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Another Voice in the Chorus of Bigotry

The Education of Professor Jerry Hough

by TIMOTHY B. TYSON

As much of the country knows, Jerry Hough, James B. Duke Professor of Political Science at Duke University, recently wrote a response to a New York Times editorial about riots, segregation and poverty in Baltimore in which he condemned the editors for telling “the blacks,” as he put it, “to feel sorry for themselves.” Comparing African Americans unfavorably to Asian Americans, Hough stated that “the Asians” did not blame white racism and “didn’t feel sorry for themselves but worked doubly hard” in order to overcome racial discrimination.

At Duke, according to Hough, “every Asian student has a very simple old American name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.” Branding himself “a follower of Martin Luther King in the 1950s,” Hough asserts in a separate letter, “Dr. King was talking about a melting pot America, not a diverse one.”

Hough has called intermarriage with white people “crucial” to American minorities. At Duke, “the Asians” often date white students, he claimed, and so “the intermarriage” is sure to follow. “Black-white dating,” by contrast, “is almost non-existent because of the ostracism by blacks of anyone dating a white.”

He stumbles through what he regards as a history of American ethnic politics. “In the North,” Hough says, “race was culture, not color.” Poles, Irish, Jews, and other groups were once considered “races,” just like “the blacks,” but they found a place in American life by hard work and accommodation to the larger culture. The racial history of groups like Polish-, Irish- and Asian-Americans, Hough says, offers a model for African Americans, who have performed so poorly because they refused to integrate and intermarry. “[Martin Luther] King helped [‘the Asians’] overcome,” he argues. “The blacks followed Malcolm X.” According to Hough, “for blacks I think the time has come to focus more on the Asian experience and its lessons for them.” Apparently the answer to white supremacy is for everyone to become white.

Asian Americans at Duke and nearby UNC Chapel Hill were quick to point out the myriad range of Asian-American experiences and to defy Hough’s attempt to set them up as “the Model Minority.” A public statement by 28 Asian-American faculty, staff and students called Hough’s characterizations “deeply misguided and fundamentally racist.” They rejected “Hough’s misuse of Asian-American experiences at large not only to berate African Americans and deny them racial justice but to uphold white supremacy.”

How a chaired professor with three Harvard degrees and 13 books to his credit can think such thoughts, let alone say them, is a mystery. Citizens from coast to coast have blasted Hough on Twitter and Facebook, and he’s been the subject of any number...

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