OPINION: Where the State sees color, Hillsdale College sees the individual

Josiah Ryan
Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn is under fire for his use of the words dark ones.

Reporters and lawmakers attacked Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn for his use of the words "dark ones" on Wednesday in his description of how clipboard-wielding bureaucrats viewed students when they visited campus more than a decade ago. 

The offended clamored for an apology, which Arnn graciously granted. However, they had no problem with the state’s offensive actions he was describing.

State officials walked onto Hillsdale's grounds with the express aim of defining each individual as a data point determined by the color of his or her skin.

Race has never been an issue at Hillsdale College. Under Arnn's leadership, the school does not even keep data on skin color or ethnicity.

Founded in 1844, Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit any discrimination based on race, religion, or sex.

That means African American students were welcome at Hillsdale years before they were allowed at Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale or at the University of Michigan or Michigan State University.

Because of its record, Hillsdale became a favorite stop for abolitionist luminaries including Frederick Douglas, who visited twice.

In the Civil War, a higher percentage of Hillsdale’s students fought for the Union than from any other non-military college. During that fight, four Hillsdale students received the Medal of Honor. More than 60 perished.

Petty politicians and reporters who threw tantrums over Arnn’s “offensive” language ought instead to be offended by their own insistence on classifying students by color. Where they insist on seeing race, Arnn and Hillsdale College see, and have always seen, individuals.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JosiahRyan





Josiah Ryan

Josiah Ryan

Editor-in-Chief Emeritus
Josiah Ryan is a former editor-in-chief for Campus Reform, and former director of communications for LI's Campus Leadership Program. Previously Josiah reported on the U.S. Senate for The Hill newspaper in Washington D.C. and was the cofounder of The Floor Action blog, a live-stream on policy, politics, and procedure in the upper chamber.
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