An impassioned indictment of racism in predominantly white institutions of higher learning.
With the election of Barack Obama, argues journalist Ross (Money Shot: The Wild Nights and Lonely Days in Black Porn, 2007, etc.), Americans have been “seduced, and deluded, by the idea that we’re now in a new state of racial being, a postracial world where race is insignificant.” The reality, he writes, is far different, notably on college campuses, where African-American students encounter “some of the most racially hostile spaces in the United States,” even in schools that promote rhetoric of diversity and openness. Ross traces the history of affirmative action policies, student activism, and institutional response to racist incidents on campus, and he focuses extensively on fraternities and sororities, where he finds racism endemic and “white privilege…codified.” Taking into account all of the racism he documents, Ross asks whether “going to a predominantly white institution is really worth it for African Americans.” Some students have declined to do so: “Highly sought-after African American students who get into the Michigans, Berkeleys, and University of Floridas” note the “paltry African American student populations of these flagship schools” and respond, “Why bother?” They choose, instead, to go to smaller private schools or historically black colleges. Most who do attend “arrive from hyper-segregated schools and neighborhoods” and find their experiences duplicated on campus. Although some schools boast of their efforts to monitor and respond to racism, Ross finds “African American Studies offices, Multicultural Affairs departments, and Greek life offices…woefully understaffed and underfunded.” When racist incidents occur, “the penalty…is basically the equivalent of a hand slap.” To counter this inertia, the author makes a forceful call for African-American students to create “a national Black Congress of Students” to work for reform.
“Racism is icky to talk about, as everyone usually retreats to their comfortable box when dealing with it,” Ross admits, but his biting critique may fuel much-needed conversation.