Ready For Battle

DISD hired Clarence Glover to defuse a racial crisis. But is he tough enough for the job?

"I networked," he says of his 14 years at SMU. "Who else would not have done the same things? I gained a national reputation."

Well, yes. Unfortunately, Glover became best-known not for noble efforts at SMU and other worthy organizations, but for comments he made in 1994, when he was ridiculed in Time magazine as a prominent "melanist." It was at a time when some black scholars were hyping the pigment, which is found in the human body in greater proportion among those who are dark-skinned. "Melanists" attributed to melanin everything from superior athletic ability to supernatural powers. Glover was notably singled out: The article was accompanied by a large photograph of him and detailed his personal theory--which he was then teaching to his freshman class in intercultural relations at SMU--that those to whom God granted greater melanin content tend to value human relationships more than material possessions. "Melanin is the strongest chemical in the human body," he was quoted as saying.

The derision that followed publication of the April 4, 1994, story continues today, to the point that Glover sighs when he says, "I have never advocated the supremacy of melanin at all." He goes on to cite scientific studies about melanin, however, that he claims show melanin has great impact on the body.

Did Time misstate Glover's trust in melanin? If so, he still seems attached to the principle, if not the chemical.

Although the word "melanin" never arose, Glover recently raised hackles at a school district committee meeting with a presentation that couched old arguments in new terms.

At the inaugural session of the DISD school board's intercultural relations committee on November 25, 1995, Glover presented historical precursors to modern-day race relations, offering a socio-evolutionary justification for the differing value systems developed by those with white and dark skins. This time he blamed European culture and weather, not melanin, for causing whites to prioritize the acquisition of material possessions above human relationships--the latter being the highest priority for societies in, for instance, Africa. He said that colder climates give rise to individualism and aggression, whereas warmer climates foster farming culture and greater interdependence with others. "This is neither good nor bad," he said, "only relative."

This nugget of thought became the subject of a Dallas Morning News article and earned him a barb in D magazine, which once again associated Glover with fringe Afro-centric beliefs. It also did not endear Glover to some board members.

"He preaches racist messages," says board president Keever. "He believes all Anglos are racist and are only about collecting material things and not about having relationships. If I were about collecting stuff, I certainly wouldn't be in the school board for 30 to 40 hours a week for no compensation."

Although Glover certainly espouses his share of beliefs-from-nowhere, it would be a shame if the taint they leave on his reputation discolors it altogether. A self-described "intellectual militant," Glover possesses some views on race and culture that are not so much silly as original. And in this age of racial conflicts stalemated by political correctness, a mind that isn't afraid to see into corners could use an audience.

Glover says, for instance, that racism is not about individual attitudes toward race. "The most important thing for people to realize is that racism is a system and not an individual act," he explains. "Racism is about power." In America, the system of racism has been set up to benefit white people so that they can maintain power, he says.

Therefore, all white people are racist and only whites can be racist, because all whites benefit from the system and only whites can.

Blacks and other minorities, Glover says, can be bigoted, insensitive, and discriminatory, but they do not have the power to concoct a system that will undercut whites.

And if liberal whites bristle at being labeled racist, Glover tries to bring the focus closer to home. The racist system is like sexism, he says, in that all men benefit from sexism--the system they created to wield power--whether or not they want to in this age of evolving roles. Women simply haven't acquired the power to set up a system to benefit themselves. "You are talking about the dynamics of a collective act," Glover says.

Glover's philosophy examines racism objectively, taking the personal sting from the word by declaring that racism is not an individual act.

There may be no greater indication that Glover sometimes spouts not nonsense, but new sense, than the fact that other racial leaders distrust him, often without being able to condemn him for specific acts. Racial politics are dominated by highly visible leaders, and also by dogmatic and often divisive thinking on all sides. It's a system that may not easily tolerate a man who is thinking for himself and whose goals are broad and best accomplished behind the scenes.

When he describes himself, Glover says he is not a political player in the usual sense of the word--that he doesn't place first emphasis on jockeying for power. He claims to conduct war against hidebound ideologies in favor of reconciliation among groups. His prize, he says, is changed minds.

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