I must be honest and say that I realize that the disapproving gaze that I cast upon this latest generation of African-American collegians is closely tied to my getting older and hopefully a bit wiser. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the path to black liberation clearer than I did a decade ago.
Unfortunately for my sanity, it is experience gained through an often emotionally difficult trial-and-error process that has endowed me with this pristine view of American racial matters and an accessible path to “the liberation and salvation of the black nation.” Predictably, the latest cadre of African-American collegians who have not traveled this path has a much cloudier and less focused view of the issues and maladies facing our community. I feel comfortable in saying that this unfortunate reality of our students not “getting it” is the bane of more than a few African-American professors existence. The recent events at the venerable Bethune-Cookman University have once again caused me to pause my often harsh criticism of this latest generation of African-American collegians.
In case you missed it, for some inexplicable reason Bethune-Cookman University President Edison Jackson provided U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos the esteemed honor of delivering the 2017 commencement address. To President Jackson’s horror, the graduating seniors, buoyed by a wide-array of alumni who disapproved of DeVos’ selection as commencement speaker, not only shouted “Liar!” toward the Secretary of Education but also stood and turned their backs as she delivered her address.
As a frequent critic of young black collegians, I must publicly state that I have never been prouder of our young people than at this moment. Via their beautifully timed public protest, the recent graduates of Bethune-Cookman University have displayed courage not seen within the African-American Freedom Struggle since Angela Davis battled the state of California or Assata Shakur escaped the clutches of America and found refuge in Cuba. I pray that the courage to “speak truth to power” regardless of the setting displayed by the Bethune-Cookman graduates becomes the latest “trend” among African-American collegians.
So I take this moment to publicly applaud you for your political astuteness and courage to send a resounding message regarding what is not permissible in our centers of higher education. I now hope that more will follow your lead.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III