College Campuses and Race

In the wake of the rallies and protests at the University Missouri that led to the resignation of the President as well as the Chancellor of the state higher education system, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of rallies and protests on college campuses across the country. Some of the more notable ones include Princeton, where a group of students have demanded, among other things, that Woodrow Wilson's name be removed from its programs and buildings; Amherst, where students and faculty have voted to abandon Lord Jeff as their unofficial mascot; and Claremont McKenna where the Dean of Students resigned.

In response to the demands issued largely by minority student groups on campuses, there has been a backlash, largely by majority students and alumni. Some of that response has been thoughtful, particularly around issues of free speech, but much of it has been quite ugly. I think there is a general sense among the majority that students these days are unreasonably seeking to be protected from the "real world" and that the racial climate on most college campuses is healthier than the rest of the world, so these students ought to just shut up.

But then there's Chicago and the recently released video of another young black man being shot down by a policeman. In the face of these events, which appear to have no end, thoughtful and deliberate conversation doesn't seem like it's enough. And the idea that young black college students are over-reacting to perceived injustice seems less like a fair perspective than it does an attempt to erase the real and brutal issues of race and discrimination that still haunt us, all of us.

We are still very much a country where race matters. Race matters in educational opportunities, race matters in our criminal justice system, race matters in employment, race matters in accumulated family wealth, race matters in the rate of school suspensions. Race still matters. Colleges, including my college, have got to do a better job helping students of all colors understand that and commit themselves to change the status quo.