The Dinesh D’Souza I Knew Was No Tutor

After receiving a five-year probationary sentence in federal court for using straw donors to circumvent campaign finance limits in a US Senate race, conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza sat down with Megyn Kelly on Fox News to share his reflections on pleading guilty to a felony. Far from dispirited, the upbeat D’Souza said, “I’ve got a big smile on my face now” and suggested that, after all, “this was really an effort to put me out of business…And a federal judge said ‘no.’ ” Relieved, D’Souza then explained that he looks forward to covering the 2016 elections and continuing his work for the conservative movement.

What caught my eye though was that D’Souza rejoiced not only in the prison sentence he escaped but also in the weekly community service he is required to do during his probationary period.

“I’ll tell you a good part of the sentence,” D’Souza beamed, “and I actually thank the judge for it— is I’m going to be teaching English to new immigrants to this country…That’s my community service that I’m very happy to do it.”

I almost fell out of my chair when I heard D’Souza express enthusiasm about tutoring.

You see, Dinesh and I “know” each other— not very well, granted, but well enough for him to level one of his infamous, illogical, straw man, ad hominem attacks against me. About five months ago, we ended up in a spontaneous, 18-minute-long debate at Amherst College about the persistent legacies of systemic racism in America. During our exchange, which begins at 58:16 in this video, D’Souza indicted me for hypocrisy, demanded that I step down from my first-year seat at Amherst and, in a caricatured voice, condescendingly derided my work as a tutor in high school.

The exchange began after D’Souza railed against the “envy” of working-class Americans. When he called on me, I asked him whether the indignation of working-class Americans might be justified given our country’s legacy of distributing economic advantages to certain people— say, white Americans— while imposing segregation and economic disabilities on other people. I reminded D’Souza that while African-Americans were subjugated and excluded from government largesse, the white middle class soared to prosperity because of the generous public investment in the GI Bill for white veterans. Although I conceded that no US citizen my age has dealt with this sort of de jure segregation, I insisted that the pesky thing called family inheritance still breathes life into these ostensibly defunct systems of racial discrimination and inequality.

In his roundabout response, D’Souza gruffly insinuated that I had protested his coming to Amherst (I had not and actually welcomed the chance to hear him), that I had endorsed race-based affirmative action (I had not), that I should withdraw from Amherst College if I really care about white privilege (a complete non sequitur), and that, being an elitist Amherst student, I am “willing to have social justice if other people pay, but you’re not willing to pay” (this is false).

Although I might now tell Dinesh that I am a highly imperfect yet committed young person who has organized voter registration drives for students at my high school, volunteered two summers at a camp for elementary school students with developmental disabilities, helped coordinate food drives at my synagogue for the homeless, spent three years co-teaching 7th graders about the Holocaust and discrimination, donated loads of clothing to a local homeless shelter, given blood to the American Red Cross and written extensively about prejudice and the brutal ramifications of the systemic atrocities that D’Souza promotes, I assumed it was sufficient at the time to say that my work as a tutor actually has made an inroad into structural disadvantage.

Boy, did he get a laugh out of that!

“I did do some toooooo-tor-inggggg!” Dinesh mimicked, his voice dripping with contempt before the exchange ended.

Now, the convict D’Souza is “very happy” to be participating in a project as valuable as tutoring. One can only hope that this process brings his heart up to speed with his remarkably improved language.

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3 comments on “The Dinesh D’Souza I Knew Was No Tutor
  1. Brilliant work! I just watched the YouTube clip where you detail your token efforts of volunteering as a tutor to make an inroad to structural disadvantage. Both your article and debate performance serve as perfect case studies to demonstrate what Dinesh summarizes to you as ‘Marching behind social justice while protecting its own privileges.’

    Your article is also a textbook example of an ad hominem attack (that you ironically also accuse him of in your article.) The article seems to suggest that Dinesh mocks the value and importance of tutoring when he in fact does no such thing. Dinesh mocks the idea of justifying privilege on the basis of having volunteered as a tutor. It is endearing how you go on in your article to give more examples of your selflessness to argue your point. Keep up the good work!

    • tommyraskin says:

      Hi Mitch,

      Thank you for the comment. Even if we don’t see eye to eye, hopefully you will better understand my position after I run through your points in no particular order.

      To begin, I do not “march behind social justice” while protecting my own privileges. Nowhere in my article, exchange with D’Souza, or elsewhere do I advocate the implementation of any societal program from which I would exempt myself. For the record, I will be more than happy to pitch in when we as a country decide on some sort of economic remedy for the enduring effects of Jim Crow. That’s what it means to live in a society of mutual responsibility.

      Next, I am not sure why you think that I “justify” my privilege on the basis of having tutored. The point of my comment to Dinesh was that we should, one, work as a society to dissolve systems of privilege and, two, work as individuals to alleviate suffering where we can.

      Although I didn’t discuss race-based affirmative action with Dinesh, it is also important to mention that the guy has a fundamental misunderstanding of what it would mean, hypothetically, for someone like me to support race-based affirmative action. It is unreasonable for him to demand that all white affirmative action advocates give up their seats. I submit, however, that white affirmative action advocates should certainly not try to circumvent affirmative action when they themselves apply for jobs and university seats. We probably agree on this point.

      Because there’s some confusion, let’s run through the events of our exchange one more time: when Dinesh asked me what I do to help those who are disadvantaged, I told him that I tutored. He then ran with that tidbit of information as he talked about donating superfluous income to good will. In the process, he clearly mocked the idea that tutoring was sufficiently “giving back.” My article simply points out that if Dinesh actually thinks that tutoring isn’t worth much to society, then it is puzzling that he is “very happy” to tutor as part of his probation.

      Finally, even though I don’t think that my years of service are as inconsequential as you do, I am happily reminded by your comment that I can always do more to help out.

      Thanks again for reading!

      Kind regards,
      Tommy

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