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Graduation, with more hurdles to clear

5/19/2018, 9:56 p.m.
Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther, graduated from Howard University in 2000. His writing partner is also an HU graduate. Mr. ...

The police are too often called to put black people in their place, to force them to comply, to reinforce the tenet of white supremacy, the notion that when we see a white person we must shuck and jive and smile. So-called law enforcement officers become servants of racists who want us in our place.

I want the graduates to know that their place is every place. Class of 2018, your place is in that Starbucks at the table, order or not. Your place is in that Waffle House, getting the utensils you requested. Your place is on that stage at the University of Florida. As a matter of fact, your place is every place!

Resistance, though, now has a high price. Who wants to go to jail and end up, maybe, like Sandra Bland, whose mysterious death in Texas still has not been solved. Who wants to be handcuffed, humiliated, exposed and maligned just because you asked a simple question. Starbucks will close thousands of stores to the tune of millions of dollars for unconscious bias training. But who will train these biased police officers and the racists who call them because their feelings are bruised because no one waved at them?

The Class of 2018 will learn, as have millions of other African-Americans, that racism is alive and well. They’ve cleared a hurdle with graduation. But even as some cross the stage, they are being reminded that there are many more hurdles to clear to survive in our unfortunately racist nation.

Perhaps, though, the Class of 2018 will be among those to dismantle the racist hurdles. Perhaps in the process of clearing other hurdles — graduate and professional school, marriage and children, artificial intelligence and gentrification — they will also find the wherewithal to eliminate racial barriers to success.

The writer is an author, economist and former president of Bennett College.