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.