Having been invited to be the inaugural speaker for Valencia
Community College's Millennium Lecture Series, I looked forward with
considerable anticipation to my trip to Orlando, Fla. But en route to
the airport, my secretary relayed a telephone message from Allen Byrd, a
reporter for the Orlando Business Journal, that dampened some of my
The reporter, having just learned of my Sept. 29 lecture the previous
day, was wondering why the college had not sent out its usual plethora
of press releases and media faxes, especially considering that the
lecture was the first of a major lecture series.
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According to Byrd's interviews, reported in the Oct. 4 edition of the
Orlando Business Journal, there were two explanations. The first, from
the college's public-relations department, said that, "Williams is so
popular that to have publicized the visit would have created an overflow
crowd." That led Byrd to conclude, "Indeed, the college was so concerned
it did not even tell its own public-relations department that Williams
was coming. Orlando Business Journal did."
Byrd says, "The second, entirely unofficial and completely
off-the-record reason came to our attention by way of a quote: 'We do
not want to give the appearance that Valencia shares his (Williams)
views and that we believe this is the way African-Americans should
Valencia College staffers were acting under the instructions of
college president Paul C. Gianini to keep a lid on my appearance. The
president's response to his faculty electing me as guest lecturer is
just another example of today's deceit, dishonesty and cowardice that
has become part and parcel of America's institutions of higher learning.
As such, it's more evidence that colleges and universities are
undeserving of American trust and generosity.
The public-relations story about overflow crowd was a bald-faced lie.
The lecture was held in the college's gymnasium. There were about 700
students and faculty in attendance. The gymnasium's capacity is about
2,000. The true reason for the president's actions was that he feared
angering Central Florida's black community with my libertarian ideas.
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But look at it. Conservative William Buckley has ideas that anger
white people. I seriously doubt that, had Buckley been the speaker,
Gianini would have kept his visit secret out of fear of offending
Central Florida's white community. He probably sees white people as
mature enough to accept differences of opinion, whereas for blacks it's
a different matter -- we need the sheltering and protection from ole
Gianini was out of the country during my visit, but I couldn't have
been treated more courteously and warmly by Valencia's faculty, students
and the administrative staff. There were many black faculty and students
in the audience, many of whom stopped to chat and ask questions after my
lecture. Black and white students lined up for me to autograph their
program guides both before and after the lecture.
Gianini's actions, though possibly well-intentioned, are a wholesale
affront and insult to the black residents of the Orlando community. It
constitutes one of the more debilitating forms of racism. Black people
succeeded well in weathering the malevolent racism of the Bilbos,
Wallaces and the Klan. It is the demeaning, condescending, benevolent
protective racism of people such as Gianini that's so destructive today.
Gianini's message to Orlando's black community doesn't differ from
one that says: Whites are mature enough to handle controversy, but for
blacks I know what you want and need to hear.
That's a message that blacks ought to reject out of hand. But to give
Gianini the benefit of the doubt, there's a possibility that he could
have been mau-maued into his decision by Geraldine Thompson, Valencia
College's affirmative action lady.