Black Power and Student Rebellion

Black Power and Student Rebellion

Black Power and Student Rebellion

Black Power and Student Rebellion

Excerpt

The demands of both black and white students, which are causing controversy and crisis on many American campuses, are specific to their particular colleges only in a minor sense. Even student moderates whom we have interviewed (for our article on San Francisco State) see the college as simply part of a larger set of coercive social institutions and agents--"the System" run by "the Establishment." Student dissatisfactions with the campus are usually expressed in terms of general disapproval of society. In their judgment, society (and their college or university) is racist, corrupt, morally bankrupt and unresponsive and rigid in dealing with the oppressed, whether they be blacks, students, or the poor. Their oppressors are not simply the dean, the college president, or the board of trustees; they include Reagan, Johnson, Nixon, the war machine, and the hordes of complacent middle-class benefactors of a politically cynical, immoral--but affluent--society.

Moreover, these students are not simply indignant, angry, frustrated, or alienated. They share a sense of extremely high political efficacy: they believe not only that they must, but that they can do something about the present state of affairs. At the same time, they greatly distrust the national political system.

This is a critical and volatile combination. Theoretical work by William A. Gamson and empirical evidence from Detroit and Newark ghetto rioters, collected and analyzed by Jeffery Paige, suggest that a high sense of political efficacy and low political trust, when they occur together, are major determinants of revolutionary behavior. This model of revolutionary behavior does not seem to be restricted to new left or black nationalist movements alone. Research by McEvoy suggests that this same configuration of attitudes was disproportionately frequent among early supporters of Senator Goldwater in 1964-an affluent, middle to upper class, conservative, activist group.

The students at San Francisco State, Columbia, Berkeley, Wisconsin, and other campuses on which dissent has recently culminated in violence and confrontation, have seen no further need to "work through channels," because campus channels are not . . .

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