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Astronomy Course at Cornell Draws Connection Between Black Holes and Racial Blackness

Astronomy Course at Cornell Draws Connection Between Black Holes and Racial Blackness

“Conventional wisdom would have it that the ‘black’ in black holes has nothing to do with race.”

If you were a student and this came up in your astronomy class, how could you keep from bursting out laughing?

The Daily Wire reports:

Black Holes Are Connected To ‘Racial Blackness,’ Cornell U Course Says

An astronomy course at prestigious Cornell University, concerned about racism in the universe, not just Planet Earth, asked the deathless question: “Is there a connection between the cosmos and the idea of racial blackness?”

As famed author Heather Mac Donald, who has written numerous books, including “The War on Cops,” writes in City Journal, the course, titled “Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos,” notes in the catalog description that “conventional wisdom” asserts that the “‘black’ in black holes has nothing to do with race,” but astronomy professor Nicholas Battaglia and comparative literature professor Parisa Vaziri suggest the truth may be otherwise.

The catalog description reads:

Conventional wisdom would have it that the “black” in black holes has nothing to do with race. Surely there can be no connection between the cosmos and the idea of racial blackness. Can there? Contemporary Black Studies theorists, artists, fiction writers implicitly and explicitly posit just such a connection. Theorists use astronomy concepts like “black holes” and “event horizons” to interpret the history of race in creative ways, while artists and musicians conjure blackness through cosmological themes and images. Co-taught by professors in Comparative Literature and Astronomy, this course will introduce students to the fundamentals of astronomy concepts through readings in Black Studies. Texts may include works by theorists like Michelle Wright and Denise Ferreira da Silva, authors like Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson, music by Sun Ra, Outkast and Janelle Monáe. Astronomy concepts will include the electromagnetic spectrum, stellar evolution, and general relativity.


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The sheer stupidity is almost breathtaking.

The only connection I can see here is that black holes suck in all resources in the area and return absolutely nothing. Don’t see how you can make an entire course out of that, though.

    GWB in reply to UJ. | June 23, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    Really? Because I’ve seen entire courses on Communism, and that fits your description perfectly….

I wonder if this course is a response to administrators requiring faculty to list their contributions to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” in their activity reports for promotion and tenure.
It obviously has no scientific basis. You would have to postulate a God who is racist to make these silly connections between astronomy and race.

    henrybowman in reply to OldProf2. | June 23, 2021 at 5:23 pm

    If you don’t want to hear from the “Mark of Cain” crowd, don’t even bring that up.

    artichoke in reply to OldProf2. | June 23, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    It’s a way for the innumerate to satisfy a Physical Science distribution requirement without actually encountering any physical science. See a comment below where I lay it out in more detail.

      MajorWood in reply to artichoke. | June 23, 2021 at 10:23 pm

      Oberlin used to have a course known as “Astronomy for Connys” (Conservatory students) back in the 70’s.

        artichoke in reply to MajorWood. | June 23, 2021 at 11:39 pm

        One doesn’t necessarily expect a conservatory graduate to have passed astronomy. If they want an easy elective for them to take out of interest, nobody would mind.

        But Cornell is alleging that all Arts and Sciences students have passed a class in physical science, just as they must pass the oh-so-important class in social differences etc. The STEM kids won’t be able to get out of that by taking another course in finite difference equations and calling it differences.

henrybowman | June 23, 2021 at 5:22 pm

God help us if the gender-obsessed maniacs ever discover the “three-body problem.”

And before you ask; no, ‘black-body radiation” has nothing to do with a white supremacist plot to supply south Chicago with plutonium-laced groceries.

    Isn’t the “three-body” problem sexist, though? Since it assumes that 2 bodies is just fine and you really have to do harder math when you introduce the swinger?

