Redheaded Woodpeckers

Posted: Jan 26, 2004 12:00 AM
There is a tree behind my parents' house in Huntsville, Texas, where scores of birds come to feed every morning. Perhaps the most striking of those birds is a redheaded woodpecker that seems to be around every time I am home for Christmas.

A couple of months ago, after the birds had pecked away all of the seeds inside their feeder, my father climbed the tree to hang another clump of seeds for them to eat. But it seems that he accidentally hung the feeder on the branch above the one where he had previously hung the feeder. Most of the birds immediately figured out where the new feeder was placed. But that redheaded woodpecker just sat on the lower branch where he was used to pecking, swinging his head wildly into the empty air. Eventually, he figured things out and moved on to the higher branch.

That redheaded woodpecker is pretty impressive at first glance, but he isn't the brightest bird in the sky. Most of you have never seen a redheaded woodpecker, but I see them every day. That's because a lot of them teach at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

This semester, UNC-W's redheaded woodpeckers have set up a special "learning community" semester at the university. The theme of the "learning community" is "Brown v. Board of Education and how it has changed us." Its purpose is to increase "awareness of and appreciation for our history, our society, our rights and our liberty, as well as the continuous pursuit of the promise of democracy."

Towards that end, an entire course on the Brown case is being offered this spring in African American Studies. It is appropriately called "Brown v. Board of Education." Other courses in the special "Brown" semester include "Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement," "Searches for Freedom," "Enslaving America," "African American Filmmakers," "The Civil Rights Movement," "Segregated South and Autobiography," "Philosophy of Human Rights," "Undesirable Otherness," and "Voices on Desegregation." In all, there are 39 courses devoted in part or in whole to this one Supreme Court case. This comes to about 117 credit hours.

Some of these courses have been developed entirely for this special semester. Others are courses that have been altered to include discourse on the Brown case. For example, "Sociology of Aging" will include an assignment where students interview people who were alive during segregation.

Finding interview subjects who were alive during segregation will be simple because the university, despite its claimed distaste for segregation, actually practices segregation as a matter of policy. I am not referring to the fact that over 90% of the students at the university are white. Instead, I am referring to recent university initiatives including the African American Cultural Center, separate faculty meetings for black faculty members, and special brown bag luncheons designed for black faculty and staff only.

I think that it can be safely stated that segregation imposed by white racists is a problem of the past. However, segregation imposed by university liberals in the name of tolerance and diversity is a present reality, but it just isn't a problem, according to its proponents.

So why is the university devoting an entire semester to celebrations of desegregation and condemnations of white racism, when the university is a place where segregation is not just practiced but also celebrated?

It would seem to me that the university would do better to instead talk about the major problem that confronts black Americans here in the 21st century. That problem isn't segregation or white racism. It's black illegitimacy.

Presently, about 70% of black children born in America are illegitimate. The inverse relationship between illegitimacy and educational attainment is undeniable. The direct relationship between illegitimacy and criminal involvement is also undeniable.

Imagine what would happen if our university took all of the resources it is now directing towards the past problem of segregation and instead focused on the present problem of black illegitimacy. Imagine an entire course called "Black Illegitimacy and its Consequences" with a total of 39 courses devoted in part or in whole to the problem.

Of course, I can ask people to imagine that all day long, but it will never happen at a public university. And the reasons for that are simple.

Focusing on issues of white racism and segregation makes liberal professors look good. And it also makes them feel good about themselves, despite the fact that it does nothing to help minorities. By instead focusing on black illegitimacy, liberal professors would risk being stigmatized as racists by other university liberals, most of whom are white.

So, university liberals just sit there perched in their ivory towers like redheaded woodpeckers in a tree. They swing their heads wildly in the air, pecking away at something that is no longer there.

They might not be the brightest birds in the sky, but they know what they're doing. And so do I.

Mike Adams ( is an associate professor at UNC-Wilmington. His favorite song is "Free Bird." His favorite Senator is not Robert Byrd, largely because of the Senator's record on issues related to segregation.