Not that I'm surprised, but parts of "post-racial America" are dead ringers for the bad ol' days. Especially places where the majority might've voted for President Obama, but many remain hung up on the Civil War. Take South Carolina, for instance. Not only does the Palmetto State insist on flying the Confederate Flag on statehouse grounds, it sees nothing wrong with the University of South Carolina having a lily-white Board of Trustees.
The Confederate Flag - as symbolic of hatred and oppression to black folks as the Nazi Swastika is to Jewish folks - has no place on government property outside of textbooks or museums. Moving it from atop the Capitol to the grounds below was insufficient, a move state legislators enacted in 2000 as a feeble compromise with protesters. The South Carolina NAACP called for a tourism boycott and that measure has been supported by the NCAA, which prohibits postseason tournaments with predetermined sites from being played in the state.
I get that. Try to hit them where it hurts, right in the pocket. If they won't succumb to common sense, maybe financial pain will do the trick. However, I don't understand the logic of black legislators urging black football recruits to reconsider playing for South Carolina because of the trustee issue. State Rep. David Weeks, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, told the Associated Press that "we are asking young athletes to be aware … there are folks in this state who say it's fine to play ball, but not be on the governing board."
The request is ridiculous on several fronts. Asking recruits to forsake scholarships (which might not be available elsewhere) makes less sense than asking the tuition-paying black students to study at other schools. And what purpose would it serve if Carolina's campus returned to its pre-Civil Rights hue? That's progress? If students have the ability to gain a free education, they don't need lawmakers using them as pawns. That's the university's job (not that students have to go along).
I do agree with State Rep. Todd Rutherford, an alumnus of South Carolina's Law School, who complained that the 22-member board's lack of diversity is an embarrassment. Sixteen members are elected by lawmakers and six others are appointed. The lone black trustee is Leah B. Moody, finishing the term of a former trustee, and she apparently doesn't have enough votes in the Legislature to win a full term next month. The university has more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students at its Columbia campus and about 11 percent (3,126) are black. The 2008 Census estimated about 28.5 percent of the state's residents were black.
"With that many board members, to not have a single African American and to send the message around this world that this body does not care about diversity but yet we want to recruit black athletes?" Rutherford told the AP. "You can't send that mixed message." But what are Rutherford and others saying by asking black athletes to reconsider? That it's OK to play if Moody sticks around, but otherwise no way? Talk about your low standards. The board isn't THAT much more diverse by having one fly in the milk instead of none.
Besides, persuading a few high school seniors to sign elsewhere wouldn't have nearly the impact as shaving a few thousand fans off the attendance numbers, or getting a few corporate sponsors to abandon the Gamecocks. Carolina football is a huge business in Columbia and statewide, averaging 75,300 fans for home games, generating hours of tailgate parties and year-round media coverage. Those folks are only concerned about the players who show up on campus, not the ones who never suit up for coach Steve Spurrier.
The NAACP boycott over the Confederate flag has led the NCAA to keep events outside of South Carolina, but other groups haven't always followed suit. In fact, when the Great Gathering of Black Methodists took place in Columbia last month, State Sen. Robert Ford, a black candidate for governor, declared that the boycott was over. But the NAACP quickly disputed that proclamation and church leaders said they're in solidarity with the group, noting that circumstances forced them to hold the meeting in South Carolina or not at all.
So, by all means, pressure should be applied to bring down that blasted flag. And, yes, the South Carolina board should be much more reflective of the student body and the state population. But asking recruits to forgo scholarships for the cause? Please. That's just absurd.
Deron Snyder, an author and award-winning journalist, is a frequent contributor to The Root.