Jewish World Review Oct. 20, 1999 /10 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
Protecting black people
HAVING BEEN INVITED to be the inaugural speaker for Valencia Community
College's Millennium Lecture Series, I looked forward with considerable
anticipation to my trip to Orlando, Fla. But en route to the airport, my
secretary relayed a telephone message from Allen Byrd, a reporter for the
Orlando Business Journal, that dampened some of my enthusiasm.
The reporter, having just learned of my Sept. 29 lecture the previous day,
was wondering why the college had not sent out its usual plethora of press
releases and media faxes, especially considering that the lecture was the
first of a major lecture series.
According to Byrd's interviews, reported in the Oct. 4 edition of the
Orlando Business Journal, there were two explanations. The first, from the
college's public-relations department, said that, "Williams is so popular
that to have publicized the visit would have created an overflow crowd."
That led Byrd to conclude, "Indeed, the college was so concerned it did not
even tell its own public-relations department that Williams was coming.
Orlando Business Journal did."
Byrd says, "The second, entirely unofficial and completely off-the-record
reason came to our attention by way of a quote: 'We do not want to give the
appearance that Valencia shares his (Williams) views and that we believe
this is the way African-Americans should act.'"
Valencia College staffers were acting under the instructions of college
president Paul C. Gianini to keep a lid on my appearance. The president's
response to his faculty electing me as guest lecturer is just another
example of today's deceit, dishonesty and cowardice that has become part and
parcel of America's institutions of higher learning. As such, it's more
evidence that colleges and universities are undeserving of American trust
The public-relations story about overflow crowd was a bald-faced lie. The
lecture was held in the college's gymnasium. There were about 700 students
and faculty in attendance. The gymnasium's capacity is about 2,000. The true
reason for the president's actions was that he feared angering Central
Florida's black community with my libertarian ideas.
But look at it. Conservative William Buckley has ideas that anger white
people. I seriously doubt that, had Buckley been the speaker, Gianini would
have kept his visit secret out of fear of offending Central Florida's white
community. He probably sees white people as mature enough to accept
differences of opinion, whereas for blacks it's a different matter -- we
need the sheltering and protection from ole massa.
Gianini was out of the country during my visit, but I couldn't have been
treated more courteously and warmly by Valencia's faculty, students and the
administrative staff. There were many black faculty and students in the
audience, many of whom stopped to chat and ask questions after my lecture.
Black and white students lined up for me to autograph their program guides
both before and after the lecture.
Gianini's actions, though possibly well-intentioned, are a wholesale
affront and insult to the black residents of the Orlando community. It
constitutes one of the more debilitating forms of racism. Black people
succeeded well in weathering the malevolent racism of the Bilbos, Wallaces
and the Klan. It is the demeaning, condescending, benevolent protective
racism of people such as Gianini that's so destructive today.
Gianini's message to Orlando's black community doesn't differ from one that
says: Whites are mature enough to handle controversy, but for blacks I know
what you want and need to hear.
That's a message that blacks ought to reject out of hand. But to give
Gianini the benefit of the doubt, there's a possibility that he could have
been mau-maued into in his decision by Geraldine Thompson, Valencia
College's affirmative action
Walter Williams Archives
©1999, Creators Syndicate