We’ve heard this kind of talk before in history

Posted: May 20, 2008 in Commentary

“So while Joshua graduates this weekend, keep in mind there’s a whole new generation of Joshua’s preparing to invade our HBCUs.” (This is from the recent commentary written by commentator Jasmyne Cannick as she discusses about the graduation of Joshua Packwood (White) from Morehouse College.)

While on the radio program “News and Notes” on NPR, this issue did come up during our discussion. One of the guests felt very suspicious about the fact that a White man has “taken” the spot as valedictorian at Morehouse College from a Black man. Then she began to accuse the bruthas for this (as Cannick puts it) ‘invasion’ for not trying hard enough. My response to her was two-fold. First, Morehouse is just over 141 years old in existence and this is the first time in its history a White man has graduated as valedictorian. How does one White man negate the efforts of every Black man who has graduated as valedictorian from that school? Second, I far as I am concerned, Packwood’s graduation is a fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr. and so many who have marched for civil rights in this country that this would be a nation in which folks would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. When you read the following excerpts from another article covering his story, you’ll see what I mean–

His popularity got him elected dorm president as a freshman. His looks and physique made him a fashion-show favorite. His intellect made him a Rhodes Scholar finalist. His work ethic landed him a job at the prestigious investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in New York City. […] When Packwood applied to Morehouse, he had frequent conversations with George Gray, an alumnus who was a recruiter at the school. Gray was impressed by Packwood’s credentials and spent months trying to talk the sought-after senior into choosing Morehouse over other elite schools. “He had outstanding numbers,” said Gray, now director of admissions at historically black Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. “He was the kind of kid we were looking for to be a presidential scholar.” After several conversations, Packwood began to suspect that Gray had no idea that he was white. His suspicions were confirmed when one of Gray’s calls caught Packwood in the middle of track practice. “Don’t let the white kids walk you down,” Gray quipped. “Wait,” Packwood responded. “You know I’m white, right?” Silence. Uneasy laughter. Confirmation. “The challenge was to get the best student that we could, and Josh definitely fit that,” Gray said. And for Packwood, knowing that he had been picked on his merits, and not as a token white recruit, made the difference. (more…)

There are MANY lines that I could critique in this post, but for the sake of time I will highlight a few that really stuck out to me and bring it all home at the end.

Our organizations, churches, and sermons have been invaded. Locs aren’t just for Blacks anymore. Soul food hit mainstream America a long time ago. My ass, lips, breasts, and beautiful shade of Black can be purchased on just about any corner in Beverly Hills for the right price. And let’s not even get into hip-hop and R&B. Why I’d like to tell you that it’s okay for a white person to run their local NAACP chapter and be class valedictorian of a HBCU, I can’t, because to me it’s not okay. It says to me that there are Black people that could have stepped to the plate and assumed a leadership role and didn’t. It says to me that there are Black students at Morehouse that could have risen to the occasion, but didn’t. And like with everything in life, if you snooze you lose.

[…]

The time is soon coming where those code words and phrases that we use in mixed company won’t work anymore because after attending our HBCUs, churches, and of course Tyler Perry films, they’ll know exactly what we mean.

[…]

Most of us will never know where we come from. And so that means that all we have culturally is what we’ve created for ourselves and passed down from generation to generation, both the good and the bad. Is nothing off limits? At what point do we began to preserve what is uniquely ours and stop giving it away? (more…)

This commentary is not borderline racism, it is racist and reminiscent of how Whites during the Jim Crow South felt when Blacks “invaded” their schools. ANY school or institution that receives federal funding should not be “off limits” to anybody who wishes to attend and have the means to do so. This was one of the goals of the civil rights movement in the first place. What Cannick fails to acknowledge in her piece is that there have been MANY Black folks over the years that have not only enrolled in historically mostly-White schools, but numbers of them have done quite well. The academic records of both Barack and Michelle Obama immediately come to mind here. Would Whites be justified in voicing disappointment that the Obamas somehow soiled the proud histories of Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia Universities? Perhaps Harvard Law Review should be in a complete tizzy right now because Obama was the first Black American to serve as president of that organization. I think not.

I think the biggest thing that really pisses me off about such viewpoints is that it tends to portray Whites as conniving, way more powerful and smarter than Blacks. Any action from a White person that is perceived to be an infraction against Blacks is rarely seen as an isolated incident, but part of some grand scheme to push Blacks to the days of Chicken George and Khunta Kente. One White man (ONE!) graduates from a predominately Black school and suddenly our entire culture is at stake. Come on and quit with the drama!! Morehouse was doing fine before Packwood, continued to do fine by helping him gain employment with Goldman Sachs, and will continue to do well with future students. Morehouse has over 140 years of creditably graduating well-qualified individuals including Packwood.  How one White man screws all of that up is beyond me.

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