Now it appears that the decision on Dean Berman’s replacement is also steeped in controversy. Today, GW Law named Professor Gregory Maggs as its interim dean. In so doing, the school passed over their Senior Associate Dean, Christopher Bracey. Instead of promoting Bracey into the interim dean position, he’ll stay on at GW, under Maggs.
This seems like a good time to point out that Maggs is white and Bracey is black.
And so let’s play our game, because a member of the GW Law Faculty, who is also black, had a real problem with the decision to pass over Bracey. She called it “not the law school’s finest hour” in a message to the entire faculty. And then she subtly told another faculty member to go jump in a lake.
For starters, I think Professor W. Burlette Carter’s message to the GW Law faculty is very respectful. She has an opinion and she shared it. Here’s her response to the Maggs appointment:
While I very much appreciate Gregory Maggs’ agreement to step into the deanship at this very difficult time, I must express my own view that any faculty opposition to Sr. Associate Dean Bracey moving into the interim deanship was racially based. This is the first time in my memory that we have ever overlooked a Sr. Associate dean in choosing an interim dean. Chris has done an exceptional job, had significant support, and would have been a fine interim dean.
Because I truly appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that both Greg Maggs and Chris Bracey are making in agreeing to helm this ship together, I will be otherwise cooperative, but I had to state my views — and have them widely known. This is not the law school’s finest hour.
W. Burlette Carter
Strikes me as a fair point. This wouldn’t be the first time an institution departed from an “unwritten” tradition of progression and promotion when the next man in line is a black man.
UPDATE (6:30 PM): Many readers have pointed out that Maggs was interim dean before dean Berman was hired. I fail to see how that fact has anything to do with Professor Carter’s point. Carter is arguing that it was essentially Bracey’s turn, given his position as Senior Associate Dean, and that his turn was skipped, for whatever reason. The fact that Maggs is qualified for the position has never been in question. But, there you go. Again, this happens a lot when it comes time to promote or reward black applicants; the traditional procedures and expectations suddenly change for seemingly innocuous reasons.
Moreover, one of the reasons you have black people at your institution is to at least try to keep administrations honest when it comes to race. I’ll just speak for myself, but I like to see it when black people who have risen to positions of prominence turn around and use that position to help out others and speak to controversial issues, instead of just trying to get along as well as they can. I’m a Du Bois man, not a Booker T. Washington good solider. If Carter sees racial bias happening in her own institution, I think she’s doing her part when she calls it out.
But I’ve said before that we seem to be living in a society where calling something “racist” is a much bigger deal then that thing actually being racist. People don’t want to make an honest assessment of whether or not the highlighted problem is racist; instead, they want to dissect the messenger for playing “the race card.” (As if it’s a “card”… as if being outraged when people are racially discriminated against is some kind of rhetorical strategy black people use for the sinister motive of racial equality.)
Anyway, in that context, Professor Richard J. Pierce’s response to Carter is exactly what we should expect:
Burlette — That is a very serious charge. If you have evidence to support it, please produce that evidence. Dick Pierce
Yeah, Professor Pierce, it is a “serious charge,” MAYBE YOU SHOULD LOOK INTO IT instead of asking Carter to Google it for you.
Carter had a pretty great response to Pierce:
You mistake me for someone who is actually intimidated by you Dick — and who jumps when you bark.
Enough said. My point is made.
Oh man. Again, I don’t at all want to speak for all black people, but let me put it like this: I write a blog and can say pretty much whatever I want, and even I end up biting my tongue on racial issues half the time, instead of going all “Professor Carter” on somebody. I mean, here’s a conversation I have like once a week:
WHITE PERSON: Did you see this thing that happened?
ELIE: Yeah, that’s racist.
WHITE PERSON: Whaaaa???!!!!
ELIE (inside): Jesus freaking Christ.
ELIE (outside): Yeah, it’s pretty obvious.
WHITE PERSON: Well, how do you know? Can you prove it? What’s your evidence?
ELIE (inside): Who in the f**k elected your translucent ass to be president of whether or not I think something is racist? Why don’t you go back to telling me how some white woman who has an ass as flat as a desktop but gets fat injections in her lips is the epitome of beauty?
ELIE (outside): I really don’t have time to explain how 400 years of cultural stereotypes, oppression, and unequal opportunities led, inexorably, to this moment.
WHITE PERSON: Try me, I’m pretty smart.
ELIE (inside): Actually you’re incredibly stupid, but what bothers me is that you are being willfully ignorant of the racial implications here because it might make you uncomfortable and have to (gasp) examine your own motives. You don’t see it because you are closing your eyes, and then you have the gall to stand there and ask me to show you something? I need to end this conversation before things get out of hand.
ELIE (outside): Look, in my opinion this is racist, we’ll have to agree to disagree.
WHITE PERSON: I just don’t think it’s right to play the “race card” when you can’t actually back it up.
ELIE (inside): NO. Playing the RACE CARD would involve MURDERING YOU WHERE YOU STAND and then saying, “Sorry officer, this dumb white person needed to be ended, and I was just too black to resist.”
ELIE (outside): Go f*** yourself.
Well, I have that conversation maybe once every other week.
In any event, I did ask Professor Carter if she’d like to expound on the situation at GW. Turns out, when you ask her nicely, she’s more than willing to explain why she believes what she said.
You can check out her response on the next page….