Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Et tu Julian Bond?

I have a friend who is always in a snit because black ministers have been ordained, pun intended, by the media as the most important and prominent of those constituting black leadership. When Jesse Jackson first ran for president she would fume, "What about Julian Bond? Why doesn't someone like him run?" I agreed with her that Bond has one of the most dynamic, charismatic and articulate personas of all those given the title Civil Rights Leader. Needless to say I am writing this post because I have a few questions for Bond, the president of the University of Virginia and God only knows whom else.

Bond is a history professor at the University of Virginia. According to this account from UVA, several staff members were discussing the names of sports teams. One participant in the conversation used the Washington Redskins as an example of a team with an offensive name. The individual added that the word redskin is as offensive as the word nigger. Assuming this account is correct I see no reason for anyone to be upset. Julian Bond received an email from another black faculty member about the incident and suggested that the misspeaker in question be fired or at least be heavily sensitized. The president agreed that the word is insulting and recommended that the offender get a very strong talking to.

I hate to use the term political correctness. Whatever meaning it ever had has been discredited by conservatives who pine for the good old days when they could be as hateful as they liked without fear of reprimand. But this incident gives credence to some complaints about the era of correctness. I don't know what Bond was told or how the administration at UVA initially responded, but a person of Bond's experience should have had the facts on hand before making any comments. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. I assume he was told a different version of events.

But suppose he was given the official UVA account? I don't even want to think about that possibility. I now know why we are stuck with the hated term "N word." I always wondered why people wouldn't say nigger, even if they were quoting someone else or acknowledging the term's offensiveness. Poor white America. They just can't win.

Because I am doing so well as a prognosticator, see yesterday's post, I will go out on a limb with another prediction. Julian Bond has a long and illustrious careeer but is largely self-educated. He is a poet and author but he dropped out of Morehouse College to pursue his passion as an activist in the movement. Bond should get a lot of credit for life experience, but I am certain that before the week is out the right wing will ask why he is a history professor at all and use the mantra of political correctness to discredit him. That will be very sad indeed. Julian Bond and many others like him have quite a lot to offer the world of academia. UVA students could do worse than be taught by him.