What a mess in Missouri. My first thought when the university president resigned was, who would be foolish enough to replace him. From all that I read and saw, it would only take someone saying they were called a nigger to put a new president in trouble again.
I was blessed to have a father who could afford to send me to college. His only condition was that he’d only pay for four years. When I ran into racial problems on campus, the only thing that kept me there was that four year promise.
Just like my relative who refuses to share his combat experiences in Vietnam with me, I refuse to tell people what I went through in college. When I do share, no one believes me, so I just keep it between the few of us who know. All the combined accusations I heard that occurred at Missouri don’t compare to what I went through alone.
In order to not ‘go postal,’ I begged my parents to allow me to live at home the last two years of school. They thought they got rid of me, but I happily took the 2-hour one-way commute on the 109 bus to 69th Street and the trolly from there to complete my stay in college.
It was years before I went back to the campus after graduation. Only when my classmate and friend Ed Pinckney took a coaching job there did I return with any regularity.
In 2012 the university did an amazing thing. They brought back legions of black alumns on a homecoming weekend to a magnificent banquet where we assembled to witness a sincere apology from the university for decades of misunderstandings. It was the first time I realized I wasn’t alone in my sentiments. I talked to people I had only heard about who struggled and protested decades before I led the Black Cultural Society.
The crowning moment was a presentation of An Oral History Black Villanova. I was proud to be selected to participate, giving me the only indication that my labor and stresses did not go in vain during my time on campus.
The University of Missouri situation is a mess in many ways. Although I’m not there to experience it, I just don’t get the impression the black students have it as bad as it seems. And the response to their protest is as bad as it gets.
The racial divide in America is real. We’re still trying to figure it all out.