Epilogue—The AP and James Meredith: Is it true?
Do 51 percent of Americans “now express explicit anti-black attitudes?” Do “a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks?”
It all depends on what the meaning of “express explicit anti-black attitudes” is!
Last week, the persistently gullible Associated Press piddled with our nation’s most serious topic. Without a hint of skepticism, it bought those claims from a mumble-mouthed car pool of unimpressive professors.
But wouldn’t you know it? A few weeks earlier, a “good news” story had managed to escape from the South!
On October 20, we caught the news from CNN’s Don Lemon, an unusually sensible and sensitive cable news host. In the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Phil West had already reported the story:
WEST (10/13/12): University of Mississippi crowns first African-American homecoming queenThat’s the same Oxford Dylan described in his famous song, Oxford Town.
OXFORD—Courtney Pearson is the University of Mississippi's first African-American homecoming queen, and she's the first to admit she didn't win the election on her looks.
Pearson, 21, is a vivacious, barely 5-foot-tall bundle of energy from Bartlett [Tennessee] who was crowned during Saturday's Auburn-Ole Miss football game.
"I'm not white, I'm not six feet, I'm not blonde, I'm not Greek, I don't drive a 2012 (Mercedes) Benz," Pearson said during an interview at the university's J.D. Williams Library.
Instead, Pearson is a short, dark-haired English major who campaigned hard and maximized her use of Facebook and other social media to help her campaigns.
Does it really matter if Ole Miss has crowned a black homecoming queen? You’ll have to judge that one for yourself—and West noted that Pearson isn’t exactly an absolute total first:
“African-American women have attained campus-wide titles in the past, but none has been elected homecoming queen,” West wrote. “A university news release said Kimsey O'Neal Cooper of Carthage in 1989 was the first black student to be selected Miss Ole Miss. In 1997, Carissa Alana Wells of Hamilton became the first African-American crowned Miss University.”
It seems there are numerous ways to be named a queen at Ole Miss! For ourselves, we said God bless this newer Ole Miss when West continued with this:
WEST: Pearson's election adds one more "first" for African-American students at the university that admitted its first black student, James Meredith, amid violence and armed protesters 50 years ago.God bless this newer Ole Miss, which also has a young black woman as student body president!
Kimberly Dandridge of Como, Miss., last spring was the first African-American woman to be elected Associated Student Body president at the University of Mississippi.
"I've taken a lot of alumni and shown them that this can be done and that Ole Miss is progressing and that Ole Miss is becoming this more accepting place," Pearson said. "Even without my knowing it, this has touched so many people."
We were also struck by the last part of West’s report:
“Pearson, whose parents are Ole Miss alumni, said she wants to become a teacher or attend graduate school after completing her undergraduate studies.”
This newer Ole Miss is so old school that Pearson is a legacy. She’s the daughter of Ole Miss grads!
(In the university’s press release, the Dean of Students remembered. “Courtney Pearson has been a real asset to our student body even before this election,” he said. “She loves Ole Miss, and I knew her dad when he was a student here.”)
What is life like among the young people, black and white, who now attend Ole Miss? We can’t tell you that. Last year, we were thrilled when we read Andrew Hacker’s assessment of the university (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/21/11).
Hacker earned his bones on race a long time ago. In his most recent book, the clumsily-titled Higher Education?, he and co-author Claudia Dreifus showered praise on the modern Ole Miss. (“Of all the flagship universities we visited, we found the University of Mississippi the most appealing.”)
We were thrilled by Hacker’s account of the newer Ole Miss. He and Dreifus even wrily reported a glorious, once unimaginable sighting involving a homecoming princess:
HACKER/DREIFUS (page 219): Today, on campus, there’s a statue of James Meredith and Ole Miss is a university where reconciliation and civility are at the very heart of the educational mission. Much of this transformation is the work of Robert Khayat, a remarkable leader, who retired from the chancellorship in 2009. Khayat, himself a former footballer, raised academic standards, tripled the African American enrollment, and banned confederate flags from athletic events—a truly courageous step...Melissa Cole spoke in praise of Ole Miss. So did Pearson, in an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin.
Ole Miss now has a Center for the Study of Southern Culture that focuses on the art, literature, music and food of the region, black and white. Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s home, is an on-campus museum. Rita Bender, the wife of Mickey Schwerner, one of the civil rights workers murdered during the summer of 1964, gives a course in “restorative justice.” And did we see correctly at the football game? Was that really a black athlete escorting an extremely white homecoming princess across the field?
When Melissa Cole, a pre-med student in the Barksdale Honors College, first though about attending Ole Miss, her friends back home in Jackson asked, “Why would you want to go there?” She’s African-American. Once at Oxford, she got involved with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, which she described as having started much “dialogue of racial reconciliation, racial issues on campus, and how to come together. It’s not only black and white, but also international students who are having different experiences.” She believes, “Ole Miss has a lot to offer for anybody of any race.”
