes a diamond, and asks you, please marry me?
You are probably thinking something like, am I better off with him or without him? Good. All smart women think that way about all guys. (You sort of knew he was going to ask anyway, right? The rest is details.)
So how did Naomi Schaefer Riley get herself fired? What did she say that was so wrong and bad and racist?
Well, she questioned “black studies” dissertations like this:
Then there is Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of “Race for Profit: Black Housing and the Urban Crisis of the 1970s.” Ms. Taylor believes there was apparently some kind of conspiracy in the federal government’s promotion of single family homes in black neighborhoods after the unrest of the 1960s. Single family homes! The audacity! But Ms. Taylor sees that her issue is still relevant today. (Not much of a surprise since the entirety of black studies today seems to rest on the premise that nothing much has changed in this country in the past half century when it comes to race. Shhhh. Don’t tell them about the black president!) She explains that “The subprime lending crisis, if it did nothing else, highlighted the profitability of racism in the housing market.” The subprime lending crisis was about the profitability of racism? Those millions of white people who went into foreclosure were just collateral damage, I guess.
Wait, wait. Conflict with a mortgage bank is not obviously a race issue. First, is being black the same thing in the United States as in Jamaica (where almost everyone is black) or in Canada (where few people are, but where a key Jamaican mortgage bank has gained a foothold, and has started a campaign to persuade Canadians that one does not even need ties to the Caribbean to benefit from their services)?
These subjects surely require more clarification than they are likely to get from a cowed (and cowardly?) higher ed mag that cannot risk looking at the key issues in a global way, as they deserve.
It is worth understanding this issue: In a given legal environment, a lot depends on whether you can just walk away from a mortgage. One reason for the subprime crisis in the United States was the fact that it was relatively easy for people to contract a mortgage and then just walk away. The government was backing home ownership.
In many English common law countries, it is not that simple. Canada, for example, does not let a homeowner just walk away from a mortgage. That is because the government doesn’t get involved, except for policing the soundness of banks. Mortgage lending is based on the savings invested in the bank, savings that will not likely be required in the next few weeks—but might be.
Suppose a mortgage holder did not pay. The bank might not have the money needed if a large depositor suddenly decides to bid on a house himself, or buy a car. Needless to say, banks which are not bailed out by government cannot tolerate such shortfalls, and will proceed against non-payers promptly.
None of this is about race, of course. Race does not determine whether people pay their mortgage.
As the Jamaica National Building Society (Canada) would likely say, it is a matter of character.