By Dr. Harold A. Black
I admit that for most of my life I could be labelled as seditious. (Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward rebellion against the established order). I was the University of Georgia’s first Black male freshman. I wanted a college education and my brother was at Purdue. My father did not believe in borrowing money – except for our house – and could not afford to send me to Purdue. Instead I could have taken one of the scholarships l received. But they were all to Black colleges (except for one small one to Ohio State). But it was the civil rights era and if I could not go to Purdue, I decided to help overthrow the established order of separate but unequal. So I went to Georgia where I took delight with the white schoolmates who befriended me of flipping off Southern bigotry and helping to kick open the school house door. That seditious streak continued throughout my professional career as I sought to research and write articles that made a difference. I could have carved out a reputation writing theoretical pieces in monetary economics but decided that I was wasting my talents in writing pieces that only other academics could read. When offered the opportunity at the Comptroller of the Currency to do pioneering work in lending discrimination, credit scoring and mortgage pricing, I did so even when my university (I was on leave at the time) told me I would be denied tenure and promotion because “no serious academic journal would publish such research”. I told them they were wrong. They fired me. However, I was right and the first five articles all landed in top journals and resulted in opening a new avenue for academic research and subsequently a spate of anti-discriminatory regulations and legislation. My department head later said that they made a mistake. My next academic appointment was in one of the nation’s leading finance departments.
That seditious nature has manifested itself in my work outside of academics. I apply microeconomics and finance to social problems. I can solve any problem but you may not like my solution. But I have always said “prove me wrong and if you do, I will adopt your position.” I could think this way and act this way mainly because I was in an academic setting which tolerated and even nurtured diverse opinions. Such is not the case today. Many, if not most, academic institutions have joined the muzzle culture and have become intolerant of opinions not deemed “progressive.” Conservatives have been muzzled. Speakers are now banned from campuses and if they are allowed to speak, then their presence is loudly protested by many on campus. The few conservative professors find themselves assaulted with petitions by fellow faculty and students to shut them up or fire them. Nowadays, I wish that I did not retire in 2011. Rather I would relish being on a college campus today being seditious against the prevailing culture that thinks diversity is in how you look rather than in how you think. There is no difference from the muzzle culture of old telling Blacks to keep quiet and to stay in their place and the muzzle culture of today trying to silence conservative voices. Indeed, today’s muzzle culture is as morally and intellectual bankrupt as it was in the Jim Crow days of yore. The irony is that it is being practiced by the same groups that were actively denying the rights of Blacks: the Democrats and the progressives.