RECENTLY the Atlantic published a shocking piece by Jemele Hill, a prominent US sports broadcaster. The central premise of her regressive and frankly racist diatribe is that black colleges in America are struggling financially and so black student athletes should eschew what she describes as ‘racist white colleges’ and attend HBCU (Historically Black Colleges or Universities) instead.
Not only is this a form of reverse apartheid but it is voluntary apartheid/segregation too. The Left’s obsession with narcissistic identity politics has set back the achievements of racial equality by decades.
As aptly pointed out in the Daily Wire, black student athletes have a better chance of succeeding if they attend the better-known universities, or ‘white colleges’ as Hill misleadingly describes them.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see what will happen next. Promising black football players will choose an obscure college instead of a higher-profile one, basing their decision on hyperbolic fears of racism. Not only will black athletes voluntarily segregate themselves by doing so, but they will also stymie their chances of professional success. Hill is advocating for black athletes potentially to sacrifice their careers in misguided attempts to divert money and fame from the more successful universities to HBCU.
Nothing is ever perfect and I don’t deny that black students experience racism at these ‘white colleges’. But the answer is not to retreat to regressive segregation. Societies which fail to practise integration often are beset by racism. The less contact with the other the more chance that destructive othering, and racism, occurs.
Hill’s judgment is off anyway. She called President Donald Trump a ‘white supremacist’ and took another swipe at him in her piece: ‘Moreover, some black students feel safer, both physically and emotionally, on an HBCU campus—all the more so as racial tensions have risen in recent years.’
But I have yet to see flags with swastikas imprinted on them flying above the roof of the White House or hear of Trump passing segregation laws. The only person promoting any sort of racism is Hill herself, with the bigotry of low expectations and calling for black athletes to segregate themselves.
She also does herself a disservice by calling most American universities ‘white colleges’. With that description she reveals her own prejudices. These are not ‘white colleges’ but colleges. There are no laws barring students from attending colleges on the sole basis of their race. This rhetoric creates divisions where there are none.
Sadly, some student athletes have fallen for this trendy voluntary segregation ideology. Hill quotes a basketball player who transferred to a HBCU: ‘Davon Dillard is a basketball player who transferred to Shaw University after Oklahoma State dismissed him for disciplinary reasons. “Going to a school where most of the people are the same color as you, it’s almost like you can let your guard down a little bit,” he told me. “You don’t have to pretend to be somebody else. You don’t have to dress this way, or do things this way. It’s like, ‘I know you. We have the same kind of struggles. We can relate.’ It’s almost like you’re back at home in your neighborhood”.’
This desire to congregate and associate with others solely because they have the same colour skin is a guaranteed way to create a new system of apartheid, where everyone is separate but some are more equal than others.
I have written many times on how the meaning of the word racism is being diminished by over-use. Those who draw on it at every opportunity are insulting BAME members who truly do suffer from racism, creating an unnecessary climate of fear while doing so.
What would the celebrated campaigners for racial equality, such as Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks and Ida B Wells, have to say about contemporary black Americans influencers advocating for what is in effect a return to segregation? I suspect they would be horrified that this is happening in living memory of a time when activists fought and died for establishing racial civil rights.
Until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, overturning all state and local segregation laws, the US was marred by the derogatorily named ‘Jim Crow Laws’. These laws dictated the separation between black and white Americans for almost 100 years. Blacks were segregated from whites in almost all aspects of life. They were barred from using whites-only hospitals and schools and from living in designated white neighbourhoods. The colour of one’s skin would determine which drinking fountain could be used.
Wells was a former slave who became a journalist chronicling the injustices of lynching – a practice she described as the subjugation of black men. She risked her own life to bring the truth of appalling racism in the South to an ignorant audience.
I am certain Wells would be outraged to learn that young black men now would volunteer to subjugate themselves by choosing colleges where they have a reduced chance of succeeding in sports, and thereby making a success of their lives.
With her campaign to segregate universities Hill metaphorically spits on the grave of King, a man murdered for his fight for racial equality and justice for black Americans.
I doubt if she has properly thought this through. Rosa Parks would be horrified by this regressive advocacy for separation of the races.What’s next – separate seats on buses?
How shameful that 55 years after legal segregation ended in the US, hard-won rights of equality and integration are at risk of being shredded in favour of voluntary apartheid. Racial segregation is being updated for the 21stcentury – a shout-out to the past, self-inflicted and coming soon to a town near you.