Columbia English professor John McWhorter reviews for Barron’s a book that focuses on “the black-and-white politics of race on America’s campuses.”

In his latest polemic, journalist, novelist, and college lecturer Lawrence Ross is eager to reveal that even in 2016, being black is a daily battle with racism. Ross likens the black experience to “a sea of s__ in which you swim, always stinking no matter how many showers you take.” According to the world depicted in Blackballed, the U.S. reflexively dismisses all discussions of racism as mere “playing the race card,” under the delusion that anything short of burning crosses in public doesn’t qualify as discriminating against blacks.

The author’s subject is not as abstract as institutional racism, whose existence someone like me hardly denies. Nor is Blackballed about the very real problem of black people’s interactions with police. The book’s target is oddly more specific: a j’accuse proclamation about racism on college campuses—precisely where we might expect, given the exigencies of political correctness, that students enjoy a four-year reprieve from such indignities.

Does racism happen on college campuses? Of course. Drunken fraternity brothers have a way of pushing the boundaries, and now that open racism is the moral equivalent of pedophilia, saying racially tacky things is the definition of exceeding the boundaries. Ross gives us the full litany of how common this kind of transgression has been. Some white sororities as well as fraternities are on record as refusing black pledges. College buildings are often named after people whose racism we would find repulsive today. I, too, am uncomfortable with names like that of John C. Calhoun enshrined on public buildings.

There are two central problems with the author’s indictment, however. The first is an issue of degree. Ross would have us believe that to be a black (or Latino) student on a college campus today is parallel to the experiences suffered by black people who first desegregated college campuses in the 1960s—or, at least, that not enough has changed in any real way. …

… White frat guys singing racist songs? I’d think we’d classify them as jackasses. White sororities refusing to accept black women? Why would any of us feel hurt by not being their friends? Dealing with such people should less threaten than bolster one’s self-image.

There’s no room for that kind of thinking in Blackballed. Instead, we encounter the second main problem with the text: Indignation is sought at all costs, outranking logic itself.

Black students feel “invisible.” But in what way and for what purpose do they need to be made “visible,” especially since it is now considered “racist” to call on black students in class to ask them about the black experience? Ross complains that there are so few funded programs making white and black students “interact.” But about what, and to what end? These days, it would be easy to classify anything a black student found less than welcome in these “interactions” as a “microaggression.”