Don’t fret if you haven’t heard of offensive lineman Jean Delance, because I hadn’t heard of him either until the other day. I heard of Delance, a four-star talent in the Class of 2016, only because the Black teenager from Mesquite, Texas, decided to pull his commitment to Oklahoma for all the right reasons.
His decision to “decommit” wasn’t so much about OU coach Bob Stoops and his football program, but about a climate of racism that displayed itself in a video that Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a white fraternity on campus, produced over the past weekend.
“This is not who we are,” Boren said Sunday during a news conference. “I’d be glad if they left. I might even pay the bus fare for them.”
If what Sigma Alpha Epsilon did were an isolated incident, we could move on and not even give what Delance did a second thought. But the fraternity serves as a barometer for what colleges elsewhere are about: They are either cavalier about race – a problem of no small importance in itself – or just as naked with their racism as frats and campuses were in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
We know they don’t understand from the protests Black law students at UCLA waged a year ago in Los Angeles. Tying in with a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at the University of Michigan, students from the Black Student Union there protested the administration’s response to racism on campus.
Across the United States, Black students staged protests on campuses that have moved at a turtle’s pace to break down barriers that have stopped Latino and Black males from excelling, except in arenas and stadiums.
There, they find a welcoming audience. These men are revered for taking the old alma mater to great heights in sports. They are courted like royalty, brought into a world of privilege that they will never see outside the playing fields. They stay for the pipe dream of an education or for the long-shot career as a pro athlete.
All they have to do is win enough games, fill the arena, put up with the racism and accept their roles as indentured servants.
Of course, people will say I paint the problem with a brush too broad when I don’t discuss the universities that have tamped down racism.
Yet where will I find those universities? Will I find them at the Harvards, the Ohio States, the Nebraskas, the Kentuckys, the Alabamas, the Utahs, the Minnesotas or the Oklahomas?
I won’t, so we should stop pretending that colleges are citadels of right-minded thought, places where freedoms reign, where every student is equal to the next student.
For all of that thought is fiction, something we ought to dismiss as we did the notion of Santa Claus once we were old enough to figure out no fat man was going to slide down our chimney at night with a bag of toys.
And we have no choice but to dismiss it when we realize that athletes aren’t immune from such racist conduct, even when they bring wins and titles to a college like Oklahoma.
So to hear a player like Delance wasn’t going to tie his future to a place where racists flourished is why I applaud him. People might question his decommitment for all sorts of reasons, and I hope he understands that fact.
He should also understand that his decision to play football wherever he goes is fraught with issues like the ones Sigma Alpha Epsilon put on the cover pages of newspapers and websites.
Delance will find suitors aplenty for his enormous talent, just as he did even after he told folks he had made an oral commitment to Oklahoma. He will find no honor among college coaches, just as he will find no racism-free zone no matter which major college he decides to attend.
Still, he should look for someplace where he’ll be measured by the content of his character and the quality of his skills on the field instead of by the blackness of his skin.
His search might come up empty though; does any place like that exist?
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Jean Delance via twitter)