Jon E. Garrett
Writing the future of journalism one post at a time


July 6, 2012

University Rankings, Michael Johnson and the myth of the Magic Negro

Thursday the Center for World University Rankings released its inaugural list of the top 100 universities in the world. The schools were ranked on a set of seven criteria: education quality, faculty quality, alumni employment, patents, publishing, faculty research citations and influence. Texas, perhaps surprising to some, was well-represented amongst the schools lauded by the organization  based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Branch (No. 29), The  University of Texas (30), Rice University (57), Texas A&M (73) and UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (No. 96) all made the list. Pretty impressive for a state that I’m told by television and movies is mostly known for exporting steers and queers, banning books, Friday night football and being too lazy to say, “You all.”

Being that I was born, raised by educators and schooled in the Lone Star state, however, it did not come as a revelation to me. What did put a hitch in my giddy-up and make me tilt my ten-gallon hat to the side (Because all of us Texans wear cowboy hats, amirite?) was the absence of Baylor. The private Christian university has a long history of turning out top-notch doctors and lawyers and one of its undergrads even managed to pick up a Heisman Trophy last year between all that studying. Heck, it even managed to be ranked No. 75 out of 262 national universities by US News & World Report in 2011.

So, why the glaring absence of a school that many of its graduates consider at least as hard as Rice to get into, and has turned away more than one future Aggie from its doors?

Well, first I looked at the obvious. These days the words private Christian university and Saudi Arabia go together about as well as hot and spicy Texas salsa and a Canadian. Could this be some Muslim plot? After about 10seconds I figured that was a no-go. I’m pretty sure Robert Griffin III’s All-American smile could melt the heart of the coldest insurgent. Besides I’m pretty sure Baylor Medical School has a pretty good Muslim presence based on my recent dealing with the healthcare system. No-doubt some of those fine young doctors started out as undergrads at the mother ship.

Then a couple of hours later I read this in the news, and the picture got a little clearer:

“All my life I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations,” Michael Johnson is quoted as saying in an article in the British newspaper the Daily Mail. “Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”


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Jon E. Garrett



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