The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses
By: Lawrence Ross
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 2/2/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
College" is a word that means many things to many people: a space for knowledge, a place to gain lifelong friends, and an opportunity to transcend one's socioeconomic station. Today, though, this word also recalls a slew of headlines that have revealed a dark and persistent world of racial politics on campus. Does this association disturb our idealized visions of what happens behind the ivied walls of higher learning? It should - because campus racism on college campuses is as American as college football on Fall Saturdays.
From Lawrence Ross, author of The Divine Nine and the leading expert on sororities and fraternities, Blackballed is an explosive and controversial book that rips the veil off America's hidden secret: America's colleges have fostered a racist environment that makes them a hostile space for African American students. Blackballed exposes the white fraternity and sorority system, with traditions of racist parties, songs, and assaults on black students; and the universities themselves, who name campus buildings after racist men and women. It also takes a deep dive into anti-affirmative action policies, and how they effectively segregate predominately white universities, providing ample room for white privilege. A bold mix of history and the current climate, Blackballed is a call to action for universities to make radical changes to their policies and standards to foster a better legacy for all students.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Lawrence C. Ross delivers a well-researched, timely, and critical call-to-action message in his latest: BLACKBALLED: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses --harsh truths--universities must make radical changes to their policies and standards, in order to continue to provide education and a better college life environment, for both black and whites--no longer can they bury their head in the sand. Be proactive, versus reactive.
Campus racism crisis has been at epidemic proportions for decades, and it is time for predominately white colleges and universities to start looking for effective solutions, before a tragic event erupts., which is already happening. Blackballedrips the scab off the open secret; predominately white college campuses, are hostile spaces for black students.
From the great Nigerian Novelist Chinua Achebe—an African proverb: “Until the lions have their own historian, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Blackballed is written from the lion's point. A change is critical and the truth must be told.
Racism isn’t just something that you overcome. Ross proposes the question: Is racism simply in the eyes and ears of many, an unfortunate but inconsequential aspect of life?
If you have kept abreast with the headline news, it has already begun. In his controversial and insightful book, Ross stresses, every college and university in the US is a ticking time bomb. The first step is to address racism on campus-- "Admit the sickness" and work towards getting healthy—as a societal cancer. What is the treatment?
Blackballed points out how colleges and universities have historically either been complicit in fostering a campus environment that was friendly to racist behavior, or reacted so superficially that they made the conditions worse. Why do programs not succeed?
For the same reason why anti-racism efforts tend to fail in general society; we don’t address them honestly, with the full resources available. Ross brings up some thought-provoking points:
Creating a racism-free environment on college and university campus isn’t as large a priority, as making sure the donors are happy, the football team is winning, and the tuition money keeps flowing.
Everything else is superfluous, and a result, the black students suffer. Black athletes are recruited for their schools. Football is more important than culture of diversity and positive changes to the campus. Everyone wants the football team to do well. African American football players---their place is on the field--not in the frat house. Injustice. This could be used as leverage.
Similar to Jeanne Marie Laskas' Concussion, Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who made one of the most significant medical discoveries of the twenty-first century. Everyone pimps out the football players from pop warner to the NFL, and leaves them to deal with CTE, mental illness, and the fallout--all with a blind eye. Sadly, America is about power and greed.
Blackballed addresses public policy, anti-affirmative action, black history, civil rights, and specifically, the injustice of fraternities and sororities. As Blackballed shows, “it may be easier for a black man to sit in the White House, than in a University of Alabama fraternity house.”
While most of the campus racist incidents involve white fraternities and sororities, the question proposed: How could white millennials (a post-racial) generation who never experienced the separate-but-equal world of Jim Crow segregation, know the racial songs designed to dehumanize and humiliate African Americans? When it comes to racism at colleges and universities, we are not a generation moving closer to a nation without racism. This is sad.
“Racism is as common at America’s universities as pretty cheerleaders.”
Have things really changed since the 1920s-1950’s? The question: Where did all of these racist incidents come from? Did they ever stop in the first place?
