Fighting Racism with Segregation

Misguided “anti-racists” want to use segregation to end racism
Photo: atlantic-kid/iStock

Anderson University’s decision to segregate students by color is an exercise in the subtle racism of low expectations that many educators believe is the prerequisite for “racial justice.” University President John Pistole and Diversity Coordinator Maria Paula Acero, both who appear to be white, tell us that colored students “need” spaces separated from white students, insisting that white students are obligated to “work” to understand their privilege and how it impacts their classmates. 

These concepts are familiar to anyone that follows the work of authors Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, who have popularized the term “anti-racist” as a way to address persistent performance gaps that appear in Black Americans that many believe are the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. But while their intent may be noble, their prescriptions are morally wrong and logically flawed.

It is true that some performance gaps exist between Blacks and Whites. It is also true that a portion of this can be traced to government enforced multi-generational racism. But differences can be found between any two groups if one looks hard enough. Economist Thomas Sowell, who happens to be Black, writes that “grossly unequal distributions of outcomes are common, both in nature and among people, including in circumstances where neither genes nor discrimination are involved.” For Pistole to imply that current gaps are the result of a system that died in the 1960’s, and has never been experienced by AU students, or the majority of their parents, exposes a disturbing lack of curiosity for a university president.

Pistole’s segregationist policy has three flaws. First he assumes that people that share ethnicity or skin color think monolithically regardless of more important influences. We know this is not true; it’s reductionist and offensive. Even within the same biological family, poor Black kids from Chicago’s south side that grew up without fathers have very little in common with their middle class Black cousins who were raised in two parent families. This well researched fact is understood in the Black community, so it’s somewhat startling that Pistole chooses color as the group to flatten students into.

Second, he suggests that immigrants and Blacks exist as a common “non-White” group, as if birth and upbringing in America is little more than a sidenote in the framing of an individual. Does he truly believe that Black and Latino Americans have more in common with Asian and Indian immigrants simply based elevated levels of melanin in their skin? Is he suggesting that language and religion mean so little? By aligning natural born citizens with immigrants, Pestole diminishes the American experience, creating a caste system in opposition to American culture and law.

Finally, it is untrue that skin color or immigration status are barriers to success.  As an example, Indian Americans have long stood as the most successful group in America, followed closely by East Asians, and Middle Eastern Jews. Most tellingly is the continued success of Nigerians, who routinely outperform native born Whites in both education and income, all while living as both Black and immigrant. Unfortunately, AU has chosen to ignore these well documented facts and focus their attention on obscure claims of racism that are best handled by student services or law enforcement when appropriate.

Segregation of any sort is not “anti-racist.” It’s just plain ole’ Bull Connor Democrat style racism whatever form it takes — a water fountain or a student caucus. It’s rooted in the belief that power resides in skin color. In a way, insisting that Black students need space from their White peers reveals Pistole’s troubling belief that Blacks are in fact inferior.

But there’s hope. AU students seem to recognize these flaws and have rejected Pistole’s move towards segregation, voting at over 90% to suspend the sessions or make them inclusive for all. We hope that President Pistole is self aware enough to recognize the damage he is doing to his students and the reputation of Anderson University. If not, there are always the courts 

Robert Evans
Robert Evans III is an Indianapolis based technology and nonprofit professional. He is a veteran of the War in Afghanistan and holds a Master's in Public Administration from IUPUI.