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The Daily Tar Heel

University Has Long Strides Ahead in Integrating Races

Within the last two weeks, during Black History Month no less, The Daily Tar Heel ran a three-part story on 50 years of integration at UNC. This was only the second time this year I saw some mention this golden anniversary.

The first time was a brief reference in The Black Ink, a publication of the Black Student Movement. Not even a word was written about this occasion in the Carolina Alumni Review's January/February issue.

Unfortunately, this did not surprise me.

Though UNC is often viewed as an activist university, it has a tendency to overlook and to marginalize important social and cultural issues. As was the case with the 1951 integration decision, administrators historically have only made efforts to integrate the University if legally mandated or socially pressured to do so.

Every Carolina student, alumnus, faulty and staff member committed to social justice and equality should be outraged that Carolina is not willing to recognize and to celebrate its students of color in a comparable fashion.

The fact that UNC is not willing to celebrate is a slap in the face to the four men who bravely left the security of N.C. Central University to enter UNC's School of Law hoping to get a better education. It's a slap in the face to all of its students committed to sincere integration efforts, students like Frank Porter Graham, 1909, who worked to improve race relations long before it was politically correct; Richard Epps, 1972, UNC's first student of color to be elected student body president; and Karen Stevenson 1975, the first UNC woman and the first black woman in the nation to be named a Rhodes Scholar.

It's a slap in the face to all of UNC's faculty members committed to equality, professors like Dr. Sonja Haynes Stone whose dream of a freestanding Black Cultural Center will only be realized 24 years after its conception. It's a slap in the face to all of Carolina's staff members who built this University, including the slaves owned by former UNC President and Klansman Saunders, whose names don't appear on academic buildings.

The thing about UNC's 50th integration anniversary that disappoints me the most is the student response, or should I say lack of response?

Progress at UNC has always come from grassroots student movements. Take the Sonja H. Stone Black Cultural Center for example. Although several recent references to the BCC in the DTH have been negative, I think that this was by far Carolina's greatest integration effort.

There would be no BCC without the collaborative effort of the Campus Y, the BSM and student government.

Any time the administration has refused to act, student groups have taken it upon themselves to voice their concerns. It was nine student groups that protested the segregation of black and white students at football games in the 1950s.

It was more than 200 students who protested at a lecture by Klansman David Duke in 1975.

It was thousands of students whose direct action for a freestanding BCC brought national support from Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee and others.

When UNC refused to recognize certain groups that contributed to the success of this University in its Bicentennial Celebration, the Campus Y sponsored Dawn of Justice to recognize those groups not celebrated by the University.

I have seen dozens of fliers all over UNC advertising conferences and lectures on race, ethnicity, gender and class, but none of these conferences look at UNC's own integration efforts.

Thoughtful, honest self-reflection must precede the analysis and the criticism of others.

On Feb. 26, 2001, The Daily Tar Heel said the Board of Governors and the Committee on Community and Diversity will examine ways to promote better access to the UNC system "during the next five to 10 years."

This doesn't help the students of color attending Carolina today. This doesn't help the high school students of color applying to Carolina today. This doesn't help the white students who came to or who hope to come to Carolina in search of a diverse college experience.

I was discussing this timetable with a class recently and was told that these things take time. That response reeks of white privilege. Martin Luther King wrote in "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," "The Negro's great stumbling block ... is the White moderate ... who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advised the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.'"

I can't understand how a white "liberal" university can justify five to 10 more years. Is not 50 years of "integration" long enough? If that's not long enough, how about 208 years of institutional, systematic educational discrimination and oppression?

Time's up.

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Katie Rossini is a graduate student in the School of Social Work. She served on the Campus Y Executive Committee from 1994 to 1996. Reach her at

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