Peretz found himself wondering who these people were: not students, he thought, and not faculty. He settled on “the usual intellectual detritus that collects around the university.”
But some of them were students, and they held signs, each with a printed Peretz quote offering a sweeping ethnic generalization: “The stark fact is that the educated black middle- and upper-middle classes do not go to museums, and they do not go to concerts either.” “Terrorism … is about the sum total of what the Palestinians have bestowed on our civilization during the last five decades.” “
When I met Peretz ten weeks later, he still seemed on edge. The bigotry charge was what lingered. (…) At a basic level, he said, he can’t be a bigot; he mentioned two close, personal black friends, one who is “so fucking smart,” and then a third, a black student whom he had plucked from Harvard and made the circulation director of The New Republic. “I hired Muslims—I hired Fareed Zakaria,” he added. The litany provoked a flash of self-consciousness. “I’m really demeaning myself here,” he said miserably, before continuing. Peretz is enough of a liberal to realize that any scene in which a man sits in the dining room of the Regency with a reporter, listing all of his friends and associates who are black or Muslim, is a scene in which that man is drowning. And yet here he was.