The Cost of Leading While Black
If you are a Black person in America, you can measure with an egg timer how long it takes for an intense disagreement to lead to the invocation of racist tropes. We saw this early in the first term of President Barack Obama, when the debate over health care quickly deteriorated into overt racism: Posters portrayed the president of the United States as a witch doctor, and a U.S. representative felt empowered to shout “You lie!” as the president addressed Congress. As president of Kenyon College, not of the nation, I am grateful to deal with issues with considerably lower stakes than those faced by President Obama. But predictably, the dynamics of race in America are fractal: They can be observed at all scales, from the paths of power in Washington to the gravel paths of bucolic Gambier, Ohio.
Originally published: May 3, 2022
Author: Sean M. Decatur
Institution: Kenyon College
Published by: The Chronicle of Higher Ed