Clemson University, a place that honors segregationist Strom Thurmond, murderous lyncher Ben Tillman, and slavemaster John C. Calhoun in various ways around campus, has an ugly racial history that's largely whitewashed to make its mostly white student and alumni base feel better.
As a graduate of Clemson and a history degree holder from the university, I can attest that the university does more than just shy away from an actual discussion on the realities of its racial history. Instead, it goes so far as to dedicate buildings to Strom Thurmond, stating on its website that the building is designed to promote the "values" of Thurmond, one of the country's most vile racists through much of the 20th century.
This is the place where students threw a "Living the Dream" party in full blackface to mock the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on MLK weekend while I was in college. It's the place that's football crowd booed the very mention of the office of the presidency, a show of disrespect for Barack Obama, during the commissioning of new ROTC grads during Military Appreciation Day two seasons ago.
And as Clemson student A.D. Carson points out, it's a place that was literally built on the legacy of white oppression. John C. Calhoun, whose famed plantation "Fort Hill" is the site of Clemson's campus, owned his share of slaves. And when the school was built in the late 1800s, it relied on the forced labor of black convicts, many of whom served sentences unjustly applied to consign them to bondage in the wake of emancipation.
Carson's new campaign, "See the Stripes," which he wrote about here a few days ago, seeks to promote a conversation about the legacy that Clemson likes to sweep under the rug. Carson's built a coalition of people interested in this kind of reconciliation, not because the Clemson of today is a racist, murderous institution, but because it's good and fair and noble to acknowledge the wounds of the past.
In seeking to promote this conversation, Carson's seized on the concept of stripes. As the video he skillfully produced makes clear, this was not an arbitrary choice. Slaves and forced convict laborers suffered through the stripes that came from lashes out of angry racist whips. Those lashes are wounds, and Carson believes Clemson would rather pretend the wounds do not exist.
He's also seized on the concept of "solid orange," Clemson's less-than-creative marketing campaign that asks fans to wear orange on Fridays and to all Clemson events. In symbolic fashion, Carson asks what a Tiger would be if he was really solid orange. Would a tiger be a tiger without its stripes? It's his way of asking, "Would Clemson be Clemson without the pain upon which it was built."
Let's be clear - there's nothing particularly menacing about Carson's campaign. It's certainly an uncomfortable topic for racists in the upstate of South Carolina, who will undoubtedly be angry at that uppity boy trying to make Clemson look bad. But in general, Carson's received strong support from the black community at Clemson and some of the more evolved members of the white community. His campaign seeks a difficult goal in places like Clemson - to unite all thinking people for a real conversation about the white-washing of history the people of Clemson feel is necessary for preserving Clemson's legacy.
You'd be wrong.
Right-wing nutjob David Woodard just called Carson a fascist.
In an interview with Campus Reform, Woodard said:
“It’s fascism. It’s looking at things only through racial lenses and not seeing anything else when in fact there is no racism associated with this,”I'd like a more detailed explanation from Woodard, who apparently is entrusted with teaching people about political science, how an inclusive campaign to ask questions about the white-washing of Clemson's racial reality remotely relates to the 20th century authoritarian regimes of Italy and Germany.
Woodard should issue an immediate apology to Carson and to all students, faculty, and alumni who support the See Your Stripes campaign and who support general calls for Clemson to own the horrid nature of its past.
Woodard, of course, is unlikely to do such a thing. After all, he's the "Thurmond" - yes, that Thurmond - Professor of Political Science. In his book, The New Southern Politics, Woodard is like a child gushing with love and adoration for the "culture" of the South, which he sees as most distinctive in comparison to the country at large. Not surprisingly, he also wrote a biography of Ronald Reagan, and has consulted for such venerable voices on the issue of race as: Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Former Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-SC), Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC).
Want an easy way of knowing that the "stripes" of history still aren't history? It's when your university employs a professor who attempts to stomp out a conversation on race by comparing the black student who started that conversation to murderous political regimes of the 20th century.