If you’re genuinely interested in a critique of Black Studies (or similarly constructed interdisciplinary or identity-based programs of study), don’t give into the temptation of making a martyr out of a blogger whose real mistake was a lack of intellectual rigor or standards and then a proud defense of lacking intellectual rigor or standards. I shouldn’t have to tell social conservatives in particular to avoid playing the victim card. Do the time if you really think that critique is necessary, useful or important: read the work (short and long) that will let you have some substantive ownership over that critique. If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and work a bit, I think you’ll find that there are important criticisms of Black Studies as field within the field and outside of it, by white authors and black authors alike.
Some suggestions for the person who is genuinely seeking well-considered, ambitious criticisms:
Walter Benn Michaels, The Trouble With Diversity.
Michaela di Leonardo, Exotics at Home
Challenging critiques of identity politics and the academic study of identity from a broadly leftward direction–but that should be as interesting and useful a resource for conservatives as anyone else.
Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa
Stephen Howe, Afrocentrism
I would definitely get some flack from colleagues for suggesting the former book, but as long as you understand that Lefkowitz is primarily criticizing a specific branch of thought within Black Studies (Afrocentrism, and specifically forms of Afrocentric scholarship from the 1980s and early 1990s), I think it’s an interesting and important critique. Howe’s critically-focused intellectual history of Afrocentrism will help put the sharp exchanges between Lefkowitz and her critics in a longer and wider perspective.
Anthony Appiah, In My Father’s House
Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism
Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity
Paul Gilroy, Against Race
Hazel Carby, Race Men
Henry Louis Gates Jr., Colored People: A Memoir
I think these authors would not describe these works as rejecting the political project of Black Studies–indeed, they’re all taught and read as part of the canon in the field. But I think it’s possible to read these books as criticizing some prominent aspects of or ideas about identity and blackness, including how the study of those topics has been institutionalized in academic institutions. (Appiah’s dialogue with Amy Gutman in Color Conscious may also be of interest in this vein.)
Stanley Crouch, pretty much all of his non-fiction that isn’t about jazz, but especially The All-American Skin Game
Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Race Experts
John McWhorter, Losing the Race
Sharp, contrarian critiques of the institutionalization of identity politics, among other things.
Scott Malcolmsen, One Drop of Blood
Leon Wynter, American Skin
Jacob Dlamini, Native Nostalgia
Mechal Sobel, The World They Made Together
Clarence Walker, Mongrel Nation
All indirectly or directly raising big questions about whether the black or African (or other fixedly racial) subject is the wrong thing to be studying.
More? I can supply it. The point is, you don’t need a shallow, proudly uninformed rejection of Black Studies to participate in a critical evaluation of the field or of scholars within it. This isn’t a critique that somehow just now needs to get started: it’s a long-running, ongoing conversation. If you want to join the conversation, there are plenty of points of entry. Don’t excuse the inexcusable on the grounds that it’s a breath of fresh air. That’s like standing in the middle of a cesspool and wondering why you can’t feel the breeze on your face. It’s your problem if you don’t want to go where there’s the air is clean and the wind is blowing.