But one thing I hate, when we get these backlashes, is for people to be delicate about critical views that they hold so as not to rock the boat. It's OK to be a little critical and controversial, and you shouldn't let the heat of the issue make you bashful about that.
In the interest of not being bashful in the face of a big backlash, I wanted to elaborate a little on a thought I expressed at Brad DeLong's blog at the very beginning of the controversy.
One thing I pointed out was that it's not clear to me exactly what value-added black studies departments (and women's studies departments, for that matter) provide in addition to, say, an existing sociology department. My experience at William and Mary was that the black studies and women's studies departments drew heavily on sociology students and faculty (my major advisor taught in both the sociology and women's studies departments and one of the members of my thesis committee taught in both the sociology and black studies departments). I don't know how generalizable this is (particularly for black studies, which can bring in a lot of history and regional studies people too), but I get the impression this is how these departments work in most universities.
In that sense, I can sympathize with the idea that in some cases what we've got is a proliferation of small departments where a larger, more comprehensive sociology department might be better. Economics departments, for example, usually have separate seiminar schedules for different fields. This helps foster the diversity of the research interests in the department. A large sociology could do the same (with field divisions between black studies and women's studies, for example). It seems to me that would be a much stronger approach, rather than having anemic, embattled, special departments.
That's a decision for each school to make based on it's own particular situation - but I can definitely understand that objection to black studies departments.
So - that's my "there's something to talk about when it comes to black studies" comment that I'm not going to shy away from just because there's been so much heated discussion.
Mine is not the argument made by the blogger that's been fired. Her post dismissed the field of study itself, and she dismissed it by mocking students' dissertations as being "left-wing claptrap" and of low quality. The dissertations listed sounded like interesting and valuable scholarship to me (and - to reinforce my point about - they sounded like the sort of dissertations you might also expect to see in sociology departments). I think it was the right decision to can this blogger.