“Popular fixations with history often reflect popular anxieties about the future. If history is a search for distant truths, then it is also an attempt to regulate the judgements of coming generations. White northerners removed slavery from their accounts and memories by driving the descendants of slaves from view and crafting new explanations for their wealth and regional development. Not coincidentally, President Quincy and the Harvard Corporation dismissed Charles Follen on the eve of Harvard’s bicentennial, a moment of ritual historical revision. The attack on abolitionists and abolitionism began the process of hiding the college’s long, sordid affair with slavery and the slave trade.” Epilogue: Cotton Comes To Harvard from the book Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities; Craig Steven Wilder, 2013
As a firm believer that public education didn’t weaken our country or competitiveness, it was the PEOPLE in charge of preparing our young minds for the future (Administrators, Board Members, Superintendents, Mayors) that fumbled the ball, it’s unfortunate that the present state of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will determine the fate of many nameless, unassuming, and marginal students presently inside public school districts around this country. I’m not doubting the skills of these young people to strive in this much-needed, educational growth experience. But I’m questioning whether these institutions of higher learning, whose original mission was to educate those that elite schools WOULD NOT, have drunk the reform purple Kool-Aid to turn it’s back on those WHO NEED.
Witness if you will Hampton University President William R. Harvey, who noted in an interview with Black Enterprise Magazine (Hampton University Inc. How President William R. Harvey’s business approach produced an HBCU set for sustainable longevity, October 2013) his present “100% ownership of a Pepsi-Cola bottling company in Michigan” as an almost necessary prerequisite for the present job of university leader. I’m not questioning whether Mr. Harvey is successful or not. When he’s done it will be fair to go back and judge the performance. But I always question whether thriving in the corporate world translates into being good at everything else one might try to do. For example, how many people (individual or family) that made gobs of money in business have actually won championships with the sports franchises they’ve purchased? My own non-scientific estimate is not too many.
We have already seen the outcome of floundering educational leadership on the primary level. Too many young Black men involved in the streets with nowhere to turn for inspiration. When those students with the passion and drive for higher learning have opportunities cut out from under them where do they turn? The military? Minimum wage jobs with no benefits? Or worse?
It’s a sad state when budget talks doesn’t include any discussion on the state of HBCU’s. Instead they’re treated like collateral damage…the funding and benefits will be decreased just deal with it. As is always the case the few good women and men, who are stepping out to protest this treatment, are marginalized. Most folks don’t want to be the heavy on President Obama’s education policies are eerily silent, hesitant to challenge this injustice. Of course the easiest way to understand most why (or why not) is simply by following the money trail.
But these institutions need to be vocal in their commitment to our Urban areas of America, inclusive in the curriculum to nurture all types of students regardless of their history or aspirations, and unflinching in telling the truth of why we are HERE at this place and time. It may mean returning to its roots with an eye on less (corporate $, donations, sponsors, funding) could be more (students, willing educators, nonprofit/volunteer) outcome.
Lately I’ve followed this type of back and forth not too faraway at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.
It hasn’t been pretty.
Never dreamed DuBois’ “Negro Problem” would wear a different mask for the 21st Century.
“Signed…An Educated Brother!”