Last week the UNC Board of Governors fined NC A&T State University almost $2 million for the crime of taking on too many out-of-state students. While they were allowed 35 percent, this year 41 percent of A&T’s student body came here from out of state.

And it’s hard not to read an ulterior motive here.

Anyone who’s lived in Greensboro for more than a decade knows that for many years, the UNC System paid very little attention to NC A&T State University, especially when it came time to fund new construction or make needed repairs.

Now, as HBCUs in general are having a moment and A&T in particular has risen in esteem and position, it’s surprising that the UNC Board of Governors has so much to say about operations at the biggest HBCU in the nation.

Or, I should say, it’s surprising to a lot of white people. Most Black folks probably aren’t surprised at all. Because of the Black asterisk.

The Black asterisk is why there often seem to be different sets of rules for Black folks, or different penalties for Black folks who break said rules, or sometimes even rules constructed specifically for Black folks.

At least, that’s how it looks to me — a white guy who has only ever been on the right side of that asterisk.

Looks to me like the UNC Board of Governors — which has been outwardly hostile towards race relations at our state universities of late — was acutely aware of the Black asterisk in making this decision.

Consider that the last time the BOG levied a fine like this, it was in 2016 against UNC-Chapel Hill, which exceeded its out-of-state quota by a comparable percentage. Their fine: $1 million.

Stripping our biggest and best HBCU of $2 million is not a good look for an organization that fought so hard to keep a Confederate memorial on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, that refused tenure to the Black journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones for a Knight Fellowship — another instance of the Black asterisk — and that oversees a school where the racial admissions policy is being challenged in the Supreme Court.

It looks a lot like the looting of Black wealth that has plagued the American South — indeed, the whole nation — since the beginning, no matter the intention.

The UNC BOG needs to back away from this one if it hopes to shake its racist reputation. It shouldn’t be a big deal — they’re the ones who make these rules, and they change them all the time. At least, they had no problem when it came to Nikole Hannah-Jones.

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