Weekend Reading

ACC occupied the Colgate admissions building around the clock for more than a hundred hours. Their list of demands was long and ambitious. The instigating events behind their protest were mocked by more than a few people as insubstantial. But at no point did the administration ever — to my knowledge — threaten or even consider criminal charges, police involvement, or disciplinary action. Instead, the sit-in was handled the way campus sit-ins were typically handled a generation ago — as a negotiation between members of the campus community.

In the last few years we’ve seen campus administrators use batons and pepper spray and mass arrest against peacefully protesting students. We’ve seen guns drawn and bones broken. We’ve seen students coerced into promises not to exercise their First Amendment rights for the remainder of their time on campus. Some of these tactics have been effective in smothering student protest, at least in the short term, at least on some campuses. But they’re reprehensible, and they’re poisonous. They’re a violation of the obligations of administrators toward their students, and they’re a violation of the fundamental principles on which a campus should be founded.

For most of American history, it has been national policy to plunder the capital accumulated by black people—social or otherwise. It began with the prohibition against reading, proceeded to separate and wholly unequal schools, and continues to this very day in our tacit acceptance of segregation. When building capital, it helps to know the right people. One aim of American policy, historically, has been to insure that the “right people” are rarely black. Segregation then ensures that these rare exceptions are spread thin, and that the rest of us have no access to other “right people.”

And so a white family born into the lower middle class can expect to live around a critical mass of people who are more affluent or worldly and thus see other things, be exposed to other practices and other cultures. A black family with a middle class salary can expect to live around a critical mass of poor people, and mostly see the same things they (and the poor people around them) are working hard to escape. This too compounds.

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