Although the United States was founded on democratic principles of freedom and opportunity,
racism has skewed individual perceptions and manifested into political institutions. African Americans’ fight for economic and social equality was rooted in combating this ingrained racism. This goal was the fundamental purpose of the Civil Rights Movement — to enforce the promises granted by the U.S. Constitution. The modern left is notorious for resisting the traditional values of the Conservative Party and advocating for disadvantaged groups, yet their occasional ideological inconsistencies have set off a backslide in the progressive movement. Jemele Hill, former ESPN host and current journalist for “The Atlantic,” is a prime example of this self-inflicted backslide.
The concept of progressive racism has circulated in the media with Hill’s name attached to the end. She had recently written an article suggesting that black athletes are perpetuating white supremacy and committing a disservice to their race by playing for predominantly caucasian universities. She proceeds to encourage talented black athletes to reject Division I opportunities and opt for HBCUs. She centers her argument on highlighting the profitable margins of the commercialized NCAA and the lack of financial compensation for black athletes. In 2017, the NCAA audited financial statement reported revenue of just over $1 billion. Hill argues that large universities monopolize black athletes and utilize them as a workforce for a multi-billion dollar profit. She believes that if black athletes pursued HBCUs, they would redirect the flow of money. Instead of “white” universities’ wealth compounding from powerful athletic monopoly, black athletes could increase marketability for HBCUs. In her article, she seems to attempt to stimulate guilt by asserting HBCUs carved a pathway for success for African Americans before the expansion of athletic programs. So what exactly is the problem with black athletes participating in this form of progressive racism?
This idea is counterproductive and has several consequences that could permeate relationship dynamics in American society. Segregation would exacerbate racial division already evident in educational institutions. Self-segregation reduces intellectual perspectives and cultural backgrounds in academic capacities. As students encounter scholarly thought in higher education, these institutions will mold their ideological beliefs through argument and refutation. It is nonsensical to believe that racial seclusion will eradicate people’s prejudices; racism is a moral epidemic that we can transcend through education.
Additionally, these “white” colleges have the greatest potential at maximizing the professional opportunities for these individuals including, but not limited to, collegiate NFL recruiting at unrivaled numbers. Athletically prominent universities such as Notre Dame alone has sent 495 players to the NFL. Furthermore, Alabama documents 319 players and LSU 325. The data is only a fraction of the near 25,500 players in NFL history. Texas A&M is also known for having more Fortune 500 CEOs than any other college in the country and is ranked among the Top 20 in public universities. These universities desire to produce marketable students that will excel in a competitive economy. African Americans choose to invest their talents in these universities; likewise, the universities invest in their student-athletes to cultivate successful individuals.
Finally, obtaining a degree from a top-tier school will hopefully aid in future career endeavors. As a student from A&M, the preeminent class ring reflects the intellect and character of Aggies worldwide. Pursuing academically rigorous universities speaks volumes to employers across different economic sectors. African Americans having the reputation of a successful NCAA athlete and achieving a degree from a respected university will increase the likelihood of their prosperity. One of Hill’s arguments was that African American athletes attending HBCUs would be giving back to their communities. African Americans should have the opportunity to thrive in a capitalist economy and monetarily support their communities. I am, however, not at all convinced that self-segregation leads to the most promising path to success.
Hill’s endorsement of self-imposed segregation ironically curtails a motive of the modern political left — that is, achieve equality for all identifiable communities in the United States. Minorities in the United States are still vehemently battling to minimize the racial wealth gap and refute the racialization imposed on their ethnic group. If minorities choose to engage in progressive racism, they are inherently encouraging the stigma against which they are fighting. They are reducing national efforts to promote collaboration and cohesion between the multitude of races.
If our collective society truly desires to coexist, it is essential to promote racial integration and equality within the institutional establishments.