ACU apology marks gain in race relations

Editorial from Abilene Reporter-News
Feb. 22, 2000

Unless they're taken to court and threatened with financial reparations, institutions seldom face up to their sins of the past - once standard methods of operation that were clearly wrong but which have, over time, fallen away to be replaced by more enlightened attitudes and procedures. It's much easier to pretend those old ways never existed, especially because making up for their past damage is now impossible, and simply proceed on a better course.

Besides, by today's aggressive management stylebook, saying you're sorry is commonly viewed as an admission of weakness and vulnerability to be avoided no matter what.

This guarded institutional environment makes Abilene Christian University President Royce Money's public apology Sunday for past racial discrimination in the school's admissions policies that much more admirable. And perhaps as important as the apology itself was its wording.

"We are here today to confess the sins of racism and discrimination and to issue a formal apology to all of you and to ask for your forgiveness," Money said.

In our era of political spin and moral equivocation, that's strong stuff.

ACU did not admit African American students until 1965, about the same time integration became the norm at universities around the state. And to put ACU's segregationist policies into some local perspective without excusing them, Abilene's public schools - despite the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 - did not begin even "voluntary" integration until 1966.

Money's words, direct as they are, do not change the past. They do, however, signal a new beginning, a turning point. No empty gesture, ACU's apology deserves a positive response, from inside and outside the university community.

Confess your sins one to another, the Apostle Paul wrote nearly 2,000 years ago. Perhaps our whole social fabric would be stronger if more of us took that admonition to heart.

Copyright ©2000, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications


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