Generous Orthodoxy  




Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What God did and still is doing to overcome our sin

The New York Times today has an article about what has happened at Ole Miss since the violent events set off by the enrollment of the first black student, James Meredith. The final paragraphs of the article furnish a memorable illustration of 1) the pain of racial discrimination and 2) what God did and still is doing to overcome our sin.

One person who has experienced the university’s changes firsthand is Donald R. Cole, who entered as one of the few black freshmen in 1968. White male students blocked his path, and women waved Confederate flags at him. When he and many of the other black students on campus participated in a peaceful protest, Mr. Cole was arrested and then expelled.

Even today, the story sets off silent streams of tears, as he remembers having to tell his family and church, which had raised money to buy him school clothes, that he was no longer a student.

Mr. Cole returned to the university in the late 1970s to finish his doctorate, then again in 1992 as a mathematics professor. He is now the assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. For years, he refused to talk about his early experience with the university. He did not even tell his children what had happened.

But as professors from the African-American studies department and students began to learn what had happened to him, Dr. Cole’s resistance softened.

“I can remember when this began to turn around, and it just amazed me that the story wasn’t a shameful one,” he said. “That it could be recorded and someone would appreciate it. I just couldn’t get over that. It’s as if I went from villain to hero. I didn’t feel like a villain anymore.”

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A version of this article appeared in print on September 24, 2008, on page A14 of the New York edition. It can be read online: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/us/24miss.html

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