Alabama Governor George C. Wallace made his objective clear:
“segregation today…segregation tomorrow…segregation forever.”
Some black students at prestigious U.S. universities now seem to be endorsing that vow themselves, embracing division instead of diversity. In a contradictory effort, they are arguing for inclusion while espousing policies that support separateness.
A protest at Princeton ended Thursday night after the Black Justice League at the school made multiple demands, including that the school provide cultural space for black students on campus.
The school’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, agreed to discuss all the demands, but quickly capitulated to the “cultural space” ultimatum.
Student protests at Yale have had a similar impact.
Nicholas Christakis, the master of Silliman College at Yale, was surrounded by angry students after telling them to allow others to exercise free speech. One young woman launched into an expletive-ridden rant and told him to ‘shut the f*** up’.
Ignoring the bad behavior, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, promised a doubling of budgets for four already established cultural centers, including an Afro-American Cultural Center.
Founded in 1969, the Afro-American Cultural Center provided a model for other more recently established ones.
Yale attempts to justify the cultural centers by saying they “…foster a sense of cultural identity and educate people in the larger community. They also act as optional social centers and community bases for students of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, supplementing the social environment of the larger, pluralistic Yale College community.”
In other words, after Americans have struggled for decades to bring us all together, week-kneed administrators at universities across the country are acquiescing in, even heartily endorsing, racial separateness.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Black Student Union at UC Irvine recently demanded and secured an administration commitment to create and fund a Black Scholars’ Hall and a Marsha P. Johnson Black Student Resource, Outreach, and Retention Center. The Black Student Union also demanded that the Center be staffed by people picked by student representatives elected by the Black Students on Campus organization and three African-American Studies core faculty members.
“This seems reactionary and poorly thought out,” a reader commented on the Los Angeles Times’ website. “The only way the campus community and the institution benefit from diversity is to better integrate the African American and other underrepresented students on campus. This plan seems to facilitate and support isolating and segregating them.”
MIT has a community within a dorm called Chocolate City, “…a brotherhood of MIT students and alumni who identify with urban culture and share common backgrounds, interests, ethnicities, and/or experiences.”
At Brown University in Rhode Island there’s Harambee House, which is “…focused on perpetuating a sense of community, academic excellence, and leadership for all people of African descent.”
Harambee is Swahili for ” pulling or working together.” But self-segregation isn’t pulling people together; it’s pushing them apart, capitulating to pressure and reinforcing separatism.
After generations of schools denied admittance to blacks and only under pressure eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures, how ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by allowing, even facilitating, separate housing and activity centers by race.
No matter the justification, they are a contrivance that do damage to all students, their schools and American ideals.
Some academics, overly eager for student approval, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students…on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY.
This isn’t the way forward. It’s a way back, way way back.