What Independent Schools Can Learn from ESPN and the Late Stuart Scott?

Scott

I became a Stuart Scott fan in the early 1990s; he owned a style that attracted not only brothers such as myself to the Sports Center screen, but white people too. He paid his dues and worked to reach the apex of his profession; however, in doing so, Scott took a great deal of criticism for the style he owned. When he arrived at ESPN, he stated that he wanted to be himself. This does not mean he wanted to represent his employer, ESPN, in a poor fashion; it meant that when they hired a black man, they were getting just that. Scott, who had arrived at the pinnacle of his profession, stated that he was more than a black face on the screen; he was first a professional. Further, he stated that his race meant that he was shaped in a different fashion from that of his white colleagues at the Entertainment Sports Network. ESPN was quick in grasping the complexity of Scott, his diversity, and the many wonderful things he offered.

Rather than telling Scott to act more white, they celebrated his style and diversity. They applauded his differences and rewarded him for 21 years. Scott returned the gratitude by staying loyal to ESPN. Over the span of 21 years, I watched a number of anchors transition from the network. That was not the case for Scott, who kept his style and thanked ESPN for its support. I still recall the criticism the University of North Carolina received for inviting Scott to be their commencement speaker. In a sense, he was not conservative enough; he was not white enough; he was too “street” for a school of UNC’s stature. Through all of this, ESPN stuck with Scott and defended his diversity. Keep in mind that he graduated from UNC at Chapel Hill.

I believe school leaders and communities can take a great deal from ESPN and its long marriage to Scott; in an age when people of color leave schools due to countless acts of micro aggressions, ESPN walked beside Scott for 21 years. Many minority faculty members and school administrators discuss the hiring and retention of people of color in two terms: comfort and fit; however, this can mean different things to schools and minority faculty members. I have found that minority faculty members offer a different voice on matters of socioeconomic status, race, and perspectives regarding historical narratives. This can and often is met with resistance. Schools should welcome the whole picture of diversity. It should not be a black face masked under the guise of whiteness. It must look and feel real; if not, students and communities are not getting diversity. They are getting comfort. It is important that all faculty members and students believe in the overarching mission of their institution, but institutions must be willing to take the risk of “real diversity.”

As noted in the work by Pearl Rock Kane, The Excellence of Color,

People of color, be they African-American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or whatever ethnic group, have spent years discovering their roots, developing a keen pride in their heritage, and accepting who they are. So don’t expect the current crop of prospective faculty to fit into your conservative profile. Many of them will not, and, frankly, I don’t think they should even try! Is that shocking? Is that unacceptable to you and your clientele? Then, perhaps, diversity is really not for you. If a turban or a dashiki pants suit offends, then so will diversity! Diversity by definition implies that the status quo will be upset.

I am dedicating this post to the late Stuart Scott. I am and will be among one of your many fans. They will be talking about you in journalism and media classes for years to come. We all recall hearinh him say,”You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

Thanks, Stuart.

Hannah Storm on Stuart Scott:

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