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Graduation, with more hurdles to clear

5/19/2018, 9:56 p.m.
Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther, graduated from Howard University in 2000. His writing partner is also an HU graduate. Mr. ...

Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther, graduated from Howard University in 2000. His writing partner is also an HU graduate. Mr. Bozeman came back to his alma mater to address the Class of 2018 and to receive an honorary degree.

The Howard University graduation on Saturday is one of more than 100 HBCU graduations, and more than 4,000 graduations around the country.

April Ryan brought down the house at Bennett College on May 5. Sophia Nelson spoke at the Philander Smith College graduation in Arkansas. All over the country, families are gathering, people are celebrating and graduations are an occasion of joy.

If you are African-American and graduated from the University of Florida, however, your achievement might be marred by the horrible memory of a faculty graduation marshal physically pushing you off the stage simply because you stopped to flash a frat sign or to execute a couple of steps. More than 20 students were assaulted by the unidentified faculty member — although some say he is a chemistry lecturer — who is now on paid leave.

Why would the university continue to pay someone who seems to have differentially attacked black students? This lecturer is a menace to society and college students who should not be exposed to his racism, either on a stage or in a classroom.

University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs has apologized to the affected students and reached out to at least some of them. The New York Times reported that Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity member Oliver Telusma, 21, got a call from President Fuchs, but as of May 8, had not called him back.

From where I sit, Mr. Telusma should not call President Fuchs. Instead the president needs to track that student down along with others and visit them personally. The University of Florida incident reminds black students that graduation is but one of the hurdles they must clear. Every day, every single day, they face the possibility of pernicious racism, differential treatment and the threat of law enforcement to compel compliance with the most foolish of laws and norms, spoken or unspoken.

That’s why Holly Hylton, the white woman who managed a Philadelphia Starbucks, felt free to call the police on two black men after they had been seated for a scant 2 minutes without ordering anything. That’s why a hysterical white female bigot called the police on a black man who was barbequing in a public park in Oakland, Calif., where barbequing is customary.

That’s why the police were called on three black women and a white man because they failed to wave or smile when they exited an Airbnb in Rialto, Calif., and detained for 45 minutes even though they had proof that they had reserved the Airbnb.

That’s why the police wrestled a black woman to the ground, exposing her bare breasts, in an Alabama Waffle House after she asked for plastic cutlery, and an ignorant employee reportedly said she did not know her place.

And the beat goes on and on and on. Law enforcement officers, whose mission is to serve and protect, frequently question black people and have now become the tools of racist white people who want black people to “know their place.”