My “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him” Experience

So it has been a couple of weeks since a former white sheet dude found himself at my HBCU to participate in a debate. I still don’t know how he was polled at 5% to qualify (he ended up with 3% of the actual vote). But then again, we all learned a week later that polls can be wrong. Horribly wrong.

Well, sheet boy’s appearance led to a protest, a rough one, which made news all over the nation. Everyone looked for someone to blame. Who was the cause of this deplorable being on this Black college campus?

Some folks decided. It was me.

So for 48 hours I went through a “Crucify Him” period. Lots of folks I don’t know, armed with a Twitter account, unleashed a barrage of threats and profanities toward me. A few tried to send direct messages via Facebook (heck, I didn’t know them so why would they expect I would accept the request?) A few folks sent e-mails. While we disagreed, those were very civil discussions.

But watching some old dude out in front of my campus calling me “an Uncle Tom” via a bullhorn punctuated an absurd reality: how does one of the most vocal HBCU and all things Black supporter end up being viewed as a sell-out for honoring a contract which upheld a democratic right of someone I disagree with to run for office? And as a Christian, when Jesus says “love your enemy” in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43–48), as president of a church related school, how do I not follow Jesus?

(I really like how The Message version of the Bible states Matthew 5:48: “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”)

And so I started asking myself, who is this horrible guy that they think I am?

I mean, wasn’t I the guy that this past summer wrote an open letter to a Parish school board for their racist and discriminatory treatment of a Black male valedictorian who said he had to shave his beard to participate in graduation according to policy but he was allowed to compete in athletics and wear it all year long?

Wasn’t I the man who called out the changes in TOPS to move it away from low income, students of color to a more white, affluent student and family?

Am I not the same dude that challenged all the HBCU haters who argue that WE promote separation while THEY quietly promote segregated K-12 schools and communities all across this nation?

Aren’t I the fella that dared to call out the Archbishop of the New Orleans Diocese who blatantly disrespected one of the greatest college presidents in history, Dr. Norman C. Francis at Xavier University, right before his last commencement before retiring, even when no one else dared to do so publicly, including those on his campus?

Could it be that I am the same man who helped to eulogize one of my students only months after starting, offering a tough challenge for our community?

I couldn’t possibly be the brother who argued an increasing role for HBCUs post the University of Missouri, a piece written before this fall’s jump in enrollment on a great number of HBCU campuses (which I also documented).

Look, I am good for 2–3 sometimes controversial, always very pointed op-eds every year. I have never been afraid to go after any issue, very much in the spirit of Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays who wrote a weekly editorial for over 30 years. So when my students and others asked me how I handled all the negative backlash, I said I just ignored it. You learn early on, don’t read all the comments (or the AT mentions).

I have been fortunate to have many more “Hosanna” than “Crucify Him” experiences. And even when I have had the majority yell “Hosanna” there have always been “Crucify Him” as well; this time there were just more of the latter. It doesn’t feel good, believe me. But I learn a lot about the nature of people. And putting yourself out there toughens you up. While this recent criticism was greater than any I have experienced, I am not new to it.

To all the folks who are still mad, I still love you. But be much more afraid of Trump for 4 years in the White House than Duke for 2 hours in PSB! At least I know where Duke stands. There are folks who voted for Trump I see every day and I have no idea who they are. That concerns me.

Dr. King gave this perspective in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” when he wrote:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action…”

So, I plot my next issue to weigh in on (just finished a piece on HBCUs and Trump). And others will follow (looking like I will go after the Alabama State University Board of Trustees AGAIN- this time for messing with Dr. Boyd).

But I promise to keep speaking truth to power. If you don’t believe me, ask Dr. Dre.

Because my takedown of him was epic.

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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