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Home > Editorials > Op/Ed: This Crazy Mixed Up World

Op/Ed: This Crazy Mixed Up World

Joseph C. Phillips
Joseph C. Phillips

(HOLLYWOOD - May 9, 2008) - I never imagined a time when directors of campus diversity would suggest that Blacks not be hired or when Black students would work to censure a speaker for suggesting that they are capable of competing with their White and Asian classmates in the academic arena.  Yet, that is exactly what happened during my recent sojourn to Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania to speak on the topic of “Affirmative Action in the 21st Century.”

Who knew an appearance by little ol’ me could elicit such controversy?

The fun began when the campus Republicans (CR) approached the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs (OMA) and asked if they would like to co-sponsor the evening and join us all for dinner afterwards.  The OMA declined the invitation and began working to bring their own speaker to campus. The topic was clearly one of interest; they were just uninterested in working with the students of the CR or hearing what their speaker had to say.  This, I believe, is known in academic circles as having an open mind.

The OMA later contacted the CR and informed them that they wanted to add their speaker to the evening’s bill.  The event organizers explained that they were satisfied with the plans they had made and politely declined.  The students then contacted the campus communications department in order to advertise their event on the campus website. They were informed that unless the OMA speaker was added to the bill they would not be allowed to advertise their event.  The students also became aware of an email from the director of the OMA to several other student groups on campus seeking their support for the speaker the OMA was bringing to campus.  Welcome to the new academic freedom.

It is truly a sign of how mixed up the world is when a Black man telling Black students that there is no monopoly on brain power is decried as a sellout while White folk that believe Black students are only in attendance on campus because of lowered standards and that without lowered standards they would not be in school at all are seen as comrades in arms. Let’s just call that madness.

Another meeting was held in the office of the director of the OMA.  Several students protesting the event were present and accused the CR of attempting to propagate the message that Black students were not welcome on the campus.   Mind you at this point no one, not the students protesting the event or the director of the OMA had taken the time to find out exactly what my position on affirmative action is or to inquire as to what I might say during my speech. For the record, I do not oppose all affirmative action programs. My comments that evening were narrowly focused on racial preferences for the purposes of diversity.  One of the main arguments I make is that racial preferences tend to reinforce stereotypes particularly as it pertains to black academic inferiority.   That, of course, did not stop several students from expressing their indignation by threatening to picket the event, tear down posters and put up posters of their own attacking the officers of the CR.  Nor did it dissuade the director of the OMA from suggesting to the CR that it would have been better had they invited a white speaker to address the issue.  This is a prime example of the new world promotion of cross racial understanding.

Ironically, ignorance of the speaker did little to prevent Black students in the audience from viewing me as the enemy even as the president of the campus Democrats – one of their fellow protestors – expressed her outrage that I would be invited to speak given the fact that most of the Black students on campus were there because of affirmative action, (thus proving my point).

In the end, it was more sound and fury than substance and no doubt increased the events turnout proving the maxim, “all publicity is good publicity.”

There was, however, a particularly fascinating moment during the question and answer portion of the evening. A woman in the rear of the auditorium (that had been sucking her teeth for most of my talk) asked how in the world I expected Black students to get into college without racial preferences.  I waited hoping that perhaps one of the Black students so indignant at my appearance would politely check this woman.  I waited in vain. The new Black revolutionaries, God help us.

It is truly a sign of how mixed up the world is when a Black man telling Black students that there is no monopoly on brain power is decried as a sellout while White folk that believe Black students are only in attendance on campus because of lowered standards and that without lowered standards they would not be in school at all are seen as comrades in arms.  Let’s just call that madness.

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