On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the whites-only section of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus and take her assigned place in what was then called the “colored” section. For that highly courageous and moral action Ms. Parks has been justly celebrated ever since as “the first lady of civil rights,” a true heroine for fighting the despicable evil of segregation.
On January 14, 1963, Democrat George Wallace, governor of that same state of Alabama, who pushed back hard against Parks and the civil rights movement in general, advocated, in his inaugural address, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” (If you want to relive that nauseating experience, you can do it here.)
Unfortunately for Wallace, but fortunately for the decent people of this country, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just over the horizon and segregation was, at long last and none too soon, on its way out.
Or was it? Did it ever really go away and is it now making a comeback from the opposite side?
The demands of UC Santa Cruz African-American and Caribbean students, accepted by the school Thursday, sound more like Wallace than they do like Parks.
These undergraduates staged a sit-in at the university until the administration agreed to ratify what amounts to a new form of segregation, guaranteeing all black students the right to live together in one building. And, ironically, the building they have succeeded in segregating (in the name of “safe spaces” unsurprisingly) is that university’s Rosa Parks African American Theme House. It will now be painted, also based on their demand, the Pan-African colors of red, green and black.
It’s hard to say what Parks would have made of the paint job, but I doubt she or Dr. Martin Luther King—you know, the guy who gave that “I have a dream” speech about black and white children playing together—would think much of segregated residences or of the protesters’ also accepted demand that all incoming freshpeople (freshies?) be given mandatory “diversity training” specifically approved by the protestors themselves (diversity of thought no doubt excluded).
But as we all know, separation by sexual, racial, religious and ethnic tribes—what else can we call them, really—has been proceeding apace for some years now. Santa Cruz is only the latest stop along the way in this burgeoning segregationist New Tribalism. “Black and white together, we shall not be moved”—no more. Not on our college campuses anyway.
Many explanations might be given for this reactionary development—masquerading, as always, as some jejune hodgepodge of progressivism cum anti-colonialism—but more important and immediate is where this is taking us. The short form is: to Hell.
Since we already live in a world where we can barely order a margarita without being branded a cultural appropriator, imagining the next step for this generation of undergraduate Robespierres is not easy. The Revolution, as they say, eats its own. These days the grievance culture desperately wants to prove itself right. (If they’re not, they’d have a basketful of brutal self-examination to do.) The extent they will go to justify their beliefs is as yet uncharted waters.
For now, there’s no question they are manufacturing racism—their own and that of others—to prove it exists. And they have plenty of allies in faculties and administrations as far back as grammar school. The government helps out, too, with its Title IX encouraging a seemingly unlimited potpourri of victimhood complaints while linking honoring those accusations inextricably to taxpayer subsidies of the institutions themselves.
Although I am now only a distant observer, going to college these days doesn’t seem like fun—for anyone. (I’ve said it before—Animal House has turned into Animal Farm.) Nor does it seem particularly intellectually stimulating. A minority of virtue-signaling provocateurs is ruining it for everyone else and ultimately for themselves as well.
And it is a minority, if a disturbingly large one, according to James Freeman in his WSJ article, “Yale’s Quiet Majority.” Freeman cites a poll taken at that Ivy showing “72% of respondents oppose the idea of Yale ‘having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty,’ while 16% favor the idea.”
They weren’t polled directly on campus segregation, however. Those results might be truly disheartening. Nevertheless, I suppose we should be grateful for a 72 to 16 split on free speech, even though Parks, King and other lovers of freedom and democracy might have asked for more. It’s heartbreaking to see what is going on. Segregation was always a horrifying, deeply immoral system, an incubator of human hatred and contempt and instigator of violence. It’s not any better now, no matter what the excuse may be and no matter who is agitating for it.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already. Like too many of us, he wastes time on Twitter @rogerlsimon.