Race, -ism and Academia - Higher Education
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Race, -ism and Academia

by Black Issues

Race, -ism and Academia

Funny thing, how race pervades. Permeating little monster that it is, race  —  and its ugly -ism  —  frequently charms its way through society’s everyday pockets like the job interview or the traffic stop.
Recent editorials also report that said -ism has been cunning enough to set up shop in places as varied as the New York City Police Department, the floor of the South Carolina Legislature and the dating policy of a Southern college.
It’s no surprise that even the deified halls of academia aren’t immune. If this -ism can inspire a fatal 41-bullet spray in New York and the denial of a Martin Luther King  Jr. holiday in the same state that refuses to take the Confederate flag down from its Capitol, surely it can take hold of our institutions of higher education.
And so, the permeating little -ism has popped up all throughout our pages. 
There’s Bob Jones University and the pesky thorn it is pricking in George W. Bush’s presidential campaign (see pg. 9). Bush says he “missed the opportunity” to deride university administrators for the -ism which, among other things, allots a policy that shoves the plethora of America’s ethnic groups into three classifications – “Caucasians, Negroes and Orientals” — none of which were previously allowed to date any other.
There’s the Mississippi University that just last month elected its first Black student body president, (see pg. 10) despite the fact that a whopping 38 years ago, James Meredith won a hard-fought bout with the -ism to get into the school.
There’s the University of Michigan study that blames -ism for local resistance to affirmative action (see pg. 14).
There’s the George Washington University law professor so fed up with the -ism that he risked getting tenure and other promotions to progress a legal premise that advocates letting Black criminal defendants go free despite their guilt (see pg. 18).
And finally, if -ism can invade the academy, so too can it latch on to the academy’s leaders. Members of Washington D.C.’s Higher Education Secretariat  —  though good at spouting rhetoric  —  have collectively failed to diversify their upper ranks, (see pg. 25) setting a dangerous environment for various policy judgments to give way to, you guessed it, -ism.
So what do we do when this wretched -ism is so sophisticated as to blindside the ivory towers’ urbane mechanisms, the very scholars and policy setters the country looks to for enlightenment?
Truth is, academe is merely a mirror of the culture that surrounds it, susceptible just the same to society’s ills and vices. But if one of our postsecondary intellects could only come up with a formula to outsmart this darned thing, then maybe South Carolina’s offended citizens, Amadou Diallo,  —  God rest his soul  —  the academy and, indeed, the world over could deal with closure between race and -ism.



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