Not isolated incidents, but longstanding traditions. Greek row, and how they function on college campuses. Some blame on society itself. Parents spend thousands of dollars to send their children to college, and many of them are subject to daily humiliation. Not only blacks, there are other minorities, injustice—and some say social media has made it more prominent.
Ross has chronicled a two-year journey —he believes discussing these issues is important, a platform, and a means for voices to be heard. Changes have to be made.
Blackballed is not about predominately white institutions (PWis) not having a role in educating black college students. For over a century, black students have received invaluable educations at these white colleges and universities have gone on to change American and the world. Black students will continue to enroll, graduate, and change lives while influenced by their educations at these schools.
By providing these opportunities to African American college students, does not mitigate the racism that these students will face on nearly every campus in the US. Ross stresses we should not confuse the coping mechanisms black students use to survive on these campuses with long-lasting solutions.
However, at the root of Blackballed is a cry for help --These students are under attack in a hostile environment. A critical need to move campus racism from the backwaters of their administrators to the forefront. Triple budgets for diversity education. Radical change within the fraternity and sorority systems with comprehensive anti-racism plans from national headquarters to teach organizations and hold them accountable. No more excuses, “we didn’t know”. Making students and leaders cognizant of the complexities of race and racism.
In the end, a complex question---given all the racial obstacles, going to a predominately white institution-- is it really worth it for African Americans? Of course, their education is valuable; however, more importantly every parent and student may ask, “is it worth the psychological damage due to racism?” The book is not saying blacks should not go to college; however, should they give up going to predominately white universities and instead attend black schools, or should they fight it out and demand a racism-free environment?
Powerful and timely. Highly recommend for administrators, students, and parents of all students—regardless of color. Education on the subject is critical. We are not powerless. Confront campus racism. Making the comfortable, uncomfortable.
In further reading, most say the racial harassment is not unprecedented. Take young men and women living away from home the first time, off to college; no parental control or supervision, combined with racially divided campuses, fueled with alcohol and drugs, plus thrown together with other unfamiliar ethnic groups, hormones, social media, added peer pressure, and lack of education in the social world---all compound the problem.
Being aware of these issues, classes, or further education is needed to address the problems. Administrators, colleges, universities, and students have to be held accountable. After all folks, this is year 2016, not the 1950's. We are leaving these students hanging--not a great foundation for adulthood, the workplace and future generations—if not addressed at this level or before, it will only multiple.
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About the Author
Lawrence Ross attended both the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in History. Ross also has a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in screenwriting from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.Ross began his writing career in the mid 1990s as the managing editor of Rap Sheet magazine, the west coast’s first hip hop magazine. He’d then move to the Los Angeles Independent newspapers, where as a reporter, he covered city government and community issues in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Culver City, and West Hollywood.Ross’s first book, The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities, was published by Kensington Books in 2000. The first book written about all nine African American fraternities and sororities, the Divine Nine is a Los Angeles Times, and Essence magazine best seller.
As a result, Ross has lectured at over 500 colleges and universities, speaking on issues of fraternalism, student development, and fraternity and sorority hazing. He’s written commentaries, and has been interviewed, by The Root, The Grio, Los Angeles Times, the BBC, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, MSNBC, CNN, and other publications.In 2001, Ross’ second book, The Ways of Black Folks: A Year in the Life of a People was selected as a “Fall Must Read” by the National Association of Black Journalists. The Ways of Black Folks chronicled Ross’ travels to England, France, Ghana, Brazil, Jamaica, and Canada, as he searched for the commonalities in the African diaspora experience.
His two novels, Friends With Benefits and Skin Game, were both chosen by Doubleday’s Black Expressions Book Club. And Ross’ fifth book, Money Shot: The Wild Nights and Lonely Days in the Black Porn Industry was published by Running Press, and is the first book written about African Americans in the adult film industry.In early 2016, Ross’s sixth book, Blackballed: The Black & White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses is being published by St. Martin’s Press.
Blackballed explores the present and historical issues of racism on hundreds of American college campuses, and how that ties into today’s #BlackLivesMatter campaign.Ross lives in Los Angeles with his wife, April, and their son Langston. Website Twitter