Southern Politics at Clemson -Dr. David Woodard

A spectre is haunting universities in the American South these days.  This time the hostility has new actors, but the plot of racial animosity is painfully familiar.

The protestors are at war with history.  They want to destroy any vestige of what preceded their own awareness of society and replace it with a new version.  The most striking difference today is in the leadership and vision they have for social improvement.

Martin Luther King, Jr. began his nonviolent crusade in churches and, as the only American pastor to have a national holiday named for him, emphasized reconciliation.  “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word,” he declared.  Prayers and peaceful admonitions led to national support and historic legislation.

The headship today make no similar claim to divinity.  Academics and their allies want confrontation, not reconciliation.  One of the dissidents after the dreadful Charlottesville, Virginia march declared that “you have to have violence before you can have nonviolence.”

That statement must be one of the most misinformed and postmodern declarations about politics on record.  Where is Martin Luther King’s testimony that “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that”?  The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s didn’t focus on past injustices, although there were many to mention.  Instead, they embraced the future.  King’s “I Have a Dream” speech may among the most familiar comments he ever gave on America, and that “Dream” came to realization.

Hate was a great burden for those involved in social protest in the 1960s, but it is the motivation for present activists.  Protesters want a skirmish, and anything that promotes one is valid.  Stokley Carmichael, a sixties activist who broke with Dr. King’s nonviolence said: “In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience.  The United States has none.”  Have Americans forgotten that the “Black Power” radicals killed police officers, robbed banks and bombed a church in San Francisco?

In the wake of violence near the University of Virginia, President James Clements of Clemson declared: “there is no place for bigotry, racism, hatred on our campus.”  Yet, on the first day of classes, a Clemson professor told the national press that all Donald Trump supporters and Republicans were “racist scum,” and demanded that such political followers, “denounce your political affiliations, or admit you’re a racist.”

Such an assertion is a recipe for disaster on a state university campus when South Carolina voted 55 percent for the president.  The professor remains un-apologetic and un-bridled.  In fact, he is supported by the administration.

The campus revisionists want to do what happened in Geor ge Orwell’s novel, 1984, and remove the past so they can rewrite it.  Not only Confederate statues are subject to scorn, but even Mount Rushmore.  The presidents depicted there are white males, and individual slave holders, as well as imperialists.

After the outbreak of violence in Ferguson, Missouri, students gathered outdoors at the University of Missouri and chanted: “I am a revolutionary.”  They were behaving as they had been taught.  University administrators resigned after the rally.

In the 1960s, John Hope Franklin served as an American historian and President of Phi Betta Kappa.  An African-American professor of history at the University of Chicago, he said “The South is a place where the past looms large in the present.”

What he meant, was that people could understand one place only by investigating its failures and it triumphs, and then know another place better as a result.  Today, students know nothing of the southern past; it is blocked from their curriculum.

Learn about history and you’ll begin to understand what Martin Luther King, Jr. believed.  “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best of the American dream, and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

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David Woodard

Professor of Political Science

Clemson University

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