I mistakenly stumbled into the bad side of the internet today when I clicked on Steve Sailer’s name in a comment thread. For those who have been blissfully ignorant of his recent
musings hack job: Michelle Obama is stupid, a clear beneficiary of affirmative action, and hates white people. It’s real hardhitting journalism.
This is one of those cases where repeating the evidence is enough to refute the conclusions. Michelle Obama:
- attended Princeton and Harvard while being black.
- made some grammatical mistakes in an undergraduate thesis.
- passed the Illinois bar at a non-standard time.
- wrote about race and identity in academia.
Sailer boldly extrapolates from here that she is “semi-literate,” failed the bar exam the first time, and “will never forgive white America for what she had to suffer.” He then leaves it as an exercise to his readers to draw connections between his attack on Michelle Obama and black people’s relative lack of intelligence, the horrors of affirmative action for the white folk, and the possibility of Obama as the stealth black power candidate. (And they don’t disappoint! The comments to these posts are classic.)
These points should all be obvious, but let’s go through the motions anyway:
- You can’t draw any conclusions from a college paper, especially an undergraduate thesis, which despite the fancy title tend to be less important, less harshly-graded works that focus on synthesizing one’s educational experience, rather than research or persuasion.
- If on one side we have Princeton’s and Harvard’s judgment of academic merit and the other one paper, there’s not really a dispute. Using the specter of “affirmative action” to completely discount the former creates an impossible standard for black people — no matter what degree or job they receive, a single less than flattering counterexample is enough to qualify them as stupid. How is this not racist?
- There are lots of reasons to delay taking the bar, and regardless, taking two tries does not suddenly make a lawyer stupid. But this is a nice cheap shot.
- Finally, few have a rigorously developed belief set as an undergrad, and instead try on different ideologies for size. I’ve once gave a speech about the cop-out society that I would like to disappear. But there it is, waiting to embarrass me in a future Democratic primary. There’s a reason the presidential election does not focus on what candidates did when they were 21; it’s retarded.
But Sailer’s real argument is not about Michelle Obama’s intelligence — that’s just red meat for the bell curve crowd — it’s that the Obama’s are secret race-warriors who should strike fear into the hearts of White America. After all, Michelle has a huge racial chip on her shoulder — isn’t it OBVIOUS from her writings?
In reality, she expresses what should be uncontroversial: privileged black folk have to deal with competing identities, and there’s a tension between integrating with the white mainstream and remaining part of the black community. And Obama’s sentiment is similarly shocking: she wants to make sure that the benefits of her education make it back to her worse-off community. Now if you conceive of races as existing in zero-sum competition with each other, this this is dangerous stuff because it means that your aryan brothers will be losing out. If you take a more “I am not free until the last of my brothers is free” approach — and also note that a “pro-black” agenda would not mean Jim Crow laws for white people, but rather a more social democratic state that would benefit everyone — not so scary.
Of course, this is another way of saying that the thesis paper is scandalous to precisely the degree that you are a conservative motivated by racial resentment. So maybe Steve will have some success fighting the conservatives-for-Obama phenomena. However, I’m going to choose to think better of my right-wing brethren — they’ll see this for the despicable attack that it is, and move on.