I absolutely love to learn. For this reason, Tuesday is my favorite day. With no classes and no meetings, every Tuesday I make a point to absorb everything that I can, starting with The Daily Tar Heel.
In doing so, I happened across the weekly column of Craig Warner. Because it is difficult to find an out-of-the-closet conservative in Chapel Hill, I felt fortunate to make this discovery.
On a recent Tuesday, I turned to the opinion page eager to devour my weekly dosage of conservative enlightenment. What I read not only verified my darkest suspicions about the depth of Warner's "personal awakening" but, more distressingly, dampened my entire Tuesday.
What did he say? Here's the recap:
After ranting about left-wing persecution, Warner briefly turned his keen eye upon Carolina's African-American population. Craig noticed that there is only one African-American student enrolled in his Civil War history course. And so he wondered, "Why on earth are African-American students avoiding this exceptionally well-taught class?"
He offers two answers: one, African-Americans are being "ushered" into "lightweight `complain-about-America' courses like African American Studies 40" by condescending administrators; two, they have "decided that American history doesn't concern them."
As I am both a history major and an African-American, these profound insights were doubly startling. Indeed, on an average day, I might have been blinded by their supernova-like brilliance. But, as this was Tuesday, I quietly jotted down all the points from the missive for later reflection.
I learned that I had been deluded into thinking that African-American Studies is a unique and invaluable field.
I also learned that there is a conspiracy among administrators to herd unsuspecting Negroes into courses where they can receive three credit hours for complaining.
The corollary is that the founders of the Black Student Movement, as well as their supporters in the University and community, did not invest their time and energy to break down cultural parochialism and enrich the academy. Read between the lines! They wanted complaining, not diversity!
One of the more befuddling lessons I picked up was this: Even though I might take a course that is described as placing "special emphasis on the 16th-18th centuries," it could not possibly have anything to do with American history because it focuses on African-Americans. (Clearly, some absent-minded administrator neglected to tell me that blacks are not Americans.)
But most importantly, I learned that pernicious ignorance remains as common on this campus as it is in the country at large. I was reminded of Dr. King's admonition that there is nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Yes, we're all entitled to our opinions, regardless of their veracity. However, there remains a line of good taste and discretion. And any individual willing to not only express ridiculous ideas, but to publish them in the face of knowledge to the contrary is either idiotic or very intentional.
Less than a year ago, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of African and Afro-American studies at UNC. The coming of a free-standing Black Cultural Center has dominated DTH headlines for two years. Also, a number of our most distinguished faculty members are African-Americans.
For at least the last decade, our nation's premiere colleges and universities have not just offered black studies courses, but have competed to build the strongest program. In fact, the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research is arguably the premiere department at Harvard University.
More importantly, the presence of a thriving department of Afro-American studies - along with the BCC, the Office of Minority Affairs and the Institute for African American Research - shows that UNC is interested in doing more than having African-Americans compete on its fields or smile in glossy publications. It is evidence that Carolina understands its responsibility to its black students and is aware of the need to nurture, study and enhance the black experience.
During his heartfelt struggle to unravel the mystery of his Civil War class, I wonder whether Warner thought to utilize any of those resources? Or if he even bothered to determine what percentage of Carolina's history majors are African-American?
A chance encounter with the columnist revealed that he had not even contemplated such actions. Instead, Warner made narrow-minded statements that were dismissive of Afro-American studies, as well as mildly offensive to black students and faculty.
In another column, Warner notes that, "We the people must learn to think honestly about issues." Amen to that! But how could such inane statements reach any standard of earnest erudition?
The question vexed me until I learned that Mr. Warner is the chairman of a Republican campus group.
Suddenly, it was all very clear.
Some spiteful louse (an administrator, perhaps?) had neglected to inform him that the GOP loves black folk this year. Clearly, Craig missed the "compassionate conservative" memo.
So, while Mr. Warner was discovering that "everything (he) thought (he) knew was wrong," he neglected to adjust his rhetoric on race.
Still, he's not completely out of sync with his party. For, just as the GOP national convention supplanted an honest delineation of policy with a full-scale charade - complete with more people of color singing and dancing than "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" - Craig's column replaced serious thought with his biased, uninformed opinion.
To his credit, Warner is willing to speak his mind. I hope that in the future he'll be willing to think before speaking.
Michael K. Woods is a sophomore history and journalism and mass communication major from Chicago and student body secretary. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.