Based on an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education by Beverly Daniel Tatum, the president of Spelman College, the answer would appear to be yes.
President Tatum, who describes herself as “an educator with many years of experience teaching about racism in predominantly white institutions,” believes that “the persistence of residential discrimination and the abandonment of busing-based school-desegregation” has resulted in an educational system, “even 50 years after the Brown decision,” in which “young people in America have had few opportunities to interact with those racially, ethnically, or religiously different from them before they go to college.”
This strikes me as considerably overstated. How many high school students, after all, live in religious ghettos? President Tatum credits “predominantly white institutions” with trying to create “truly inclusive environments,” recognizes that they are “considerably more diverse than they were in 1954,” but notes that they are “still struggling” and “still have a long way to go.” She celebrates affirmative action and endorses the Supreme Court’s endorsement of racial preferences in the Grutter case.
Then she asks, but in my opinion fails by a long shot to answer, a good question:
Given that point of view, I am often asked why I would choose to lead an institution as “homogeneous” as Spelman College. Of course, the question is based on a flawed assumption. Although 97 percent of our students are racially categorized as “black,” the student body is, in fact, quite diverse. Spelman students come from all regions of the United States and many foreign countries, from white suburban and rural communities as well as urban black ones. All parts of the African diaspora are represented, and the variety of experience and perspectives among the women who attend the college creates many opportunities for important dialogue. There is a developmental moment in the lives of young people of color when “within group” dialogue can be as important, or perhaps even sometimes more important, than “between group” dialogue. And even in the context of a historically black college, it is possible to create opportunities for both.
This doesn’t work. First, Spelman is a woman’s college, which means that right off the bat it excludes half the human race. And then, apparently by preference and design, 97% of its students are black, or rather “are racially categorized as ‘black.’” But no matter. Whites, according to Michigan and the Supremes, are deprived of educationally crucial diversity if they are not exposed to a critical mass of minorities, but blacks, being diverse among themselves, suffer nothing in a student body that contains only 3% of non-minorities.
Tatum mentions that Spelman is quite selective in its admissions, attracting “4,000 talented young women competing for 525 spaces in our first-year class.” Although she favors “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” her article does not mention whether bonus points or other preferences (say, for overcoming the burdensome effects of being raised in religiously or racially isolated environments) are offered to white applicants.