Cornell has one of the top Astronomy Departments in the nation. It is in the College of Arts and Sciences which has a number of “distribution requirements”, that is a specified set of classes outside your major which must be taken in order to graduate. Last year, they added a new requirement to take a class in “Social Difference.” This is defined as “Courses in this area examine social differences relevant to the human experience. Social categories include class, race, ethnicity, indigeneity, nationality, language, religion, gender, sexuality, and ability as objects of study. Students develop a deeper understanding of these categories and their intersections. Topics may include: how hierarchies in power and status shape social differences; how social, economic and political systems can impact the interpretation of social differences; and how differences attributed to various groups are explained.”

This class is probably one created to give students an option to take an astronomy class in satisfaction of that requirement. There are some very strange courses offered to satisfy the requirement, including “CAPS 4127 The Body Politic in Asia” and “ENGL 2560 Black Queer Writing and Media” Again, this requirement is an financial life=line to the various grievance studies department who face dropping course enrollments. The idea of allowing students to take an Astronomy class to circumvent the requirement is very clever and welcomed by students who fear being graded by a left-wing Africana Studies professor.

    OldProf2 in reply to lawgrad. | June 23, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for the enlightening summation. If students can take a real science course disguised as a Social Justice indoctrination, and not have to get indoctrinated, I’m all for it.

    artichoke in reply to lawgrad. | June 23, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    It’s really the opposite. For each of those A&S distribution requirements, specific courses are listed, not just “any Astro course”. In fact this one satisfies according to the course listing:

    Distribution Category (LA-AS, ALC-AS, PHS-AS)

    and looking up what those mean here:

    we see that it satisfies PHS-AS, “Physical Science”. Those Africana Studies majors can satisfy their physical science requirement with this class.

    Pathetic. But it may also signal that professors of real astronomy and other physical science classes were not willing to give passing grades for total incompetence.

    It’s cross-listed with Comparative Literature department, where it fits a little better. Although it really should be Africana Studies, probably.

It’s crosslisted with Comparative Literature which, if anywhere, is where this sort of thing probably belongs. Listing it also in Astronomy means people can fulfill perhaps science degree requirements with this, which would be a way for the innumerate I guess.

A mistake. People in Astronomy probably had to do something to satisfy the Wokeness requirement, and this was their contribution.

There are simply too many folks of below average ambition with advanced degrees holding themselves out as enlightened teachers. The “marketing scam” that is most of higher education needs to be exposed and taxed; as in that’s a “for-profit” endeavor.

Separately, as a society we need to get beyond these imagined concepts of a homogeneous “black peoples” versus “white peoples”. The quickest way perhaps to change everyone’s thinking is to realize that “white” light is a combination of all visible light, whereas “black” isn’t light at all, it is in fact the absence of light (or in physics of a “black hole” a thing that suffocates and takes everything, it offers nothing nor gives anything).

So the enlightened and special needs folks represented by “rainbows”, and other colorful logos and such actually in their striving to be diverse really are saying they want to be “white”. … Sounds silly, but that’s logic.

CapeBuffalo | June 24, 2021 at 3:34 pm

Cornell, prestigious? My ass !!

    lawgrad in reply to CapeBuffalo. | June 25, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    I knew one of a group of students who discovered the rings around the planet Uranus. The Cornell astronomy department is world class and does top-rated work. In contrast, there are people within the administration and on the faculty who no longer have academic excellence as their primary objective. A first rate physics professor can spot another, a first rate astronomy professor can spot another, but a bean counter in Day Hall finds it easier to measure progress based upon identity group hiring quotas. Every reader of Legal Insurrection needs to support the fight for intellectual rigor and oppose the social justice commodification of academia. At least Legal Insurrection readers understand that universities are supposed to be prestigious rather than blow it off as old white men teaching the “lived experience” of dead white men.

I’m a big fan of Octavia Butler’s writing, and I’m trying to imagine how she would have reacted if she could have known that one day her works would be used in such a course.

She definitely knew what a black hole is and what it isn’t. And her writings about race are way too subtle and sophisticated for today’s wokerati.

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