Saturday, January 21, 2006

The New Segregation

~Published in the Daily Illini on January 16th, 2006.

Today, we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On this occasion, it is our duty to measure ourselves against his teachings, since he is not here to do so himself.

I was recently in Las Vegas where an African-American bus driver joked how not only were my white friends and I sitting in the back of the bus, but that he was at the front. Today, we are legally integrated. But, the new segregation consumes us.

Our campus is an intellectually advanced microcosm of the outside world. We are invited here because we are purportedly more understanding, more curious and less ignorant than the general public. Through this fact we can assume that our campus is more tolerant and more willing to racially integrate than the average American community.

Yet, even the casual observer will note the quiet segregation that forces lunch tables at the Union to be color coded - there is frequently one table of black students, one of Asian, one of white, one of Latino, and one of international students.

Just a couple of years ago, the University separated students during orientation between whites and non-whites. The non-white students would tour the cultural houses, while white students were never exposed to them. From the onset, students were intentionally and visibly separated along racial lines. Affirmative action also forces a separation that over time weighs on our perceptions of race.

The dorms appear segregated along racial lines. ISR holds a disproportionate number of Asian residents, FAR-PAR hold a disproportionate number of African-American students, and the Six-Pack looks like my suburban high school. Since we make many of our friends during the initial years at the University, this segregation simply reinforces the social segregation present in our hometowns.

Although the various cultural houses do plenty of good for particular racial communities, I question whether their overall impact on campus is positive. The cultural houses are physical representations of social segregation. They appear to only invite a particular racial community. In fact, the cultural houses are welcoming to diversity. Unfortunately, they rarely receive it. Although their efforts are genuine, the product of their work appears to contribute to segregation on campus.

But, taken together, these excuses are pathetic. They are minor influences upon our social psyche. Our generation can sit and blame questionable policies, but ultimately the blame and the solution lies with us. Few of us, even liberal-minded students, have sufficient social courage to actively seek friendships with other races.

Past American generations have fought great wars. Our war is covert and difficult to discuss. Our great challenge is to overcome years of slavery, segregation, and disloyalty to our own constitutional ideals. We are commissioned with trying to throw out the sins of our ancestors. Further, we have the opportunity to become the first truly diverse, tolerant and integrated society in human history.

Most of us walk to class, live with, and eat with those who make us most comfortable. Dr. King once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Our generation lacks the courage necessary to enact the dreams of King.

It will not happen without revolution. The revolution must occur amongst individuals. It is a revolution of small moments, and none of them will make the news.

We at this University have been given a great gift; we need only the courage to accept it.
A lesser known line in Dr. King's famous speech reads, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

If in our atmosphere, we lack the audacity to follow his lessons, how can we expect the nation to do so?


Blogger Eric said...

Billy Joe Mills! Well said my brother, well said!

10:40 PM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger Billy Joe Mills said...

My good friend Josh Rohrscheib emailed this column to President Joe White and Chancellor Richard Herman. I have reprinted their responses below:

Welcome back.
This is a good and very thoughtful column and hopefully it will
generate some response. Regarding orientation: it was exactly the point
maded in the column that had me make a change in orientation. It took
more than a year to bring about but I had the same complaint.
I disagree with his point about the cultural/study houses. There
is a need for them, though the counterpoint is understandable. What has
not happened as much as I would like is that there be programas which
net broader participation.
Thanks for sharing the sentiments.


Wonderfully thoughtful piece, thanks for sharing it.

The issue of how to achieve the full benefits of being the world's
largest, most diverse democracy while honoring people's freedom of
association choices is challenging, indeed. Making it a matter of
personal responsibility, as this column does, is terrific.

Here's a thought stimulated by the column. At the University of
Illinois at Chicago, we have an extraordinarily diverse student body,
reflecting the great ethic diversity of the city. Every major ethic
group -- black, white, Latino, Asian -- is well-represented in
substantial numbers. It would be interesting to explore with students
from that campus whether, when "critical mass" is achieved in each ethic
group, there is an easier mixing among people and less self-segregation.
Or not. An inquiry about this comparative assessment could be made to
the student trustees from UIC and UIUC.

Thanks again for sharing this good piece.


B. Joseph White
University of Illinois

2:00 AM, January 22, 2006  
Anonymous John Bambenek said...

Good column, Billy.

Welcome to blogging. :)

6:30 AM, January 22, 2006  
Blogger Billy Joe Mills said...

As a small update, since writing this column I have changed my view of the cultural houses on campus. My position has never been firm on them, but when I wrote this column I was somewhere in the middle. Now I have learned more about them and have realized their value to campus, thus I now support them fully.

12:14 AM, January 18, 2007  
Blogger dizzyfingers said...

Am editing WSJ article A Liberal Supermajority, appending definitions and history of events to make distinctions crystal clear (for my own use), and discovered your article "The Conserative Manifesto" at

It's unusual to meet a fired-up conservative in person or on the net and I'm glad to know you're out there. Maybe there are others but if so I don't have access to them -- it's a rare privilege.

There must be an upside to what has been happening to our country in recent weeks but I have yet to find it. I guess it might be that if we are at the bottom there's only one way to go. I hope when we move that we get the direction right.

However, the US Supreme Court has just ruled that the 200,000 non-existent Acorn voters shall count as legitimate votes in Ohio, and that's a disappointment. As you may know the reason those non-existent folks are so important is that after the votes are counted, election judges can vote those non-existent people democrat or republican, the preference of the election judge. Or so I read recently. Acorn claims good motives but this seems very bad to me.

Perhaps what needs to happen needs to happen in order for people to learn a lesson.

Unfortunately many of us can see what's going to happen and wish we didn't have to suffer with others who don't. Can we claim victim status under the "captives-of-democrats" clause?

Guess that's 'democracy'. Save me from it, give me back the Constitutional Republic.

Nevertheless, I really appreciate The conservative manifesto.

Keep on keeping on.


12:28 PM, October 17, 2008  

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