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Happy Warrior

Segregation on the Charles

by Kyle Smith

If there’s any place on earth where you’d think people would feel relatively chipper about themselves and life in general, it’s Harvard. “Harvard: The Harvard of the North” read a T-shirt I recall from my youthful visits to the sanctuary by the Charles. Harvard’s prestige and mystique can only be growing as the place becomes ever more exclusive: 94.8 percent of applicants for the class of 2021 were rejected. Those superlative few who earned admittance can be forgiven should they harbor any slight feelings of resultant smugness. As for those who made it all the way to securing a Harvard graduate degree, they’re the elite of the elite. All doors in life fling themselves open when you come calling with an advanced degree from a university with an unsurpassed reputation. Those scarce few who hold such degrees are not 1 percenters; more like 0.001 percenters.

Yet how were Harvard’s advanced-degree recipients feeling last week at commencement ceremonies? Some seemed surprisingly hurt. The black graduate students were so aggrieved that, to assuage their feelings, Harvard allowed what appeared to be its first-ever graduation ceremonies segregated by skin color. The university chafed at that characterization, noting in a curious locution that the event held for blacks (which took place in addition to the ordinary commencement ceremonies) was not racial. “Black Commencement is open to ALL students regardless of race, color or creed. This is not about segregation, but a celebration of the African Diaspora at Harvard,” Harvard said in a statement. So: An event is defined as being for blacks, also called members of the African Diaspora — but shame on you if for some odd reason you’re thinking that it has anything to do with race separatism.

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