University of Kentucky: The Plantation that Never Quits
by Boyce Watkins
Black Blue Dog
This week, the University of Kentucky, who won the national championship in basketball with an all-black team, let go of one of it’s most legendary African American figures on campus, Chester Grundy. Grundy was the head of the Martin Luther King Cultural Center and a leading icon on campus.
Grundy graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1969 and helped to establish its black student union. He has been at the university for over 30 years and has served as the director of the Office of African American Student Affairs. Grundy has been responsible for the cultural evolution of thousands of African American students through the years, and was one of the beacons of racial hope on a campus with a long history of embarrassing racism.
The University of Kentucky is the same place where a member of the Board of Trustees, Happy Chandler, consistently used the word “nigger” openly during board meetings and was never disciplined for his behavior (in fact, they have a building named after him). It’s the campus where Aldoph Rupp refused to let African American players step onto the court (there is a building named after him too). The racial history is nasty and it continues to this day where one discriminatory incident after another is quietly swept under the rug.
The university says that it had to get rid of Grundy to fill a budgetary hole, but the move is interesting in light of the fact that they are very good at recruiting African Americans to fuel the economic engine from the basketball program. Grundy’s greatest crime is that he is an intelligent and conscientious black man, which is an academic felony on campuses like The University of Kentucky. Grundy would be better off if he were 6’9″, 250 pounds, with a cheesy smile from ear-to-ear, and the reading level of a fifth grader. In that case, he’d be welcome with open arms, and there’d be no budgetary shortfall too big to keep Mr. Grundy on campus.
The mistreatment of African Americans at The University of Kentucky is pervasive across both space and time. Dr. Lachin Hatemi, a non-black graduate from the university’s medical school, has filed a petition with change.org protesting the treatment of African American medical students. Dr. Hatemi says that most of his African American classmates were mistreated or kicked out of the program during their time at the university. He says that since that time, the recruitment of African American students has been virtually non-existent and the medical school faculty is extremely undiverse.
Even as Dr. Hatemi has attempted to obtain data on the recruitment and retention of African American students and faculty, the university has refused to release the information. So, while the university is more than happy to parade its thoroughbred negroes on television who dribble basketballs for free, it is entirely unwilling to show evidence that it’s respect for African Americans goes beyond the basketball court. The reason the diversity information is hidden is likely because it is atrocious.
I am a graduate of The University of Kentucky and could personally spend the entire day discussing all of the racist experiences I had on the campus. Sadly, many of the diversity goals stated by the university in 1993 have not been met to this day. Most figureheads in charge of diversity are not given real power to make a change, and progressive African Americans are quarantined like a deadly virus. In many ways, the campus is still the ultimate plantation.
To Read the Rest of the Statement
Linda B. Blackford: Supporters, former UK students protest dismissal of MLK Cultural Center director