Athletics at a school dominated by white leftists is sold as the ticket of escape from the poverty that white leftists created in the first place.
Jemele Hill is probably not a racist. The former ESPN host has gained notoriety for tweeting that Donald Trump is a white supremacist, but, to be fair to Hill, such slander has lost almost all meaning. Anyone who has been among liberals these past two decades will know that “white supremacist” is their standard retort to anyone who questions the General Will of the herd of independent minds—a kind of “irritable mental gesture” signifying exasperated defeat in the face of sound argument. Calling Trump a “white supremacist” should be interpreted in exactly the same way as the primal screams that liberals bellowed in the days following Trump’s election to the presidency. The phrase is not an attempt at discourse, but a frank admission of defeat. Nothing really racial about it—just a verbal tic in the latter days of our dying republic.
Nor, it should be noted, is Jemele Hill much of a philosopher. ESPN is not exactly the Einstein, Spinoza, and Plato Network, after all, and Hill’s colleagues have not distinguished themselves by the quality of their musings on things other than the hurling of javelins and the swatting of balls. Keith Olbermann, Hill’s dai-senpai in unhinged microblogging, tore through the pages of GQ—a magazine about neckties—listing nearly two hundred reasons why, in Olbermann’s estimation, Trump would suddenly resign. Hill, who filled in at the ESPN Social Justice Desk for Olbermann while the latter was explaining to rapt audiences of dozens the finer points of the strike zone and the one-two count, was in every way her mentor’s equal in mediocrity. This intellectual blandness put both Olbermann and Hill far ahead of their jockstrap-sorting colleagues at Connecticut GHQ, but it still did not suffice to lift Bristol into the ranks of Vienna, Oxford, and Athens.
And yet, even granting that Hill is just a run-of-the-mill left-wing drivel nozzle, dribbling precisely the same highfalutin' nonsense as the interchangeable parts who work at the Washington Post, Columbia University, and the Department of Motor Vehicles, it is still theoretically possible that she be right about something from time to time. This is one of those times. Jemele Hill, who now writes columns for The Atlantic (perfect), has recently opined that black athletes should stop going to big schools, where they will be exploited, and should try to lift up black colleges and universities instead.
The reality of college athletics is that athletes are the modern equivalent of Indian slaves in a Mexican silver mine. The athletes do all the work, the university gets all the money. Athletes, especially black athletes from poor families, are lured into this arrangement with the promise of scholarships—because nobody in their right mind would pay to spend four years in a communist re-education camp (On, Wisconsin!)—and further exploitation down the line. Some athletes do go on to earn millions in the big leagues, until gruesome injury or permanent brain damage renders them unable to work at all. After four (or five, or six) years of studying Bolivian queer protest literature and attending mandatory drill sessions with Sex Out Loud, the vast majority of athletes are given a worthless piece of paper and sent on their way, while the army of white deans and deanlets continues its search for the next crop of poor kids to exploit. Hill is absolutely correct to say that this is a system that does not benefit black people. Indeed, this system benefits no one at all except the rapacious administrators who cash six- or seven-figure paychecks from the takings. She is also correct to say that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) stand to benefit by young and talented people investing more in the community than in themselves. Both of these are undeniable facts.
Hill frames this as a race issue, to be sure. Everyone is a white supremacist, so black kids must shun the Klan State and stick with their own kind. To be fair, she can hardly do otherwise, as to fail to parrot the issue du jour would lead to her immediate dismissal from The Atlantic. The fact, though, is that Hill, while spewing the usual racist bile one now expects from the CNN crowd, is inadvertently making an argument for subsidiarity. If people are hurting, then those people should be able to make the decisions that they think will ameliorate the conditions in which they find themselves. Black communities are in bad shape, and they can’t afford to have their best and brightest taken away for a shot at the big time in Potosí. This is not about race, it’s about human dignity and respect. Hill is clueless, but she still ends up in the right place.
Despite record employment numbers, black communities are hurting very badly. White liberals have destroyed black neighborhoods with decades of parochial faux-charity in the form of cash payments in exchange for Democrat votes. White liberals, who themselves tend to get married and work and save for the future, promote among poor people (especially blacks) a culture of heedlessness and contempt for the family. Fatherlessness among blacks has long since passed the point of being epidemic. Hopelessness—the inevitable result of familial despair—has become the standard mental equipment of the young African American. There were no Crips or Bloods until white liberals started to “help” black neighborhoods. Like Mao at Tiananmen, a giant portrait of Lyndon Baines Johnson ought to hang from the side of every rundown project building in federal Pottertowns.
The solution that the liberals offer to this hell they have made? Go to college at State U! Run a ball up and down a court or a field for a few years and then leave your past behind for good. Don’t look back, just get out. Athletics at a school dominated by white leftists is sold as the ticket of escape from the poverty that white leftists created in the first place.
What Hill proposes is much more humane—much more Catholic, in fact. Building up a community through patient effort takes a lot more work than kneeling for two minutes during the national anthem. Students and professors at HBCUs get far, far less attention than their counterparts at Gargantuan State (funny, but Hill’s alma mater ESPN is at LSU games far more often than they’re at Grambling’s). But HBCUs do more for black neighborhoods than any number of Famous Athlete Foundations will ever achieve. If heaven is gained like the camel passing through the eye of a needle, then one wonders whither the wide, cash-paved road of the pro career and the endorsement contract will lead.
Jemele Hill probably did not mean to say any of this, of course. But she is right all the same. It will take a lot of time and commitment to heal the broken hearts of the communities that liberalism carpetbombed with federal “assistance”. Imagine what could happen if subsidiarity, and not subsidized escape programs for talented youth, was the guiding principle of neighborhoods across the United States.
--Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Chiba, Japan.