Unless you live under a bridge, you've probably heard that a caucus of black lawmakers in South Carolina have been calling our recruits and urging them not to attend USC. The reason? They're upset because the board of trustees at USC may soon be without a black member, as they think it's likely that lawyer Leah B. Moody, who is currently the board's only black member, is unlikely to receive enough votes to serve a full term. (Moody is currently finishing the term of an ousted trustee.) They believe that discouraging recruits from attending USC will call people's attention to the possible lack of representation on the board for the state's black community.
Let me preface what I'm about to say by saying that I believe that the University's board should have at least one and preferably multiple black representatives. The state of South Carolina has a large black population and a large portion of that population comes to the University of South Carolina to get an education. The University, in fact, serves one of the largest black student bodies in the country. It's indisputably lamentable that it's even possible that it may be without a black board member, and I strongly believe that the black caucus was right to make a move to do something about it.
That said, the choice of the black lawmakers caucus, led by state Representative David Weeks, to address the issue in this way says a number of sad things not only about their politics, but also our society in general. First of all, the caucus's choice to go down this road is, in too many ways to name here, both perplexing and disturbing. I fail to see what role the football team has in selecting board members. Why attempt to punish and confuse kids who have chosen to earn a good education and play football here? In fact, the University itself doesn't nominally have a role here, as the legislature itself picks the board members. Why not find some way to speak to the legislature's failings? Why not raise a public outcry to those failings, forcing the legislature's hand?
Of course, the issue really isn't all that perplexing when you think about it. The black caucus chose this ethically questionable act because they wanted to get everyone's attention, and, in that sense, they made a good call. They do have our attention, and, as an old saying goes, even negative attention is better than none at all. And that's what I really find depressing about all of this: that the caucus chose to do this because they assumed that more people would pay attention to the issue if they went after the USC football team than if they brought it to another public forum, and that in many ways they were right. What happened here says something that is both poignant and disturbing about political life in this country.
I unfortunately have nowhere near enough time to devote the attention to this issue that it deserves, but I hope we can take this up in the comments section. I'm interested to hear what others have to say.