Several Saturdays each Fall, Auburn University students, faculty and alumni — thousands of them — roll into Jordan Hare Stadium on campus to cheer for the school’s football team.
The majority of the players are black.
The school’s basketball teams — both mens and womens — are made up primarily of black players.
The school’s most recognized alumni, who have giant banners and statues on campus, are mostly black former athletes.
The Auburn marching band is influenced by the bands at historically black colleges.
The music played at most athletic and other campus events comes mostly from black artists.
And yet, last weekend, when Auburn officials decided to honor the impact and influence of diversity on its campus, many of the students and alums and sidewalk fans reacted like … backwoods rednecks who had to shrug off their klan hoods on their way into the stadium.
There were fights. There were racist banners hung up by over-privileged frat boys. There were racist comments on several different university-operated social media pages.
It was, to put it bluntly, an utter embarrassment.
To the state. To all Auburn people.
The diversity weekend sponsored by the university was a fantastic idea, and holding it on the same weekend that the football team played Alabama State University, a historically black college in Montgomery, was a nice touch.
I know a lot of the people at ASU, including president Quinton Ross and several people in the athletic administration. They were genuinely excited about going to Auburn, playing that game and enjoying the gameday experience in an SEC venue.
They had no expectations of winning. They just wanted to compete, pick up some much needed cash for their program, show off their band and then head back down I-85. Everyone happy. Everything good.
What they got instead was a clown show from a bunch of racist morons.
But then, why am I surprised?
On a certain cable “news” network over the past several weeks, there have been hosts of opinion shows openly questioning “the value of diversity.” On something called “NRA TV” recently, there was a segment that put a children’s cartoon character in a KKK hood because the NRA hosts were trying, without success, to make some derogatory point about diversity. On college campuses all around the country, and especially in the South, there has been an uptick in controversial, racist speakers.
So, it should come as no surprise, I guess, that one of the most conservative campuses in America — a campus where such programming is consumed and parroted and where there exists a “white student union” — would be so resistant to recognizing the positive impacts of different perspectives and backgrounds.
I don’t understand what’s happening in America now.
For decades, we seemed to acknowledge that our racist ways were wrong, and at the very least everyone pretended to be in favor of equality and inclusion. We seemed genuinely intent on correcting the sins of the past and moving towards a country that lived up to its promises of equality for all men.
Now, almost overnight, there seems to be a shift back to a time when ignorant ideas, grounded in fear and hatred, were prevalent. Ideas that have convinced privileged white kids they’re being held back. Ideas that have left many white people living in fear.
And look, I’d love to pretend that it isn’t so bad, that people are making more out of it than they should. But then … Nazi sympathizers have been marching in American streets and the U.S. president said some of them were probably “good people.”
That’s a bit of a problem.
And the results of the spread of this nonsense were on display last weekend in Auburn, when the simple act of playing a historically black college so incensed people that they were a few steps away from fire hoses and dogs.
Enough is enough. White people need to get their stuff together and stop falling for the same tired fear tactics that have been used for centuries. America, like all countries, is never stronger than when it truly works together, ensuring the equality of all citizens.