In Monday's Long Beach Press Telegram, columnist Bob Keisser plays the last card in the deck as far as the UCLA football coaching situation is concerned -- the race card.
The link is above, you can read if for yourselves. The abridged version is that:UCLA is a school with perhaps the richest history of accomplishments by African-Americans in academic and athletic areas, the kind of blueprint any chancellor would want to maintain.
Which is, of course, a point we can all agree with. Keisser then mentions some names:Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier.
Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, who were the first African-Americans in the modern-day NFL.
Ralph Barksdale, the first African-American on a U.S. Olympic gold medal basketball team.
Arthur Ashe, first African-American man to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Rafer Johnson, perhaps the greatest decathlete ever, and torch-bearer for the 1984 Olympics, and President of the Special Olympics.
That's just the sports side. Tom Bradley was Los Angeles' first African-American mayor, Ralph Bunche won a Nobel Peace prize and was a U.N. Ambassador, James LuValle a chemist who worked with Linus Pauling, lawyer Johnnie Cochran, and California politicians Yvonne Burke and Diane Watson.
But the point of Keisser's article is not that UCLA has an excellent track record of race relations. Instead, he makes a different point.
After noting the declining numbers of African-American students on campus (a fact I have not checked but recollect to be true*), Keisser then makes this comment:"the firing of Dorrell and his staff would represent another kind of loss."
Basically, he seems to be saying, UCLA has a great history (re: Arthur Ashe, Ralphe Bunche) but a less progressive present (re: declining numbers of African American students), so UCLA should not fire their African American coach.
He also notes (sort of as an aside) we've had some injuries to the quarterbacks and running backs,
He concludes with the following:Whether they like it or not, there's going to be a distinction to Dorrell's fate. There's simply no gray area when your head coach is African-American.
The article reminds me of an oft-told Jackie Robinson story.
I don't remember where I first read it, but I found it re-told in an AP story from earlier this year. I happened to find it in a blog, that reprinted the entire article, written by Jim Becker. (I found it in at least two places, this was easier to read. I've no doubt it can be found in many places, in many forms.)
Robinson had agreed with Rickey to hold his fiery temper and natural competitiveness in check, to endure the racial taunts from fans and opposing players. When the wraps came off and he was free to argue with the umpires and return with interest the foul bench jockeying, Robinson told me: "I can hardly wait for an umpire to throw me out of a game." In other words, to treat him like everybody else.
The bold emphasis is mine.
The point of the story is that Jackie Robinson did not wanted or need special treatment. He wanted to be treated like everyone else.
In the 1940s, when a ball player argued with an umpire, he got thrown out of a game. If you got tossed, it meant you were being treated like everyone else.
In 2007, well-paid head coaches running Pacific 10 football programs either win on the field or they get fired.
Just like everyone else.
*According to today's Daily Bruin:
"Some underrepresented groups saw increased enrollment for fall 2007 – the number of black and Latino freshman jumped from 241 in 2006 to 389 in 2007. But other groups, such as students from low-income families and first-generation college students, saw enrollment declines."
So, as a point of fact, Keisser is wrong when he says that the numbers of African-American students are declining. But the numbers are very low, so his point -- while technically inaccurate -- is still something to consider.