Did you think I was talking about a ballgame? No. This loss is much more detrimental. UNC made a gross error in judgment and their students will pay the price for a long time to come. They denied the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times Journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, a well-deserved tenure. A full-fledged backlash from campus staff and students followed. But it was too little, too late. UNC lost Hannah-Jones to Howard University. She’s accepted a tenured position there as “Knight Chair in Race and Journalism”. Her position has been funded by nearly $20 million in donations from the Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation, as well as, an anonymous donor.
In case you are unaware, college campuses are known for being politically driven and often times, racially so. Ironically perhaps, prejudice abounds which leaves staff and students at the mercy of “the system”. This current scenario is a prime example of such behaviors. Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer in 2020 for “The 1619 Project”. The Project found global acclaim and launched this journalist into a status very few ever achieve. This work revealed the true history of America regarding slavery. For those willing to reflect on this newfound knowledge, how far we have to go in overcoming these injustices is now in the forefront of their minds. Essentially, “The 1619 Project” launched the debate of teaching critical race theory in schools.
My own home state of Georgia recently voted to censor American history in regards to racism and slavery. The chair of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education stated that this censorship may trickle down to the more conservative areas in the state but the Atlanta public school system would continue to teach about slavery and racism in our history. Texas led the way on May 5th of this year, voting to curtail teaching critical race theory in their state. Essentially, the state passed legislation that “effectively bans public school teachers from talking about racism, white supremacy or current news events.” Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee also voted down teaching critical race theory in their schools. As Congress currently debates this issue as well, it sounds a lot like the debates and actions that led to the Civil War, with racism at the reins yet again.
Here we are centuries later, still fighting the same battle: equality for all. It’s true that none of us are free until all of us are free. Denying our reality will only allow the injustices to continue. And make no mistake, turning a blind eye to the atrocities of your neighbor doesn’t just make you complacent – it makes you an accomplice. UNC had to be called out for their overt racism in denying Hannah-Jones her well-deserved tenure. Had there been no backlash, the issue would’ve never been front-page news. Yet, there was. In some small regard, we are making progress. Those strong enough, with convictions, will rise up and speak the truth. There will be a reckoning moving forward. The elite will have to address their privilege. The general public will no longer look away when we witness these wrong-doings. We get it now. We’ve seen the videos. We can’t deny the gross atrocities of systemic racism in this country. This in no way means we hate America. Instead, we believe our country is a land of the free and home of the brave. As a result of that anthem, we will no longer sit by and watch as hard working, gifted, brilliant Black Americans are trampled on, or in this case, stepped over, for a place at a table that they have earned.
The worst part of this loss in my eyes, is that the people that need Hannah-Jones’ knowledge and wisdom the most won’t have it. Instead of this world renowned researcher teaching critical race theory to predominately privileged white students at UNC, she’ll be at Howard University teaching to a rising generation of Black students. Their brilliance will continue to grow as they thrive within a chaotic system built to destroy them. They will be wealthier and wiser for her guidance. Yes, Howard University just struck gold.
© Marcus Ingram/Getty Images ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 16: Author Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks on stage during the 137th Commencement at Morehouse College on May 16, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)
Nikole Hannah-Jones prestige and connections are now benefitting an all Black university which feels just to me. Nobody should commit themselves to an organization that refuses to acknowledge their fortitude and accomplishments. But how will this help us overcome our racism in America? It won’t. And the University of North Carolina has nobody to blame but itself. They could have been a part of something great. UNC could have helped our society and country grow stronger. Instead, they chose to continue the same old demagoguery on which this country has been built. UNC proved the very point that Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project proclaimed, and so many still deny. Systemic racism is alive and well in America. Best of success to you Nikole Hannah-Jones. You are most deserving.