By Lily Jackson
Taking that first college campus tour is a treat. In the South, the tour includes the long walks through shadeless corridors under the weight of 90% humidity, and welling excitement for a freshman year are paired with the cunning wit and charm of student tour guides.
They weave superstitious tales, like stepping on the campus seal, while informing incoming students of where the shortest food lines are at noon. This newfound paradise of freedom for young people can seem almost too good to be true.
And it is.
Over the past month, Reckon has been wheeling out flashlight stories — shedding light on the unacknowledged history of the SEC’s racist past. We’ve debunked the myth that Auburn University’s first mascot was an eagle. We’ve revealed the many purchases universities made of enslaved people. We’ve drawn inexcusable lines between leaders of the Confederacy and the names of campus dorms and halls of learning that still exist today.
And on each campus where building name changes have begun, the students have said repeatedly, “This isn’t over. It’s not enough.”
For those who wish to continue learning about the history of SEC universities — the alumni, the future students, the donors and the fans — here are three books to get you started:
Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities by Craig Steven Wilder
MIT professor Craif Steven Wilder wrote the book — literally — on higher education’s relationship with slavery. Ebony and Ivory argues that some of America’s oldest colleges played pivotal roles in the extermination of indeginous populations and the enslavement of African Americans. The book doesn’t tip-toe around how settlers deceived the native population with false promises of education and Christianization, only to sell their land out from underneath them.
Wilder was awarded the Columbia University Medal of Excellence in 2004 for his work.
Diversity Regimes: Why Talk Is Not Enough to Fix Racial Inequality at Universities by James M. Thomas
James M. Thomas played a huge role in our University Racism Unraveled series, as he wrote a book about the University of Mississippi’s struggle to define what committing to diversity and inclusion looks like. Universities across the country have put out “teethless statements” of support for diversity and inclusion on campus, but haven’t pushed the needle on change.
Thomas’ book gets into why that’s happening. “For as much talk as there is about the importance of diversity and inclusion on college campuses, we see very little in terms of moving the needle on existing racial inequalities,” he said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.
On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life by Sara Ahmed
There’s a difference between the symbolic statements of supporting diversity and the actions that should follow. Sara Ahmed digs into that paradox in On Being Included and explains where the gap begins. Diversity is often offered as a solution, she writes, rather than confronting racism head-on.
“Statements like ‘we are diverse’ or ‘we embrace diversity’ might simply be what organizations say because that is what organizations are saying,” she writes. It’s recommended as one of the best texts for those interested in diversity and inclusion work in their field.