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A Time To Speak

More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.

Greg LeMond


Chapter Twenty-Four

Win

So there we were, in the middle of an FIC war, of sorts, and I was beginning to wonder whose side I was on.

I never did answer John and Alecia about the conversations I'd given to Reg and Katrina. There was nothing I could say. I had violated their trust, and there was nothing I could do to make that right. Why even try? Plus I had mixed feelings on the whole thing. To me, apologizing meant that I had been completely wrong about something, and I didn't think that was true. I wasn't totally wrong. Alecia was a good person, but Dr. Robinson and the rest were not, and they absolutely deserved what they were getting. I didn't like that Alecia had been dragged into it, but I had made an honest mistake, after all. My friendship with John and Alecia was the price I paid for it. Maybe one day I'd be able to make it up to them.

Several times I found myself going to the private group page that John, Alecia and I had all shared, wishing I could talk to them again, but the page was empty. Not a word of any of our conversations had survived. Reconciling with them would probably take a very long time, and even then, our relationship would probably never be the same.

A week later I got a call from my mom. The phone was ringing just as I walked in the door from school, both kids right behind me. "Did you hear about the statement issued from FCU today?" she asked when I answered, without preamble.

I had been in the classroom all day. "No, what statement?"

"Their statement on racial harmony. They're apologizing for not allowing African American as students for so long, and for the segregation they used to preach."

"What?"

"You haven't seen it? It's all over Facebook, and on the news."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes, it's on the news. It's on the national news. I can't believe you haven't seen it!"

I couldn't believe it either. FCU was apologizing? They never apologized, not for anything, ever. It just wasn't done.

"I've been teaching all day. I just walked in the door."

"Oh. I'll send you the link so you can read it for yourself."

Thankfully, my mom is one of those older people who actually likes technology. In two minutes I was reading the transcript of the speech Dr. Seth had made that morning, even as I watched a replay of the speech from that morning on a podcast. And it wasn't just any old speech in a random setting somewhere-Dr. Seth had actually made the statement during chapel!

My students, today I come to you with a heavy heart.

Our school, Foothills Christian University, has recently been forced, by the gentle, persistent prodding of concerned faculty and staff, to confront our own past errors in relation to racial issues on campus, and it is in response to those loving faculty and staff members that I stand before you now.

As you know, in the past there was a time when African-American students were not welcome as students, but only as servants, not only at FCU, but at most institutions in the south. There was a time when African-Americans could sweep your floors, do your laundry, and cook your food, but could not sit in class next to you, nor sit and eat at the same table, or even drink from the same water fountain. They were good enough to use for work, but not good enough to treat as equals. And that was wrong.

Here at FCU, we could blame these actions and attitudes of ours on the fact that we are a school in the south, and the south has historically held these views. We could blame the fact that most of us come from a conservative background, and these views were more common among conservatives. But as Christians, we are without excuse. We should have held to a higher standard, not to the standard of the world around us. . .

Dr. Seth's statement went on for several more minutes. He apologized on behalf of the school, the faculty and staff, and his own family. He specifically repudiated the teachings of the founder of the school, who had been a staunch supporter of segregation, and he admitted to his own biases growing up. He said that the school was going to make the recruitment of minority students a priority, and he asked that anybody associated with the school who had ever felt discriminated against contact him for a more personal apology. In short, he did everything we had listed in the petition that I had helped write, and even more.

For the first time in a really long time, I actually felt proud of FCU. Their apology was late, but it had finally come. It appeared to be real. There was no back-pedaling and there were no excuses, just real offers to try to correct a terrible wrong.

The petition I had spent so much time on would never be sent, but that was all right.

After I had listened to Dr. Seth's speech and read through parts of it over and over, thrilled to finally see real progress, I went to the Overcomers page to share my excitement. Sure enough, Dr. Seth's speech, labeled "A Time For Repentance," was at the top of the page. It was the only active thread right that night, and I realized that would probably be the case for the next day or two, at least. There were already over fifty comments on it, and the thread was growing longer by the minute.

Regina

After watching this video anyone can see that Dr. Seth's words are not sincere. He says he wants racial harmony on campus, but he himself is not willing to do anything to make that happen unless students who "may" have been offended contact him personally. The responsibility is still on those students to approach him, when he should be the one to reach out to them!


Stan

It's always the same with these people. Victimize a minority, and then blame *them* for not doing enough to make it right.


Peter

This was totally predictable. Dr. Seth got word of Regina's petition and decided to do a pre-emptive strike. He doesn't mean a word he says. He's just worried about the PR.


Neville

Look at his body language. See how he blinks and looks down when he says the founder was wrong about segregation?


Regina

Yes, I saw that. We all saw that.


