The More Things Barack Obama, the More They Stay the Same

The racist brouhaha swirling around University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ronald Jackson should quell once and for all any lingering nonsensical verbiage about a “post-racial” America or the “end of blackness” since the election and

Oct 9, 2013 at 9:20 am

The racist brouhaha swirling around University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ronald Jackson should quell once and for all any lingering nonsensical verbiage about a “post-racial” America or the “end of blackness” since the election and return of President Barack Obama.

Because the more things Barack Obama, the more they stay the same.

Racism always, without fail, shoves its victims into corners of defensiveness and holds hostage the folks with and in power — that is, whites — and magically silences them from righting the ship of racist fools back on course; white folks end up babbling in Diversity-Weekend-Retreat language that resounds with empty-speak like “inclusion,” “civility” and “community.”


Two things are happening with Jackson at UC and they both involve the sterling student journalism of The News Record, a heretofore forgettable paper of sports and fluffy entertainment that has grown into a valid and valued source of hard news tackling difficult questions of the UC community (whatever that now means).

Jackson is under attack within his own department. 

In April, two emails circulated, one from Associate Dean Jana Braziel that was basically an up-front, no-confidence vote sent directly to Jackson stating she is “not a supporter ... and I unequivocally feel that you have failed as the leader of the McMicken College.”

Braziel’s email landed in Jackson’s box 10 days after psychology professor Steven Howe dashed off an email to UC President Santa Ono, also known as Ono In Over His Head. 

Howe directed Ono to “repurpose” Jackson, as though Jackson were an old Mason jar that could be cleverly turned into a lamp. “Make Ron (vice president) of student services, or give him a position at the foundation,” Howe wrote Ono.

Notice how Braziel, a woman, directly told Jackson how she felt about his performance?

Notice that Howe, a white man, circumnavigated Jackson and gave the superior being — also a minority — a directive suggesting what to do with Jackson?

That bit of gender politics is itself a column.

The lack of confidence and hostility toward Jackson has been building and simmering within Arts and Sciences; yet, as noted by The News Record’s April 17 story about the dissension, 19 of the 20 department heads under Jackson’s purview refused comment, choosing instead to hide behind office cooler whispers, secret lunches and emails. However, Howe, the de facto spokesman for these heads, said “the majority” didn’t have faith in Jackson.

No one says directly what the man is or is not doing, only that there are “issues” and “challenges.”

There’s a new trend in the criticism of high-ranking black officials and it’s the use or the inference of the word “incompetent.” It’s a loaded word, a word cocked with racism when it’s aimed at blacks and it’s a subversively racist wedge used to begin to pry blacks from high-ranking positions usually reserved for white men.

As with Jackson, it’s unfair to drag hostile emails and conversations to light without also dragging out the evidence confirming inter-departmental complaints. Without that evidence, it smacks of a witch-hunt. And since this is academia, maybe Jackson’s contractors think their beefs would appear trifling to the rest of us; but do tell. 

What is it?

Is he stealing? Is he gruff and unapproachable? Is he slashing budgets, gutting departments?

In the April 17 article, Interim Provost Larry Johnson said Jackson inherited a mess at a trying time.

This is The Obama Factor, defined by me as the inheritance of a miserably failing entity with the expectation of a quick miracle, all performed while bystanders with selective memories watch you burn.

So far, UC is not looking to oust Jackson.

Meantime, by mid-September an anonymous coward circulated a racist cartoon featuring caricatures of Jackson and Assistant Dean Carol Tonge as “the king and queen of A&S,” with a frame capturing Tonge — depicted as a doughy mammy — saying, “Fire anyone that does not look like us!”

This flier was papered around campus and zinged to faculty members via email. 

I believe the creation of the cartoon was an inside job. The references and language smack of insider knowledge; that is, of a staffer or faculty member frustrated by Jackson’s leadership and by his appointment of Tonge to her position. 

A few UC officials did not bust an intellectual or emotional sweat and released statements that did little to defend Jackson and Tonge; neither did they come strong against the overt racism at UC that needs only a pinprick to explode and fester.

Ono, as usual, is mum and his silence about what’s happening on his campus transcends curiosity. Is his board advising him to let folks just duke it out in an academic Battle Royale? 

Is Ono afraid to get dirty?

Whatever his issue (there’s that word again), he’s beginning to look like a placeholder, a perfect silent robot of inactivity.

In all this, Jackson should be careful. 

Jackson should see the front of the bus coming for his dome.

He’s been releasing long statements to The News Record explaining racism in controlled language, explaining how this is a teachable moment.

Yet, no one in his “UC community” is standing behind or beside him.

“Let Ron handle it,” I bet the upper echelon administrators are saying behind closed doors. “Tell him to release a statement and hopefully it’ll all blow over.”

Since when is it the responsibility of the demeaned to handhold and explain his subjugation and his public lynching, bit by bit?

In a brilliant Sept. 5 staff editorial, The News Record explained its course of reporting and how writers were met with silence, buzz words and a suggestion to report “something positive.”

Editors scratched their heads over the faculty’s regression to stiff statements in the face of racism where they’d once been known to be open and accessible for to student queries.

None of this is shocking, really.

Just shameful and embarrassing.

Makes me yearn for the days of white presidents.

CONTACT KATHY Y. W ILSON : [email protected]