Longform

Ready For Battle

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Glover believes in policy: He says that he's spent a significant amount of his time at DISD drafting a policy for the district that has much in common with SMU's, and that when violated calls for penalties--everything from reprimands to terminations. The policy was approved by the school board in March. (Assistant superintendent Collins says that Glover shouldn't get all the credit, and that policies against religious and racial harassment have been in place since 1976. What Glover has done is consolidate them. "It's much-more-administrable policy," Collins says.)

At SMU, not everyone was getting the same message Glover was sending. Comments from some former students suggest they found him self-serving and, in a foreshadowing of the melanin controversy that continues to compromise Glover's credibility, downright wacky at times.

Corey Capers, former president of the Association for Black Students, says that Glover helped organize events and lent his voice to campus problems, but always had his head cocked to see how his efforts made him look. "He talked about himself a lot," Capers says. While at SMU, Capers took Glover's course entitled "Black and White" and was discouraged by the experience. "It was a lot of myth and mythology," he says. "A lot of the things he said--about black people having more energy and that's what enables them to do the funky chicken--really didn't enhance the dialogue."

Glover dismisses charges of self-promotion. Certainly, a dedicated self-promoter would be more widely known: Glover isn't a household name in Dallas, and even in academic conflict-resolution circles he is unknown at universities as far away as New York and as close as East Texas. The connections he made at SMU did enable him to enlarge his influence, however, particularly as a consultant to the Dallas Police Department when, in 1984, the department came under fire from the NAACP following a rash of shootings of black robbery suspects. Glover says he persuaded police to change key policies in an effort to reduce shootings. Chief among those changes was a decision to place a greater priority on preserving a suspect's life than on protecting property, he says. Glover also convinced the department to change its shooting-practice target from a black to a beige silhouette. (Police officials, when contacted by the Observer, could not recall anything about Glover's work in the mid-1980s.) And he has taken his ideas about diversity into such corporations as AT&T and WFAA-Channel 8, and to the Arlington and Duncanville school districts.

"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.

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Kaylois Henry