Although I have been repeatedly reminded that my belief that African-American students should never pursue their undergraduate degrees on the campuses of Predominantly White Institutions (P.W.I.) I will never abandon that perspective.
Oftentimes, debates regarding this matter turn ferocious with my black peers who charge me with being a hypocrite as I earned each of my degrees form a P.W.I. I always counter their position with the reality that my long exposure to a white campus does not make me a hypocrite, rather it makes me an authority on this issue.
My staunch stance flows from the reality that at a moment where African-American collegians are experiencing their first dose of independence, an occasion that will invariably lead to differing levels of misstep, the vast majority are incapable of surviving the hazing that they will receive from ignorant white students who know little about the black experience or unsympathetic professors and administrators who carry decades of racially based prejudice into their interactions with the young black collegians mentioned above.
I have personally witnessed many brilliant black youths become disenchanted and eventually broken by their engagement with whites at a P.W.I. who have neither vested interest nor concern regarding their matriculation from higher education institutions that they consider their terrain.
There is quite possibly no greater indicator regarding the inherent bias and psychological dangers that black undergraduates face than the recent events that occurred at the residence of Randy Lowry, the President of Lipscomb University. According to those present, President Lowry’s invitation to a cadre of African-American students was far from genuine.
Those present for the event noticed that the man heading the University that they call home had set them up for an inside joke that only he and the other whites present were aware of. The “joke” pivoted on centerpieces specially constructed for the occasion. These adults who are in charge of a University placed centerpieces made of cotton stalks in front of their student guests. Obviously, this “joke” was a nod to a racist past that saw enslaved Africans picking cotton for whites.
When a few courageous students raised the issue, Lowry related that he was unaware of who was responsible for the centerpieces, however, they were “fallish” and that “cotton isn’t inherently bad if we’re all wearing it.” As if such an offense were not enough to drive home his true feelings regarding this matter, Lowry had another surprise up his nasty sleeve, he served the students what could be termed a “black meal.”
Predictably, when President Lowry was called on his egregious behavior, he turned to the media in a desperate attempt to quell this inexcusable incident. What follows is Lowry’s desperate attempt to explain away his behavior.
“Last night we invited Lipscomb African American students to our home for dinner to discuss their experiences at Lipscomb. Several students shared with me their concern about the material used for centerpieces which contained stalks of cotton…The content of the centerpieces was offensive, and I could have handled the situation with more sensitivity…I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger or disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness.”
The fact that Lowry has not been removed from the Presidency by an angered Lipscomb University community speaks volumes about that so-called institution of higher education. If no one else understands what Lowry’s continuation as University President means, one would expect the parents of the institutions few Black students to get the message with unbelievable clarity. That message is a simple one that your child is not only unwelcome at this institution, but also in physical and psychological peril.
As previously mentioned, I realize that I’m in the minority regarding my belief that black undergraduates have no business on P.W.I. campuses. I also realize that most will be offended by my reliance on Malcolm X’s quote “That only a fool would let his enemy educate his children.” However, even my most vocal opponents have to agree that it is frightening to consider that an institution headed by a man such as Randy Lowry has been given the privilege of molding the political priorities, historical understanding, and future outlook of black students. It is absolutely frightening to consider what will come out of such an arrangement. One thing is for certain, it will not be a positive for Black America.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017