Understanding Black College Protests by Joseph Kay,
And how to stop them.
Since the late 1960s, college campuses have been plagued by hundreds of race-related protests. Despite all the administrative accommodation—even outright surrender—demonstrations continue. To be sure, no two are alike—some peaceful, others violent—but in order to understand them, let us start with a historical overview.
Stage One: Campus at Rest. Black students have always been part of the college landscape, since long before affirmative action. Nearly all, however, were admitted because they could do the work and “fitted in,” never demanded special treatment, let alone entire departments catering to their racial identities. There might have been an occasional incident, such as being rejected by an all-white fraternity, but these incidents passed unnoticed. Everything was peaceful.
Stage Two: Racial Outreach. Beginning in the late 1960s, as a result of the Civil Rights movement and court decrees such as the 1976 Bakke decision, schools began admitting large numbers of blacks. Nearly all were unprepared for college work. Universities offered a variety of academic remediation programs, such as blacks-only summer school “bridge” programs to teach the basics. In a few cases, the administration created a Black Studies Department but this was intended as an academic enterprise that usually tried to attract distinguished black faculty, including African scholars to teach African languages; social justice was not on the agenda.
These early outreach programs invariably failed, since hastily recruited, fresh-out-of-the inner-city street kids could not do the work despite remedial efforts and generous grading by liberal professors. These new students were troublesome, but campus problems were almost entirely crime-related: shoplifting, sexual assault, marijuana dealing, and the like. Campus unrest, such as the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964/65, the Columbia protests of 1968, and the campus-wide strike at Yale in 1970 was led by whites and was not about race.
Stage Three: Campus Transformation. By the late 1980s or early 1990s, the agenda shifted from increasing the number of blacks on campus to transforming the campus to make blacks feel “at home,” and to correct what was seen as overpowering if not debilitating whiteness. “Diversity” was now official orthodoxy, and was implement top to bottom. Universities also increasingly focused on “retention,” so students who once would have flunked out now stayed on and even graduated, thanks to majors such as Black Studies.
Stage Four: The campus, to use a nuclear physics term, goes “critical.” Intensified recruitment had failed to attract qualified black students and faculty, but to meet quotas for non-whites, recruitment for students, faculty, and administrators moved ever farther toward the left side of the bell curve. Whereas earlier blacks on campus might have been challenged by Math 101, today’s recruits are utterly bewildered.