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Race Hustlers

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After the Jena Six brouhaha last year, the nation was swept by a frenzy of noose-sightings. Every day, the press brought us the latest noose news to alarm us that The Noose Was Loose in America!

I want to thank the numerous readers who emailed me stories about the most publicized of the many noose incidents, that of Columbia U. Teachers College professor Madonna G. Constantine, a black woman who said she found a noose on her doors. They all said her story smelled like a hoax.

Today, the NYT reports:

A professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College who was propelled into the national spotlight when a noose was found on her office door last fall has been found to have plagiarized the work of a former colleague and two former students, the college has announced.

The college, in statements to the faculty and the news media, said an 18-month investigation into charges against the professor, Madonna G. Constantine, had determined there were “numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years.” …

Dr. Constantine, in an e-mail message to faculty and students on Wednesday, called the investigation “biased and flawed,” and said it was part of a “conspiracy and witch hunt by certain current and former members of the Teachers College community.”

“I am left to wonder whether a white faculty member would have been treated in such a publicly disrespectful and disparaging manner,” she wrote.

She added, “I believe that nothing that has happened to me this year is coincidental, particularly when I reflect upon the hate crime I experienced last semester involving a noose on my office door. As one of only two tenured black women full professors at Teachers College, it pains me to conclude that I have been specifically and systematically targeted.” …

Dr. Constantine, a professor of psychology and education who specializes in the study of how race and racial prejudice can affect clinical and educational dynamics, came to Teachers College in 1998 as an associate professor and earned tenure in 2001.

In 2006, the chairman of Dr. Constantine’s department, Suniya S. Luthar, passed along to administrators complaints that Dr. Constantine had unfairly used portions of writings by a junior colleague, Christine Yeh, as well as a number of students, Dr. Luthar said in an interview. Teachers College eventually asked Hughes Hubbard & Reed, a law firm, to investigate.

Dr. Yeh, who is now at the University of San Francisco, said in an interview Wednesday that she had left Teachers College in part because of her differences with Dr. Constantine. She called the college’s determination that there had been plagiarism “an important first step.”

“I’m really hopeful other people will come forward now,” she said. “When the initial charges were made, there were many students involved who didn’t feel they could follow up. They were too scared, and they were afraid of retribution.”

Dr. Yeh said that some of her work that had been copied concerned “indigenous healing,” or alternative methods, like acupuncture and Santeria, of dealing with medical and spiritual ailments. She said she has specialized in that subject for years.

Mr. Giacomo [Constantine's lawyer] said that he and his client met with lawyers from Hughes Hubbard in August and that Dr. Constantine was confronted with 36 passages from her work, and similar passages from the work of others, mostly Dr. Yeh’s. He said Dr. Constantine had subsequently submitted documentation showing that the passages were her own “original work,” and “related back to prior works she had done.”

“We thought that was the end of story; we thought there was no way that they could overlook the documentation that we had presented,” he said.

In October, a noose was found on Dr. Constantine’s office door, prompting the police investigation and student protests at Teachers College, which cherishes its image as a bastion of multiculturalism. In January, Mr. Giacomo said, the college’s president and provost told Dr. Constantine that the investigation into her writings had concluded that she had used the works of others without attribution, but that if she agreed to resign, the report would not be publicized.

Mr. Giacomo said that despite objections and further documentation, the college did not change its position. He said he now considered it “not a stretch of the imagination” to suspect the noose was “an additional way of intimidating my client.”

• Tags: Race Hustlers 
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A year ago, prominent Harvard political scientist Robert D. “Bowling Alone” Putnam let slip that according to a massive survey of American communities he had completed 5 years before:

In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.

He told Financial Times columnist John Lloyd: ““Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, ‘the most diverse human habitation in human history.’”

Apparently wishing to validate Dr. Putnam’s finding, a parents’ school advisory board in LA has been putting on a clinic in diverse distrust:

Discord roils L.A. Unified parent panel: Acrimony with racial overtones has plagued the advisory council. The key issue: whether meetings in Spanish should be allowed.

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 10, 2007 For months, parents on a Los Angeles Unified School District advisory council have disagreed over whether their meetings should be conducted in Spanish or English. Such arguments became so abusive that district officials canceled meetings for two months and brought in dispute-resolution specialists and mental-health counselors.

But Friday morning’s gathering of the District Advisory Council proved dysfunctional in any language.

By one vote, parents censured their own chairman for alleged bad behavior, leading to a walkout of most Spanish-speakers. The rebuked chairman, Roberto Fonseca, followed them out of the room. Most voting for the censure were African American, adding racial overtones to the back-and-forth hectoring.

Friday’s dispute, at the district’s downtown Parent Community Services Branch, was the latest in a year of acrimony at the council, which was elected by parents at schools throughout the district. They offer advice on — and oversight of — the expenditure of $385 million on federally funded programs for students from poor families.

The goings-on raise another round of questions about parent participation in the nation’s second-largest school system, which has been repeatedly criticized by auditors for inconsistent and ineffective parent involvement and outreach. Critics say the district rarely seeks true parental input and instead uses parents to rubber-stamp budgets and programs. District officials insist they are determined to change this perception and are making progress.

Friday’s chaos had been building since February, when Fonseca, who is bilingual, started to give his chairman’s report in Spanish. Some in the audience objected; arguments and recriminations ensued, and school police rushed over amid concerns that a fistfight would break out, witnesses said.

