Hillsdale's Sorry Apology Is Worse Than President's Racist Remark

August 01, 2013, 5:17 PM by  Darrell Dawsey

President Larry Arnn: "What were they looking for besides dark ones?"


Not long after Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn spoke out of his ass Wednesday about state education officials counting "dark ones" (that is, minority students) on his campus, the school itself officially doubled down on his bull with the textbook non-apology apology that has come to typify such racial missteps.

“No offense was intended by the use of that term except to the offending bureaucrats, and Dr. Arnn is sorry if such offense was honestly taken,” the college said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. “But the greater concern, he believes, is the state-endorsed racism the story illustrates.”

This, for me, is far more troubling than even Arnn's original remarks — and that's saying something.

Arnn, of course, has been catching flak since he appeared Wednesday before state lawmakers to explain his unease with the state's adoption of Common Core standards, which include federal benchmarks for reading, writing and mathematics for U.S. students. 

(Why a man tasked with running a college would be against a plan to improve academic achievement among future college students is beyond me, but hey, that was Arnn's beef.)

Spinning a Right-Wing Tale

In an attempt to highlight the imminent dangers of . . . well, "government intervention" in education, I guess, Arnn decided to spin some right-wing tale about Michigan Department of Education officials descending on his campus to "look at the colors of people's faces and write down what they saw."

"What were they looking for," Arnn continued, "besides dark ones?"

And when trying to explain why his school was censured by the state for lacking diversity in a teacher prep program, Arnn complained that the state "said that we violated the standards for diversity because we didn't have enough 'dark ones' I guess is what they meant."

Unsurprisingly, the agency denies sending anyone to Hillsdale to physically count students by race.

While it's easy and appropriate to be annoyed by Arnn's description of students of color, his comments are flush with idiocy even beyond the "dark ones" stupidity. I mean, first off, how is Hillsdale well-served by having a college president who seems to not understand the importance of attracting and maintaining students of color in an increasingly globalized education market?

Arnn Is Lying, Blind or Stupid

Secondly, Arnn is either lying, blind or stupid in his claims about the state counting black and brown faces.

A man who's run a respected Michigan college for 13 years doesn't know how the state gathers information on his students, irrespective of their ethnic background? He doesn't know that most students of color willingly self-identify or that the state has much more reliable and unintrusive methods for determining the racial makeup of a student body than to send "face-counters" to his campus? 

And what kind of crazy worldview compels the head of a college to equate monitoring diversity or the mere act of counting people of color with "state-endorsed racism?" 

Overseeing education standards and training programs, ensuring that non-white students get a fair shot at a college degree — these aren't acts of racist government "intrusion." They're part of the government's J-O-B.

Of course, Arnn can stake out all the crazy right-wing positions he wants to, against the state, against Common Core, against diversity even. Like Bobby Brown, it's his prerogative. But if I'm part of the Hillsdale community, I should be asking myself right now whether it's really a good look to say we're run by a man who essentially believes the Department of Education descends out of black helicopters to administer brown paper bag tests to students.

A Non-Apology

And that's why the official non-apology is so sad. Rather than outright censuring Arnn for his crazy remarks and for making his school seem like some sort of social and intellectual backwater in the process, Hillsdale College is content to merely hedge a bit and then, essentially, back him up. 

Rather than rejecting its president's ignorance, the school embraces it, tries even to ennoble it.

Read another way, the school's non-apology basically seems to say: 

Sure, Arnn may have been slightly ham-fisted in his comments so, y'know, if you're so sensitive that you'd be offended by a little racist dehumanization, well then, we're sorry you're butt hurt -- unless you really are one of those face counting gub'ment bureaucrats.

But the real point here isn't his slur of minority students but the "racism" that the state promotes by having the gall to try and figure out how many of these darks ones we're admitting onto our campus.

While I don't believe for a second that Arnn randomly misspoke when he repeatedly referred to minority students as "dark faces," I think it's much easier to understand his particular brand of ignorance as the province of one man -- albeit a man who should absolutely know better.

The statement from Hillsdale doesn't have this excuse to hide behind. Unlike Arnn's remark, this wasn't some off-the-cuff comment to like-minded lawmakers, but rather a concerted, thought-out effort to polish Arnn's rhetorical turd to give his racial ignorance the school's stamp of approval. 

Sure, Larry Arnn's comments may be backwards, ignorant and embarrassing. But in the wake of his school's non-apology, the real shame belongs to Hillsdale College.

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