The racist U.S. Supreme Court, with its supporting Uncle Tom, might have done the blacks in this country a great favor in setting the stage for the dismantling of university integration efforts. Anyway, the so-called “affirmative action” was a sham to begin with. I have spent about 60 years studying and teaching in traditionally white universities and I can honestly say that I have never witnessed the lowering of admission (or graduation) requirements for black students.
They would see and embrace our similarities and not continue to view us from a distorted distance. They would see that we are, in every respect, as cultivated and refined as our counterparts here and universally; that we value moral behavior; that we love and desire to protect our families; that we value cleanliness; that we value education; that we value industry and thrift; and that we love our country even though we often feel that our country does not love us.
Unfortunately, that never happened because white people never
understood our push for integration. They made no effort to meet us half-way, as the saying goes. They had, and continue to have, the bumptious assumption that we value white people and, therefore, craved to be with them; that to co-mingle with them would elevate us and demean them.
That attitude was not lost on black st udents and faculty at white universities. You need only to visit such universities to witness the lack of social integration on these campuses. The black people on these campuses have had to find acceptance and validation among themselves in the absence of a feeling of belonging to the larger campus community.
(The exception is the heavily recruited black athletes, an august group of highly talented youth, who bring national recognition and immeasurable financial support to these institutions).
Efforts to engage their white colleagues are too often met with the many snide ways white Americans use to remind their non-white associates of the racial difference. They cannot be just people. They have to be white people, letting you know that they are and you are not.
Fortunately for us, we did not dismantle our historically black colleges and universities (the HBCUs) with the promise of integration. The result is we have an impressive cohort of universities and colleges. They have been our mainstay, beginning a scant three years after we were no longer slaves and no longer forbidden, by state laws, to be taught to read and write.
Our institutions of higher learning are on par with all others, offering the identical quality of education because they must meet the standards that are set by the regional and national accreditation associations.
Homecoming at the HBCUs is really home coming because classmates and faculty represent the extended family that helped us successfully pass through our adolescence into adulthood and we relish the opportunity to fellowship with them through the ensuing years. We sang our alma mater songs with gusto and reverence and our fraternities and sororities sustain us throughout our lives.
So, this ruling may have the unintended consequence of serving us well. It might help us to see that the grass is not greener in that other yard. As a former integrationist, I say we should appreciate and support our own institutions but continue to insist on equality of financial assistance.
As for white Americans, one day they might realize that whiteness is just a concept and it does not confer excellence or native superiority – and certainly not beauty.
Gilbert Lancelot Raiford, a contract worker with the U.S. Department of State, is a retired social worker who has had a long career in teaching. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org