It’s not progress; it’s regression
Several dozen universities now offer graduation ceremonies exclusively for black students. These ceremonies, which are independent of the larger commencement exercises offered at most institutions, are meant to “give extra honors and recognition to black students earning their degrees.” The National Association of Scholars surveyed over 170 schools and found that nearly half of them offer ceremonies such as this.
It is worth asking what, precisely, the point of such events really is. Why do black students need their own special graduation ceremonies? Put another way: What is it about being a black American college student that calls for a racially exclusive commencement exercise?
There probably isn’t a good answer for that. One spokeswoman told The Fix that these exercises “oftentimes incorporate cultural traditions.” That is a bit of a non sequitur—there is, after all, no single “cultural tradition” that unites all black Americans, any more than there is for white ones. African-Americans throughout the centuries have contributed immense riches to the American cultural tapestry, but those contributions are not monolithic; they are varied and regional and not at all the sort of thing you can cram haphazardly into a seventy-minute ceremony.
In all likelihood these events are little more than sops to campus identity politics. A kind of racial radicalism has gripped many campuses in recent years: demands for racially segregated housing are common in higher education these days, and racial segregation is increasingly common at student centers, workshops and other campus events. This is not progress; it is regression. The great American political movements of the 19th and 20th century were about bridging the profound and often brutal chasm that has divided the races in this country since its earliest beginnings. Many campuses are now helping to widen that chasm rather than close it further. It’s a terrible thing to witness.
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