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Our Raison D’être

Our Raison D’être

This particular edition hits on the complex and often painful issue of race. Dr. W.E.B. DuBois said almost 100 years ago upon the publication of The Souls of Black Folk, “for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” And it looks like the same will be true of the 21st century.

Many people believe that issues of race and racism are relics of the past. But if there’s any doubt that such issues remain on the table, one should remember that we closed out 2002 with Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott’s resignation from his Senate majority leader post, following his comments, which insinuated that this country might have been better off if former Sen. Strom Thurmond, who ran on a segregationist platform, had been elected president of the United States.

Speaking of Mississippi, our cover story written by B. Denise Hawkins profiles Alvin Chambliss Jr. This Mississippi attorney has devoted much of his life to the case of Ayers v. Fordice, the long-standing legal battle over the desegregation of Mississippi’s higher education system. It was 28 years ago this month that Jake Ayers Sr. filed the lawsuit on behalf of his son and other Black college students in the state. Ayers did not live long enough to see the case come to closure, but Chambliss and Ayers’ widow Lillie carry on the fight. This story reveals how vexing and troublesome forging a solution can be.

The Continuing Significance of Racism” summarizes well this particular edition, but it’s actually the title of a paper, which was commissioned by the American Council on Education (ACE).

The author of the paper, University of Florida professor Dr. Joe R. Feagin, brings a welcomed air of candor about the continuing significance of racism, particularly on our college campuses. Feagin touches on so many relevant issues — how Black intellectuals are viewed in the academy; why it’s so difficult for college presidents to address issues of race; the marginalization of Black faculty and staff and many more issues. ACE has done its membership a service by commissioning the essay.

Many of our leading publications as well as our national leaders often take a “pass” on addressing issues having to do with the “color-line.” But as the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. By bringing you these kind of articles, we hope to lay a foundation for forging dialogue that just may make some headway in finding solutions. On every college campus in this country, even HBCUs, there is a need to hold ongoing conversations about race. Now that most college presidents have received a copy of the ACE report, the question is how will they respond to Feagin’s essay. Real leaders do not duck controversial and complicated issues such as race, and it is one of Black Issues’ reasons for being.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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