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John Ridley

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The Unbearable Whiteness of Anti-Intellectualism

Posted: 09/21/10 08:05 PM ET

Chris Rock had a joke about black anti-intellectualism that roughly went "those people are keeping it real. Yeah, real stupid!" One can't help but think these days there is a creeping anti-intellectualism in some segments of white America. The nation was originally founded on the aspirations of higher achievement. The dream that each generation would attain more than the last. Recall when people said with pride "I'm the first of my family to go to college."

Seemingly, no longer from the fringes of white society. Faced with the rise of minority intelligence -- be it on the left or the right -- the "blame crowd" has no way to fight back other than to turn elitism into a pejorative. As though striving to be the best is in fact the worst of attributes. Delaware GOP-by-way-of-the-Tea-Party Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell spent her 17 minutes of speaking time at the "Values" Voters Summit attacking the ruling-class elites and the small elite and the beltway elite but came of sounding more like the angry kid not bright enough to make it as a Mathlete.

And, seemingly, she's not smart enough to do a better job of covering her tracks with alleged campaign fund malfeasance.

But O'Donnell is more the victim of the fringes' infatuation with witlessness.

Witness the inexplicably increasing adoration for Newt Gingrich whose greatest achievement was quitting as Speaker of the House.

Sarah Palin -- whose greatest achievement was quitting as Governor of Alaska -- bounced around five colleges in as many years before earning a Bachelor's degree in communications... so that she could rail against the "elite media."

The quintessence of the... I guess subpar media... being Glenn Beck.

Need I say more?

I would like to be very clear that I don't offer any of this as an implied indictment of either whites or conservatives. I personally know many very intelligent white folks and some quite bright conservatives and some who are even both. However I would be very hypocritical, after hectoring people of color to embrace intellectualism, to not do the same with those on the paler margins who believe that settling for sub-standard is somehow acceptable. I would not seek council from a doctor who advertised in the Penny Saver or hire a lawyer who took coupons. Regular and spectacular aren't mutually exclusive. Have we had a more accomplished president than the up-from-humble-beginnings Abe Lincoln?

Wasn't President Bush quite privileged?

C'mon fringe. Don't get bitter. Get better.