Police have been present ever since, and on Friday, they escorted several parents outside for what one administrator termed a “timeout.”

After the February dispute over language, the district canceled March and April meetings, using the time to develop a Code of Civility, which reads almost like the rules in some classrooms: “Treat one another with respect, without ridicule or criticism. . . . Listen attentively while others are speaking. . . . Under no circumstances, threaten or engage in any verbal or physical attack on another individual.”

There was some resistance to this code, because parents had not approved it themselves, district staff said.

When meetings resumed, parents set up a bylaws subcommittee to take on language and other matters. The current bylaws stipulate that parent meetings across the district must be held in English. A school-district lawyer, however, concluded that this rule is illegal and impractical. Many parents serving on local school councils don’t speak English. Some meetings consist entirely of Spanish-speakers in a district where more than 266,000 students (and probably many more parents) are English-learners out of a student population of about 694,000.

The bylaws committee never completed its full review but had tentatively decided to leave the English rule in place. District staff, in turn, notified schools and offices that the English rule would not be enforced.

When participants on the advisory council aren’t at odds, meetings can be a model of bilingualism. When someone speaks in Spanish, English speakers put translation headsets to their ears and vice versa. And many Latino participants do speak English. The council united to oppose a recent cut in district translation services, a position that Fonseca politely announced to the Board of Education.

Latinos appear to hold the majority of council seats, although African Americans are well represented. A handful of seats are occupied by people of other ethnicities. The council has 63 members, but it will have more than 100 after local elections are complete.

Some observers have described the battle over language as a stand-in for a larger dispute. Federal Title 1 funding started during the civil rights era largely as a mechanism to help impoverished blacks who occupied vast swaths of South Los Angeles. The federal money has yet to eliminate low-academic achievement among African Americans.

But Latinos now have larger numbers in many formerly black-majority schools. And Latino parents are not content to oversee only those funds set aside for English-learners — these are generally much smaller pots of money than the federal poverty-relief dollars.

Still, the mini-wars at the advisory committee may have more to do with difficult personalities and in-room ethnic tensions than citywide racial politics or competition over resources, others said.

Fonseca, in particular, has been a polarizing figure, although on Friday he kept his cool initially, when a black woman walked up to the podium and shouted in his face: “You are totally out of order!”

Later, though, on one motion, an impatient Fonseca tried to shut down public comment. “I will not allow members of the public to speak,” he said.

Chris Downing, an administrator with the parent branch, intervened, as he frequently has: “The chairperson does not have the right to violate the law.” Downing then turned to the unruly audience: “Raise your hand if you want to have a nice calm meeting. . . . Take a deep breath.”

Later, Fonseca ruled that a two-thirds vote would be needed to censure him. The district’s lawyer, John Walsh, disagreed, but Fonseca spoke out again and again: “Two-thirds! Two-thirds! Two-thirds!”

The resolution stated in part that Fonseca “recognized only those who upheld his views and denied the opposition the right to speak.”

Those who walked out included Guadalupe Aguiar, one of the parents who felt that Fonseca was treated unfairly, especially because Friday was the last meeting before new elections. She added that she considers it racist when parents are told that, in America, they have to speak English.

In some respects, though, Aguiar spoke for a clear majority of parents.

“I am here to bring information to my school,” she said in Spanish. “So far, I have not brought anything. It was the same thing last year and the year before. . . . Your children are failing just as mine are.”

• Tags: Education, Race, Race Hustlers 
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From my new column:

Ever since South Korean immigrant Cho Seung-hui gunned down 32 people at Virginia Tech, there has been much comment that the university should have realized just from his two hate-filled and inept plays that the senior English major was a dangerous creep who needed to be taken away.

For a playwrighting class, Cho penned Mr. Brownstone and Richard McBeef (which, despite the Macbethian title, is a Hamlet-knock off about a young hero’s lethal conflict with the new stepfather who murdered his real father). Richard McBeef includes such sterling dialogue as:

“I hate him. Must kill Dick. Must kill Dick. Dick must die. Kill Dick.”

Many have asked: “How could the English Department not recognize the horrific implications of these works?”

That might seem like a puzzling question, however, to someone familiar with the poetic oeuvre of one of Cho’s own teachers, Virginia Tech’s “Univerity Distinguished Professor” of English and Black Studies, Nikki Giovanni.

Among the most celebrated figures of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and recipient of 21 honorary degrees, Giovanni has published poems strikingly similar to Cho’s plays in both vileness and incompetence. For example:

The True Import of Present Dialog, Black vs. Negro
by Nikki Giovanni

Can you kill
Can you kill
Can a ni**er kill
Can a ni**er kill a honkie
Can a ni**er kill the Man
Can you kill ni**er
Huh? Ni**er can you
Do you know how to draw blood
Can you poison
Can you stab-a-Jew
Can you kill huh? Ni**er
Can you kill
Can you run a protestant down with your
‘68 El Dorado
(that’s all they’re good for anyway)
Can you kill
Can you piss on a blond head
Can you cut it off
Can you kill
A ni**er can die
We ain’t got to prove we can die
We got to prove we can kill

Ironically, the author of these lines was asked to deliver the closing remarks at Virginia Tech’s convocation memorializing the 32 slaughtered by Cho. For some reason, Giovanni didn’t read aloud The True Import.


Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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