Category: General

“You’re not the Michael Brown we’re looking for.”

(Originally published May 12, 2010; edited and republished September 6, 2020)


As she thumbed through our passports with her practiced fingers and keyed the necessary data into her computer at Miami International Airport, the pleasant, Latina U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer was all smiles, the perfect blend of professionalism and “welcome home, cherished and valued citizen” hospitality.

I was looking directly at her when she came to my name and her face suddenly darkened. She knitted her brow and tapped a few more times on her keyboard, double-checking, perhaps hoping to stem the flow of bad news that was appearing on her screen.

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Always do the right thing

Da Mayor: “Always do the right thing.”
Mookie: “That’s it?”
Da Mayor: “That’s it.”
Mookie: “I got it, I’m gone.”
Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee (1989)

Did Dr. George S. Benson apologize for his racism?

That was, without a doubt, one of the first questions that came to mind among the leadership at Harding University when the online petition to change the name of the campus auditorium from George S. Benson Auditorium to Botham Jean Auditorium dropped in June 2020.

I also believe–very strongly–there was a “Drop what you’re doing!”, five alarm fire, all-hands-on-deck search for an exonerating piece of evidence that would have shown that George Benson apologized, showed remorse, or otherwise recanted the obviously racist views that he held and expressed openly in the 1950s and 60s.

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It’s the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be, Part 2

Well, they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar, no, no

That’s just the way it is
And some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

–Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, 1986


During the academic year 1954-55, an unknown person in the Harding College (now Harding University) admissions office received an application from a young man named Wilbert Neal Whitley who lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa

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Chapel protests, or hey, someone really *is* awake!

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

–1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV

I am indebted to Harding University President Dr. Bruce McLarty for sharing Larry Bills’ story at the beginning of his message to the Harding community about the 18,000-plus signature petition to remove George S. Benson’s name from the auditorium on campus and rename it after Botham Jean.  This was, for me at least, an unforeseen development driven in part by public and alumni reaction to the story I published in the Arkansas Times on the Statement of Attitude protest by Harding students in 1957 during the Little Rock Crisis but one which I accepted with dutiful resignation if not outright enthusiasm.

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It’s the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be, Part 1

“Said, hey little boy you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said, hey old man how can you stand
To think that way
Did you really think about it
Before you made the rules?

He said, ‘son
That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is’
Ah, but don’t you believe them”

Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, 1986


When Larry Bills, Harding College Class of 1958 music education major, stood to lead all three stanzas of the school’s Alma Mater near the conclusion of the school’s annual Black and Gold Homecoming Banquet in 2018, it was the realization of a decades-old dream birthed by the disparity between the way it is and the way it should be.

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Recent correspondence

On 06/24/2020 6:15 PM MICHAEL BROWN  <                         > wrote:
Hi Bill,
Greetings from Alabama, where we strive to not only be #1 in college football, but new coronavirus infections per capita as well. Roll Tide.
I imagine Mark or “JN Armstrong” have already sent you this, but I thought I would pass it along just in case:  https://harding.edu/benson
Of course it could never be otherwise. I find it all very wearisome. However, I did take note of McLarty’s dismissive description of my literary quest for truth as a mere “newspaper article,” the subtext being, of course, “Fake news!”
People still don’t get it.
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A Tale of Two Schools: A Review of the 2010 Christian Scholars’ Conference

People look at you kind of strange when you tell them that you shelled out good money to attend something called a “Christian Scholars’ Conference” and that you actually enjoyed it. Reactions can range from “What’s a guy like you doing in a place like that?” to “Well, la-de-da!” But believe me, after a long season of Tim James political TV ads and rootin’ tootin’ “Ag Commish” wannabe viral videos, I was ready for a little more “la-de-da” in my life.

You know Eyegal and me–liberal arts geeks to the core. An itch like that doesn’t always get scratched sufficiently in a high tech town like Huntsville, Alabama.

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