In 2007, Savannah State University made history when it hired Robby Wells--the school's first white football coach. But after leading the Savannah State Tigers for two years, Wells resigned early this year. He now says that the Georgia-based historically black college gave him the choice of resigning voluntarily or being fired.
But why? According to a federal lawsuit filed by the former coach, school officials not only took issue with his race but with the fact that he's engaged to a black woman.
"They believed that he would have difficulty connecting with their alumni and the community," James E. Rollins, Wells' attorney, told the Associated Press on May 28.
At a meeting in January, Wells alleges that SSU's vice president of administration, Claud Flythe, told him that Savannah residents would never support him because of his interracial relationship. A week after the meeting and a month after the coach had signed on for one more year, administrators reportedly urged Wells to resign.
Wells says Flythe and interim athletics director, Marilynn Stacey-Suggs, reprimanded him for not downplaying his relationship with Nicole Miller. Miller traveled with Wells to road games and appeared beside him on a float during the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade, the AP reported.
So, let's get this straight. In the 21st century a school employee was criticized for having an interracial relationship? Why is it wrong for Wells' fiancee to appear with him at school and public functions? Any significant other would do the same. But because Wells is white and his fiancee is black, he's accused of flaunting his relationship.
Moreover, why is Wells' interracial relationship viewed as something that would alienate the community? Isn't there a chance that SSU's mostly black community would feel more connected to Wells because he has chosen to marry an African-American woman and likely will have children who share their heritage? A different take on Wells' actions would be that he's more invested in the black community than most whites due to his close, personal ties with blacks.
Also, what do Wells' allegations, if true, reveal about the black community and interracial relationships? A story such as this seems to indicate that perhaps African Americans are more resistant to interracial relationships than generally thought. But an AP analysis of Census figures reveals that African Americans are now three times more likely to marry whites than they were in 1980. According to the AP, higher educational attainment, a more racially integrated military and a rising black middle class have resulted in about 14.4 percent of black men and 6.5 percent of black women marrying interracially.
So, while SSU officials may take issue with Coach Wells' impending nuptials to a black woman, they are apparently out of sync with African Americans overall. In reality, those blacks in the Savannah community not involved in interracial relationships themselves likely have friends and family members involved in such romances. Given this, there's no reason to sweep interracial romance under the rug in this day and age.