My alma mater, little old Hillsdale College in Michigan, seems to have a knack for sending political correctness types lunging for the smelling salts.
On Wednesday, July 31, the school’s president, Dr. Larry Arnn, testified before a subcommittee of the state’s legislature in opposition to state educators adopting the controversial Common Core curriculum standards. Standing for academic independence from incompetent, untrustworthy bureaucrats, Arnn recounted a 1998 incident in which the Michigan Department of Education sent inspectors to evaluate the racial composition of Hillsdale’s student body.
“The State of Michigan sent a group of people down to my campus, with clipboards […] to look at the colors of people’s faces and write down what they saw. We don’t keep records of that information. What were they looking for besides dark ones?”
Naturally, liberals freaked out over the phrase “dark ones.” Democrats on the committee and figures from the Michigan Parent Teacher association and the state chapter of the National Action Network all bemoaned the “offensive” remarks. The left-wing Progress Michigan is demanding Arnn’s resignation. Of considerably less interest to our liberal betters is the state initially claiming the inspection never happened, then admitting they had done so the next day.
In true Hillsdale fashion, the administration has responded with a succinct statement that is equal parts conciliatory and defiant: “No offense was intended by the use of that term except to the offending bureaucrats, and Dr. Arnn is sorry if such offense was honestly taken. But the greater concern, he believes, is the state-endorsed racism the story illustrates.”
Calling out Hillsdale College for racial insensitivity is a bit like lecturing Peyton Manning on how to play football. Private, conservative Hillsdale has a better anti-discrimination record than most of the liberal and mainstream universities in America. Not only is Hillsdale the nation’s first college to expressly prohibit race-based discrimination in its Articles of Association, but it enrolled black students as early as 1844.
You may recall 1844 as being before a little historical footnote called the Civil War, meaning that Hillsdale treated blacks like full human beings capable of great professional and intellectual accomplishments while so much of the rest of the country didn’t even have to treat them any better than cattle.
It’s not for nothing that the great abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass delivered speeches at Hillsdale on two separate occasions, or that, as Josiah Ryan writes at Campus Reform, “In the Civil War, a higher percentage of Hillsdale’s students fought for the Union than from any other non-military college. During that fight, four Hillsdale students received the Medal of Honor. More than 60 perished.”
This should only come as a surprise to those who’ve never scratched beyond the surface of the Left’s defamatory conservatism-as-racist narrative. Hillsdale excels at true racial equality—color-blind treatment of every human being as an individual first and foremost—because individualism, natural rights, and the sanctity of human life are intrinsic to her founding philosophy, which in turn is the philosophy of our Founding Fathers which modern conservatism tasks itself with preserving.
In fact, Hillsdale’s steadfast refusal to play along with the state’s superficial quotas-as-equality mindset is certainly a contributor to a far richer diversity that thrives on the campus: diversity of thought, of experience, of perspective. In my experience there, stirring debates about theology, philosophy, and yes, even politics could be found around nearly every corner. Whether your passions were as lofty as Socratic dialogue or as eccentric as anime, your niche was always within reach. And yes, Democrats, atheists, and gays all found homes within the student body.
Yes, “dark ones” is a bit antiquated, but if that’s really what passes for a fireable racial offense these days, doesn’t that say it all about how fully true bigotry has been beaten into submission?
The real story here is that government bureaucrats apparently have nothing better to do than harass one of the stalwarts of American academia’s civil-rights history—and then try to lie about it. These are the people we want to entrust with the mission of ensuring a world where all are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?