Neville

In psychology that's called a tell. It means the speaker is subconsciously communicating his real feelings about the information he is giving. The blink and loss of eye contact with the audience means he's about to be dishonest with what he says next, and looking away while he says it indicates a feeling of shame.


Peter

Yeah, it's obvious he's being controlled behind the scenes. Someone's making him say all that stuff. Too bad he doesn't really mean any of it. It would be good if even half of it was true.


Mitch

I'm really disappointed in this whole speech. I have a couple of African-American friends who went to the school for some of that time when segregation was happening, and they have never heard from the school personally to apologize. Don't tell me it's because the school doesn't know who they are or how to contact them. They get fund raising requests all the time. FCU can ask them for money, but it can't reach out to them when it really matters.


Stan

FU will never, ever really try to contact those students. If they were sincere they would have done it already.


Craig

The apology is late, but at least it's there. It seems sincere as hell to me.


Stan

Sincere? Are you kidding? The only thing they're sincere about is that they're losing students. Anyone check out all the empty seats in the audience? When we were there the whole seating area would have been filled, plus the overflow seating. It's like a ghost town in there.


Regina

I've been looking at pictures from chapel this whole semester so far, and based on seating charts and seat counts, it looks like there's been about a ten percent loss in the student body since first semester. Looks like a lot of kids didn't come back after Christmas.


Craig

Maybe you're going to disagree with me here, but I think this apology is a good thing. Maybe it was for PR purposes, or maybe they did it because they knew they were about to get hit with that petition, but the important thing is that it happened. Could you even imagine hearing this back when we were students? We ought to be thanking them, not criticizing them. We should be flooding their pages with appreciation right now, not analyzing blinks and gestures and counting bodies in seats.


Neville

Thank them for lying, for pretending to be sincere, for giving in to public pressure? We should thank them for making token gestures to token students? This is not a good thing. This is a day for mourning, for *real* repentance, not A Time for Faking It.


Bonita

That's what that speech should be called. Fake It Till You Make It!


Regina

It's an empty gesture, given against the advice of the old guard board members who control the churches that feed into FCU. Dr. Seth felt like he didn't have any choice but to do it, but he's not happy that the school's hand has been forced. Obviously they knew the petition was coming.


Craig

In psychology, Neil, when a subject makes a move towards a desired outcome, you reward that movement, even if the ultimate outcome has not yet been reached. It's called shaping, it's a part of operant conditioning, and it's what we should be doing now.


Stan

It's Neville, not Neil!


Peter

Call him Neville!


Neville

I don't appreciate your condescending tone, Craig. You don't need to be lecturing me on things I already know. Do you have a problem with gays?


Craig

I have a problem with you. Does that count, since you seem to speak on behalf of all gay men everywhere?


Craig

And BTW, "tells" are from poker, not psychology. At least get your information right when you decide to lecture the rest of us.


Win

I think Craig is right. We don't really know their motivation right now, but we do know this statement is a good thing. We should sit back and see what happens next. We'll see soon enough if they're sincere about it or not.


Peter

They're not sincere. They never will be sincere, because all they're thinking about is the bottom line.


Katrina

At least they paid attention to the petition. We know they watch this site and the Victors site, and they reacted to what they saw happening on both those pages. Without all that talk about having people sign our petition, the school would never have taken this step.


Regina

Yes, they clearly saw the wording in our petition and used that as the template for their response. They'll never give us credit, of course, but the fact is they copied off of us.


Win

I thought they went even further in their response than what we had asked in our petition. Our petition asked them to publicly repent and apologize. We never thought about having them reach out to affected students personally. And we didn't ask them to make recruiting minority students a priority. They're even setting up a minority scholarship fund! I think this is a really good thing.


I had to walk away from the computer just then in order to help the kids with homework. When I got back, there was an announcement from Katrina pinned to the top of the Overcomers page.

Katrina

I have removed Craig from this page and blocked him because of his homophobic attacks on Neville. Personal attacks will never be tolerated on Overcomers. All members are welcome regardless of their gender, religion (or lack of it), orientation, or status as an abuse victim. Please keep this in mind in your postings, and feel free to remove yourself if you can't follow this simple rule.


There was also a private message waiting for me from Katrina.

Katrina

Win, I hope you didn't see that meme from Brian about Sam. I just removed it.



Alecia

I saw all that nonsense on Overcomers about the Time To Repent announcement. They were all so off the mark it wasn't even funny. My friend Eleanor, the president of the Alumni Association, was the one who had started the movement to have the university apologize for its racial history, and she had started it well before Regina's silly petition. It had been in the works for over a year, but we hadn't been allowed to speak of it publicly, of course. I hadn't even told John or Win about it. Yet now Regina wanted all the credit.

What, exactly, was Regina's issue with the school? Why was she against it so personally, and so vehemently? I decided to find out for myself.