On Nikole Hannah-Jones

Another contribution to the analysis of Wokeist charlatanism

[The revered scholar of absolutely nothing, Nikole Hannah-Jones]

This is a letter I wrote about two years ago at the request of friends who have a close association with UNC. At the time, that institution’s board of trustees was reconsidering a decision they had made to deny the tenure offer extended by the university’s journalism department to the person at the center of the New York Times’ 1619 Project.

Hannah-Jones has precisely no scholarly research or publications to her name. By virtue of this alone, she should never be considered for tenure at any institution of higher education, and the offer to tenure her by UNC’s journalist department was an act of degradation of the title. Her views on American history should be taken for what they are: the ideological blathering of a confidence artist with no scholarly expertise whatsoever in the fields on which she so imperiously bloviates.

After the UNC board of trustees denied her tenure, which was the only rational decision, there was a media and activist outcry and UNC reconsidered. The board at UNC caved to the pressure and changed their decision. At which point, the renowned anti-scholar turned down their offer and accepted a similar one from Howard University instead.

This is a glaring recent example of the farce that higher ed is becoming, and it should not be forgotten.

Dear members of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees:

I write you about the tenure case of Nikole Hannah-Jones at your university.  I strongly believe you should adhere to the decision already made to refuse the award of tenure to Hannah-Jones.  She has shown nothing approaching the level of rigorous intellectual productivity that is characteristic of your fine university.  The writing for which she is known publicly is crudely ideological and partisan, completely outside the realm of serious and measured scholarship for which the University of North Carolina is known throughout the US and indeed in the world.  Her reputation is highly divisive, and she gives no indication that she understands the scholarly ethic in the slightest, as she routinely responds to thoughtful criticism of her writing with vituperation and insults.  Awarding her tenure for her meager and intellectually unserious accomplishments would be an insult to every other tenured faculty member on your campus. 

Allow me just a few words on the perspective from which I address this issue.  I have no direct connection to the University of North Carolina, but I do have demonstrated expert scholarly knowledge of the history and sociology of race and race relations in American society.  I hold a Ph. D. (University of California, San Diego, 2000) in sociology and have been researching, teaching, and writing on many of the topics that Hannah-Jones discusses in her writings for more than 20 years.  I have focused significant professional attention on the New York Times’ 1619 Project, of which Hannah-Jones is the figurehead, since its public emergence two years ago.  My interest in the historical and social scientific understanding of race relations and the role of race in American society goes back to the beginning of my own scholarly career.  For two decades, I have taught many different courses at Bucknell University, a small liberal arts institution in Lewisburg, PA, that treat these topics.  Among these are courses on American Culture and Society; The Social Movements of the 1960s; Sociological Theory, Social Problems in American Society; Brain, Mind, Self, and Society; and Evolution, Biology, and Society.  I have just published a scholarly book dealing with evolutionary thought in sociology, an entire chapter of which deals with the concept of race and its social consequences in human societies.  I was tenured in 2006 and promoted to Professor in 2012, at the earliest possible opportunity in my institution. 

I have written directly in response to the 1619 Project and to Hannah-Jones’ effort there to reinvent the history of American race relations, a few examples of which are attached.  I have also written more broadly on a cultural phenomenon in American culture of the past decade or so of which the 1619 Project and its proponents are exemplars.  This phenomenon can be neatly described as Wokeism and it is discussed in greater detail in the attached essay published in First Things.  Wokeism is a radical political ideology in contemporary America that attempts (sometimes) to present itself as rooted in objective and scientific academic perspectives but that is substantively quite distant from real scholarship and scientific inquiry.  Wokeism in fact takes on much of the contour of a quasi-religion:  basic claims (e.g., systemic racism emanates from every institution in American society and prevents achievement by non-whites) are never submitted to empirical proof and are assumed to be true a priori; those who dissent from those claims are treated with contemptuous antagonism and efforts are made to suppress their expression of that dissent; status inside the belief system of Wokeism is determined not by any individual attributes or accomplishment but purely by racial group membership, and it is assumed in advance that those who are members of groups defined as racially subordinate have superior knowledge of how race operates and has operated in American society solely by virtue of that group membership. 

Read the Whole Article