So Richard Eckstrom says we shouldn't call South Carolina State University a "historically black college" because we don't refer to, say, Clemson as a "historically white college."
Do you know what this means? Well, besides the fact that Eckstrom now has no chance of ever owning an NBA team?
It means that our state comptroller general is either an addled, insensitive boor - or his senses have taken a paid leave of absence.
That baloney is akin to whining that we don't have a White History Month (sorry, every month is white history month) or about that Denmark Vesey statue. Yes, Vesey plotted a slave revolt that could had ended in the death of hundreds of Charlestonians.
Where's the similar outrage about our parks being littered with monuments to old white guys who enslaved thousands of African-Americans?
Eckstrom's remark is the sort of whitewashing people do when they are hopelessly tin-eared, simple-minded or just plain ol' prejudiced.
But it plays well in some quarters. And Eckstrom, who is up for re-election, despite the various ethical complaints against him over the years, probably knew that. He knew that would play to the basest of bases.
No matter why he said something so insensitive and ignorant, one thing's for sure:
Richard Eckstrom should not hold a position of authority in South Carolina.
Debunking the bunk
As soon as Eckstrom made his comments at the state Budget and Control Board meeting Wednesday, he grabbed a shovel and dug himself even deeper.
He said students only go to South Carolina State because they can't get into other schools. Wow.
Never mind all the white kids who can't get into some of the state's schools.
Now, Eckstrom clarified those remarks by saying that they can't afford to get into other colleges - as if none of them would be eligible for scholarships or financial aid. Never mind that tuition at S.C. State is only $500 cheaper than College of Charleston, or a $1,000 less than the University of South Carolina.
The damage was done, and a lot of people believe it revealed his opinion that students of S.C. State aren't academically proficient enough to even qualify for USC or the College of Charleston.
Funny, the C of C often blames its woeful lack of diversity on the fact that it routinely loses students to S.C. State.
Eckstrom said that there were no racial overtones to his statement about S.C. State students who "can't get into other colleges." But if you think the "historically white colleges" remark had no racial overtones, well, the state has a bridge to sell you near Pimlico.
It is true that more students at S.C. State get financial aid than most other colleges in the state. And while some may not have the test scores to qualify for Clemson, S.C. State is hardly their only choice in South Carolina.
Eckstrom's remarks were poorly worded and uninformed at best, and bigoted at worst.
The Budget and Control Board on Wednesday was debating whether to bail out S.C. State, which has perpetual money problems.
Of course, this raises the question of what the school did with that $24 million for the transportation center they can't account for.
Clearly, the school has not done a good job managing its finances. But in the end, the board decided to give the school $6 million - which is $6 million more than some people wanted. Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman rightly called it a bandage on a problem that needs a tourniquet.
There's a simple solution here. South Carolina State needs to get its accounts in order and the state needs to rid itself of Eckstrom, either at the ballot box or through resignation. After all, we really don't even need a comptroller. We have a treasurer.
Perhaps Gov. Nikki Haley - who is surprisingly becoming the voice of reason on higher education - should dispatch Eckstrom to fill in as chief financial officer at S.C. State.
Even though she does not actually have the power to do that, it's a nice thought. Perhaps Eckstrom knows more about money than he does manners, and he could actually help out one of our most historic institutes of higher learning.
Maybe he could even learn a thing or two while he's there.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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