With titles for weekly study such as “Demagoguery and Democracy,” “Authoritarianism in the 20th Century,” “American Fascism” and “White Fight,” one might think any anti-Donald individual would be smugly delighted at the recommended readings and ancillary materials.
For instance, Boston College’s Alan Wolfe suggests Philip Roth’s alternate history novel The Plot Against America, in which Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election. This turn of events results in the US staying out of World War II and leads to ever-increasing — and acceptable — antisemitism. One of the Lindbergh’s programs is the forced relocation of east coast Jewish families to areas in the west.
So, you see, this scenario somehow applies to Mr. Trump, presumably with regards to Muslims and illegal immigrants.
However, there arises a problem with Wolfe’s use of Roth, as well as with the recommendations of the other syllabus contributors: They’re all too white.
African-American scholars N.D.B. Connolly (Johns Hopkins), Keisha N. Blain (Iowa), Chad Williams (Brandeis), and others quickly wrote to the Chronicle complaining about this “lack of hue”:
We, the undersigned, find the “Trump Syllabus” highly objectionable and call upon The Chronicle Review to make immediate revisions.
The syllabus fails to include the works of scholars of color, thereby perpetuating the message that the only works worth reading in American political history are those written by white scholars. In a syllabus that promises to offer “insights from history, literature, philosophy, political science, psychology, and beyond,” the authors have excluded seminal works in all of these fields written by scholars of color. It also centers the scholarship of (white) men and overlooks any work produced by LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups in the United States. The lack of diverse voices on this syllabus is not only inappropriate but also highly offensive. As the historian N.D.B. Connolly explains in the comments section, “this syllabus offers a disgraceful example of white methodological myopia.” Regardless of The Chronicle Review’s intent, the syllabus reinforces the same racist, sexist, and xenophobic messages articulated by Trump and many of his supporters.
The syllabus is also grossly inaccurate and incomprehensive in its avoidance of many central issues relating to the Trump campaign. A “Trump Syllabus” that fails to include works on sexism, racism, whiteness, immigration, xenophobia, Islamophobia, or nativism is not only intellectually dishonest but irresponsible.
Accusing the Chronicle of “racial illiteracy,” the letter concludes that the “Trump Syllabus” should not have seen print in its current form.
In a subsequent editor’s note the Chronicle agrees, stating “We apologize for the absence of works by scholars of color and other marginalized groups. We recognize that these omissions are offensive.”