Commentary, January 1991, 14-15.
To the Editor of Commentary:
I enjoyed reading the article by
Frederick R. Lynch, “Surviving Affirmative Action (More or Less)” [Commentary,
August 1990]. I am one of those who has survived it less.
Beginning in 1969 I heard comments
like, “It doesn’t matter what he knows, so long as he’s black,” in
hiring faculty in the field of political science. Then I was in Europe
for a few years. Upon my return, I recall my shock and anger when a
Mississippi college responded to my inquiry about employment, “If you
are black, please send your credentials to. . . .” I was stunned by the
I continued doing research for
others, and publishing on my own, but somehow, no university, no
college, no community college, no junior college, would hire me.
A few years ago a friend of mine
applied for a teaching post at a New England university, near where he
resides. He was rejected. This man has a Ph.D. from a major university
and has published two major books in his field, which received favorable
reviews in both the New York Review of Books and the New York
Times Book Review. Living near the campus, he was given a temporary
job teaching one class at the last minute. On two occasions during that
semester he did not have to teach because the finalists for the
full-time post, the one for which he had been rejected, displayed their
skills teaching before his class. Neither had Ph.D.’s; neither had
published anything of significance. My friend had to sit there and
watch them competing for the post denied him. The chairman of the
department later told him informally that of the applicants for the
post, only the females had been considered. He could have published 20
books, or 200, and the university would still not have hired him.
Last fall I received a telephone
call from the chairman of a department at a Tennessee college where I
had applied for a teaching job. He asked me a number of questions, and
my hopes began to rise. Then his tone changed. “How can I put this
delicately: Are you black?” I said no. He told me they had to hire a
black. So the interview, and my hopes, ended.
Last year I published articles in
the American Scholar, the Journal of Ethnic Studies, Polity,
Louisiana History, and the new Journal of Unconventional History.
In 1989 I published in the Texas Journal of Political Studies,
the Florida Historical Quarterly, Labor History, Journal of Sport
History, Journal of Ethnic Studies, Over Here, the Journal of
Unconventional History, and twice in Theory, Culture, and Society.
. . . I have also worked as a research assistant for the editor of 40
volumes of the works of W. E. B. Du Bois, among others. Thus, few can
deny that I am a scholar.
Yet aside from three years’ teaching
at universities in Europe, I have not had a teaching post in America
since 1969. And I have applied in almost every state all the way from
junior colleges on up. Frederick R. Lynch survived, more or less. I
have survived less and less, running elevators, checking insurance
policies, freelancing, even being unem-ployed.
In America we no longer have the
blacklist, or even the red list (Angela Davis has taught for years), but
we do have the white list, and the male list. Affirmative action is the
white list of our time, and it is as unfair as any blacklist.
response from Frederick Lynch.
How many others like Hugh Murray are to be found out there? Few wish to
consider this matter openly. On the contrary, Mr. Murray’s letter
reached me just three days after Jesse Jackson flatly asserted in his
syndicated column that “blacks are not taking jobs from whites” under
affirmative action. In spite of such recent developments as the struggle
over the 1990 Civil Rights bill, there remains a powerful bipartisan
taboo against admitting that considerable numbers of whites in all
sectors of society have been denied equal protection—and sometimes badly
mauled—by reverse discrimination. Meanwhile, more universities are
boldly advertising “targets of diversity” and other set-aside faculty
positions, using dual standards for student admissions and scholarships,
setting up “safe speech” rules, and the like.
Posted October 17,