By: Dr. Boyce Watkins
This was an interesting weekend. Two things happened that I was involved with that led to a tremendous amount of reflection on my part. I’ll start from the beginning, as the passion is so strong that my fingers are boiling on the keyboard. They say you shouldn’t try to think or write when you are angry, but I am a man of passion and passion brings out the strongest part of my intellect.
First, I went to visit my alma mater (or my “alma-mama” as I call it), The University of Kentucky. UK is an amazing school, beautiful in some ways, but sick and twisted in others. I saw our football team win an amazing game a couple of weeks ago, as they beat the #1 ranked team in the country for the first time in 43 years. I was with them the entire time, cheering and jumping up and down as they scored one touch down after another. Part of me bleeds blue, which happens to be one our school colors.
But it is also my love for my “alma-mamma” that inspired my visit to the school this week. I gave a speech after being requested by the black students on campus to come in and comment on the series of racially-motivated incidents that took place on campus recently. In one of the incidents, a black student had the words “Die Nigger” sliced into his door. The incident was in the media, and I was forwarded the article by one of my cousins. The reason I got the article: The student who had the words scratched into his door also happened to be my cousin.
Before I could pick up the phone and “raise holy hayell”, I received a call from one of the black administrators, who wanted me to intervene. The answer was a resounding “yes”.
Coming back home was an amazing experience, as I could literally look at every corner, street, building and sidewalk on that campus and have a fond memory of being in that particular spot. It could be the place where I first kissed my girlfriend, stood fuming over a bad grade in a class, played football with my friends, had a car accident or drank a milkshake. I consider that university to be my home.
The energy in the auditorium was off the chain, as the house was totally packed. Apparently, the arrival of the “Dangerous Negro” had driven many people to come out, young and old, white and black. The students came ready for war, and I was ready to guide them down the war path. I didn’t want them filled with hate. I just wanted them to have understanding, purpose and direction. I reminded them that the same things that happened in 2007 were also happening in 1997, 1987 and 1977. I told them about how the administration had made promises 20 years earlier to substantially increase the presence of black faculty on campus, and that none of these promises were kept or acknowledged. I reminded them that if they acted firmly and strongly, 2007 would be the year when the shit was going to stop. Continue reading