Please note: This column may have words or phrases that some people might deem politically incorrect. So, if you're prone to swooning and/or are a college student, you'd best not read it.
Back in my high-school days, one of my best friends went by the name of Nippy. He was a light-skinned African-American gentleman whom many people thought resembled a young Smokey Robinson. Accordingly, all the girls adored him and Nippy, being the friendly and outgoing sort, returned the favor whenever possible. We would go to school dances and Nippy would dance exclusively with, shall we say, the girls who rarely got asked to dance. He'd dance with a different girl on every song. He wasn't showing pity; he just liked to dance and he didn't want to be tied down with a girlfriend. This, of course, made him even more adorable.
His given name was Fred. When he was born, he had jaundice and his skin had a yellow tinge. One of his uncles had served in the Pacific during World War II and he spontaneously gave young Fred a racially insensitive nickname that would follow him into adulthood. (He had several Asian-American friends—some of whom had parents who had been in the internment camps—and none of them seemed to care at all about Fred's nickname.)
After high school, Nippy enrolled at Cal State-Northridge. (Back then, it was called San Fernando Valley State College.) He played some basketball and was a good student. But he got swept up in the political winds that were blowing across college campuses in the late '60s and early '70s. He and a bunch of his buddies took over and occupied the school's administration building, demanding that the school institute a Black Studies program. This occupation dragged on for quite a while and finally the school lost its patience and sent in the troops.
Nippy, et al, were charged with a slew of felonies, most along the line of criminal trespassing and such. You must understand that while the country was lurching leftward with battles over civil rights and against the Vietnam War, many people in power saw it as an assault on America. At the time, we in Los Angeles had racist Sam Yorty as mayor, Ronald Reagan as governor, and Richard Nixon as president—a trifecta of Hateration.
They were put on trial and the prosecuting attorney was an up-and-comer named Vincent Bugliosi, who, a couple years later, would win fame and fortune for successfully prosecuting Charles Manson and his followers. Bugliosi went after the black students with fury and he got a bunch of convictions. The Appeals Court would later respond with a hearty "Really?!" Some got off altogether, while others had to do some community service for misdemeanors.
(Just to show you that people can change, late in his life, Bugliosi wrote a book called "The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder," an indictment of the Bush Administration for the invasion of Iraq for no good reason. I haven't read the book, but I dig the title.)
The somewhat sad irony is that the school instituted a Black Studies program. (If you go on the website today, the Africana Studies says that it is the second-oldest Black Studies department in the country.) Several of Nippy's buddies went back to school and got degrees in Black Studies, only to find that there isn't a whole lot one can do with such a degree, except maybe teach Black Studies, and those jobs are few and coveted and political as all Hell.
I think about what Nippy and his buddies went through when I hear about protests that are taking place in college (and even high-school) campuses these days. I am generally in favor of protest. It's an American tradition, one that generally doesn't happen often enough. Three protests have popped up recently, but two of them are so lame, they make the lame-o-meter feel ashamed for even trying to measure their lameness.
One that was sort of okay was the protest against racism on the University of Missouri campus. I'll admit that my first thought was "Racism in Missouri?! You're kidding! This is a place that only became a state so that there would be another place in which human beings could buy and sell other human beings." I don't know if getting rid of the school president will do any good, but it was, at worst, a semi-noble effort.
Then there's the young woman at Columbia University who says she has been traumatized by having to read history and study art that features white people. I can relate. I remember when I had to read The Great Gatsby. I wanted to slap every single white person in that book. And then I wanted to dig up F. Scott Fitzgerald and slap him, too. Where she loses me (and every other rational human being) is when she claims that reading about white people is going to force her to take six years to complete four years of study. Lame.
Finally, there are those high-school kids in Chicago who are boycotting their free lunch because it's fatty and unhealthy. First of all, it's FREE! More importantly, you're in high school. Who cares about healthy? Your lunch of choice should be a big old box of grease (spoon optional). Lame-edy-lame-lame.