Pearson sounds like a trained diplomat—or like a daughter of the South. She is full of the positive spirit which drives a society’s younger people when it's blessed with good fortune:
MARTIN (10/16/12): I understand that one of the other significant factors, though, that's significant about this is that you're not Greek. You're not a member of a Greek letter organization. You're not a member of a sorority.Is this “what Ole Miss is really all about” at this time? We can’t tell you that. But Pearson is a superb politician—and she seems to be bursting with pride about her parents’ alma mater.
PEARSON: I'm not.
MARTIN: Which is kind of an automatic network. So some people might think that that's a disadvantage, but perhaps in your case, it was—
PEARSON: I mean, I honestly think it was an advantage. I love Greek life at Ole Miss. I think all the Greek organizations do wonderful things, but it was definitely great for the folks who weren't Greek to be able to look at me and say, “Oh, my goodness. She's not in a sorority. She's not Greek. She could really represent me.” We're actually only 30, about 30 percent Greek, and so it was really interesting to see that other half come out and say, “You know, we like her and we definitely want her to represent us.”
MARTIN: You have a strong legacy. Your mother, your father and your stepmother all went to Ole Miss. So what are your duties, and why did you want the job?
PEARSON: I wanted the job because I had seen a very good friend of mine, a mentor of mine, run two years ago, and she came up unsuccessful. And I really just couldn't understand how someone so amazing could come up short, and I wanted to go out and I wanted to say, “OK. Let's show what Ole Miss is really all about.”
And when my friends started approaching me and they started saying, “You know, you would be a great homecoming queen,” it was one of those things where I was like, you know, if I thought about it this much, then I really should do it. If I can think about it and I want to be this amazing representative of my university, then I should put all of my fears aside and everything aside and go out and show people what Ole Miss is really all about.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to Tell Me More, from NPR News. My guest is Courtney Pearson.
Ole Miss is lucky to have students like Como and Cole and Pearson. Then too, we have those tired old professors, up north and out west, trying to Keep R-Bombs Alive.
When James Meredith integrated Ole Miss in 1962, we lived just a few miles from Stanford. We were fourteen years old and we were lucky; we had bright, idealistic young high school teachers who encouraged us white suburbans to keep our eye on the South.
Today, Stanford lies at the heart of an embarrassing movement in “social science.” To our ear, this movement seems designed to let us liberals keep dropping our R-bombs on everyone else—on everyone who doesn’t come around to the precise ways the professors have decided we must think and talk.
Meredith wouldn’t stand a chance with this crowd! For the most part, he turned out to be an iconoclastic conservative. Trust us:
If Meredith ever subjected himself to the AP’s pitiful “tests,” he would be found to be “expressing explicit anti-black attitudes” too! There’s no chance he could “pass.”
By the way, Jackie Robinson was a Republican too. God bless Jackie Robinson, to whom we all owe such a debt.
Can we talk? The Associated Press has bought every line of scripted bullshit that has come down the pike in the past thirty years. According to this unskilled news org, Al Gore said he invented the Internet—and Susan Rice “initially called the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya a spontaneous protest.”
Yes, that’s what this pitiful pseudo-news org said. Do you think the AP gets more discerning when it tackles race?
The AP is not a discerning news org. Last week, it rushed to repeat a pile of claims by some unimpressive professors. In truth, the AP isn’t up to the task of discussing race in America.
The professors have worked for the forty years to Keep R-Bombs Alive. As southern whites began to abandon traditional trapping of racist culture, some professors began looking for ways to reassure the world and the tribe that nothing could have changed.
From the early 1970s forward, they have worked to push the very fuzzy concept they call “Symbolic Racism.” Various offshoots have appeared. At heart, all are designed to let the professors keep dropping their bombs on the public, unless proles are willing to answer their questions exactly as they have prescribed.
Race is our most important topic. The professors make a joke of the topic when they pose their questions to people who don’t understand that they just shouldn’t respond.
The AP keeps buying this big load of crap, as it so constantly does.
What is going on in the South? We pseudo-liberals rarely praise the newer ways, in which tremendous breakthroughs have occurred. Much as the Old South once did, we prefer to cling to the good old days, refusing to adapt to, or even acknowledge, the changes occurring around us.
Do “51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes?” In the north and in the west, a group of professors have found several ways to render that soul-stirring tribal claim.
We advise you to look for smarter ways to keep track of the world.
Making James Meredith proud: In his interview with Pearson, Lemon asked her about James Meredith:
LEMON (10/20/12): There's a picture here, and I have just been informed of my producers— I think— Is this you with James Meredith, the guy in the red shirt?Trust us: Meredith would never pass the professors’ “tests.” Not in a million years!
PEARSON: In the red shirt. Yes, that is.
LEMON: That is?
LEMON: That was the man to integrate Ole Miss, you're the first homecoming queen. I mean, what was going through your head?
PEARSON: It was just amazing. He's— I met him right after I won, a couple of days later, in the skybox with the chancellor, and it was just a wonderful opportunity to just be in his midst and be able to personally tell him thank you and to see him again for homecoming and to take a picture with him. It was really— It was just a wonderful moment for me to be able to just say thank you and really be in his presence.
PEARSON: And be able to be—to have him be proud of me. That's a huge thing for me.
To Pearson, it was a huge thing to know that she had made Meredith proud. Luckily, the nation is blessed with professors know much better than people like that.