The Corner

Larry Arnn, ‘Dark Ones,’ and Racial Confusion

The president of Hillsdale College, Dr. Larry Arnn, came under fire over this last week for referring to minority students as “dark ones” while testifying before the Michigan state legislature about curriculum standards. Hillsdale, as NRO readers might know, is a conservative private school in Michigan, of which Arnn has been the president.

“You’re the president of a college. I would expect better out of you,” chided state representative David Knezek of Dearborn Heights; Representative Adam Zemke of Ann Arbor called the remark offensive. But their condemnations have the roles of this race play reversed.

As Henry Payne, an NRO contributor, points out in the Detroit News, the transcript reveals that Arnn was clearly using the term to refer to the attitudes of the Michigan Department of Education, which dispatched bureaucrats to the campus in a 1999 visit, allegedly to count Hillsdale students by their race because Hillsdale doesn’t record racial statistics about its students. In their report on the visit, the Michigan DOE concluded that Hillsdale didn’t have a diverse enough student body, and admitted it decided “to respond to [Hillsdale’s not counting students by race] based on observation of the students on campus.”

Yet all along, as Payne recounts, Hillsdale has long been at the forefront of the civil-rights cause and a fervent opponent of racial discrimination. It was the first college in the United States to forbid discrimination in admissions on the basis of race, religion, or sex. The school ardently supported abolition and Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaigns, and sent more students to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War “than any other western school,” Payne explains. Arnn himself helped author the 1996 California Civil Rights Initiative, which banned race-based discrimination in admissions and helped lead to higher black graduation rates.

Suffice it to say, if Hillsdale and Arnn are racist, they’re going about it pretty poorly. Nevertheless, we live in the age of kowtowing to racial demagoguery and the school issued an apology for Arnn’s remarks — but noted that “no offense was intended by the use of [‘dark ones’] except to the offending bureaucrats . . . the greater concern, [Dr. Arnn] believes, is the state-endorsed racism the story illustrates.”

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