Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Socletal Schizophrenia and Academic Retrenchment: A Tale of Two Inconsistencies

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Socletal Schizophrenia and Academic Retrenchment: A Tale of Two Inconsistencies

Article excerpt

As we approach the new millennium, it is indeed the best of times and the worst of times for African Americans in higher ducation. College attendance for African American students is at an all-time high. However, those percentages are still significantly lower than Caucasian student attendance rates.

Even with the recent reduction of the African American professorate, there are still approximately 57,()00 African American college professors - up from 37,000 in 1993. Conversely, African American faculty accounts for less than 5 percent of the entire college teaching corps.

And, given the shifts in the traditional college age and college attending Caucasian population, universities need increasing numbers of students of color to fill the increasing numbers of seats vacated by White 18-to-20-year-olds from rural and suburban America. Hence, I find it pernicious that over the last 10 years, a significant number of initiatives and legal decisions have been introduced- and sometimes mandated which delimit college access for African Americans.

The collegiate experiences of African Americans do not occur in a vacuum. They are part of a larger social context.

The narrow and backward conservative trend in America has resulted in the manifestation of societal schizophrenia. This societal schizophrenia forces America to both disdain and adore African Americans simultaneously. \We disdain the idea of affirmative action while simultaneously praising Colin Powell, a product of it. We disdain the money that professional athletes make, and yet we want to be like Michael Jordan - formerly the highest paid athlete in the National Basketball Association. We like and/or disdain the same object contingent on its angle. And in too many cases, our "adore" weakens to "tolerate" and our "disdain" strengthens to "despise." It is indeed the best and worst of times.

My grandmother used to tell me, "Every shut eye ain't `sleep and every good-bve ain't gone." Her words are poignant in light of the retrenchment in educational opportunity for African Americans. There have been no initiatives or legal decisions - and I doubt there will be which seek to delimit access based on gender, athletic prowess, musical talent, or religious orthodox,. In fact, according to the Hopwood v. Texas case, all of these characteristics are desirable on a college campus. Consequently, the intended contrast of desirables forces the deduction that African Americans and other people of color are not welcomed within the iv-covered walls - perhaps "ivory-controlled walls" is more appropriate - of the university. …

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