Readers of The Nubian Message at North Carolina State University, the student-fee-supported newspaper for “Afrikan-American” students, were alerted to the existence of a real white devil on campus there. On the back page of its Feb. 14-21 issue, the Nubian featured a large picture of “The infamous Darren O’Connor.” A diabolical reddish glow suffuses O’Connor’s face, almost crowding out his features, except for the dark hollows of his eyes, which are exaggerated by the hellish light.
Atop silhouettes of dog tags, the words “I AM BUT ONE MAN” are scrolled beneath O’Connor’s demonic ruddy chin.
No article apparently accompanies the picture, although O’Connor is mentioned in an article on affirmative action that, along with articles on “What is a Nubian?” and “Why We Need a Black Love Day,” appears beneath the picture of O’Connor.
The apparent reason for the Nubian’s decision to Photoshop a picture of O’Connor as the Red-Hued White Face of Evil is the series of articles O’Connor wrote about racial preferences in Technician, the official student-fee-supported newspaper for all (regardless of race, even) N.C. State students.
In “Affirmative action is racist” (Feb. 5), “Arguments defending racial preferences don’t hold water” (Feb. 12), and “No defense for racial preferences” (Feb. 15), O’Connor discussed racial preferences in university admissions as harmful to “blacks, whites, and everyone.” As O’Connor wrote, “Any system that favors one race over another (including slavery, Jim Crow laws, and now affirmative action) is racist and is not in keeping with American ideals of equality of opportunity.”
O’Connor cited the Center for Equal Opportunity’s findings that blacks were favored by odds of 177 to 1 over whites to be accepted for enrollment to N.C. State and compared it with the recent controversy over the low graduation rate of blacks at N.C. State. O’Connor said N.C. State’s race-preferential admissions “undoubtedly” shared the blame for blacks’ low graduation rate, because N.C. State admitting students who were “underqualified” based on their race.
O’Connor quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and cited Ward Connerly, Walter Williams, and Thomas Sowell for their struggle against “the race-conscious nature of our society,” noting that earlier civil-rights thinkers “understood that in order to achieve a nation free from racism, we must all strive for a colorblind society.” To that end, O’Connor calls for an end to “obsessing over skin color” and “insist[ing] on separating people by color.”
In one of his columns O’Connor discussed the reaction he was getting to his columns. “I have been called ignorant, racist, bigoted, and some other things I cannot repeat here,” he wrote. “I have also been told that I should not be allowed to write such things.”
Despite the personal confrontations, attacks, and demonization, O’Connor has not seen a serious rejoinder (just ad hominem) to his series. He was, however, invited by Kappa Alpha Psi in conjunction with the Society of African American Culture to participate in a forum on affirmative action via racial preferences, ostensibly to defend his column. The forum was civil, but after the opening video presentation on the omnipresence of racism and, therefore, the necessity of affirmative action, the forum quickly degenerated into arguments over the issue of racial profiling. O’Connor’s articles never came up for direct discussion.
Earlier incident of demonization
A few years back, in 1996, a student newspaper on a nearby North Carolina campus demonized a political opponent, and the reaction was quite different. Carolina Review, published by conservative students at UNC-Chapel Hill, drew devil’s horns and a pitchfork on a picture of student body presidential candidate Aaron Nelson, which it placed on the cover of its 1996 election issue. The entire campus was roiled. Political supporters of Nelson and, some say, Nelson himself stole between 1,500 to 2,000 copies of the Review that night, and the Review was harshly criticized by some on campus, including Jewish professors, for being anti-Semitic, “divisive hate literature” — because Nelson was, in addition to being a leftist (that is, in direct political opposition to the Review), also Jewish. The Review’s advisor quit, and some conservative students split off from the Review to form their own group. Student government voted to deny the Review funding.
The controversy quickly reached beyond the borders of Chapel Hill and became the topic of statewide discussion. Talk radio invited Review editors to give their side of the story. The News & Observer devoted the front page of its Sunday editorial section to a discussion of “political correctness” on college campuses nationwide, using the Review theft as its lead-in example. All of that from a student newspaper’s use of a doctored photograph to portray a political opponent as the devil.
By contrast, the Nubian’s doctored photograph has received not the slightest peep of controversy. Not one issue stolen, not one faculty member denouncing the use of the image as divisive hate literature, not one threat to student funding of the Nubian, not one Nubian advisor quitting, not one newspaper story or radio invitation. Nothing. Even O’Connor himself isn’t complaining; if anything, he appears flattered by the attention.
Why is that?
The answer appears to lie in O’Connor’s conclusion to his first article on racial preferences. As he wrote, “This is America, and you’re only a victim as long as you allow yourself to be one.”
Kudos to O’Connor for taking his own advice and not allowing himself to be a victim.