Good points, Jennifer. Having watched two of UF’s graduation ceremonies, I don’t think the African-American students really did much more than anyone else. I mean, heck, one guy did a backflip onstage! Yet he wasn’t yanked offstage.
I am a local school board member, and I was present at two local high-school graduations last month. Admittedly, there certainly are some sizable differences in family reactions.
Some of that difference isn’t necessarily race. For example, it’s different for a family if you are the first high-school graduate in the family, as opposed to a situation in which you come from a family where high school graduation is just one step on a longer trek to a graduate degree. That’s not necessarily racial at all, or it shouldn’t be… but it is in our culture because of how white American higher education has been and still is.
But, if we do decide to venture into racial stereotypes, I will heartily concur that there is something real about the “uptight white” culture that demands sober silence at the absolute oddest times. Graduations should be celebrations! If I ever get to give a commencement address somewhere (which is unlikely), somehow I’m going to make it interactive and a lot of fun while also being educational. That’s what we did here at UGA last August when we threw a big eclipse party at Sanford Stadium, and over 10,000 people came even though it wasn’t even 100% total in Athens. We watched the eclipse, learned about eclipses, used the scoreboard as the biggest classroom projection screen on the UGA campus, gave away t-shirts and autographed sports gear, and had a good time. Learning should be fun, and commencement is not the end of learning but the beginning of applying your learning it in the wider world. Hence, commencement should be fun.
Go Dawgs! Thanks for writing!