By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
When the Donald was running for president, he turned to African Americans decrying joblessness, education woes, and urban violence in their communities, suggesting that he had all the answers. He capped his appeal with, “What do you have to lose?”
You get some idea with the funds earmarked for Historically Black Colleges and Universities being critically examined by the new administration. Wow. HBCU leadership was hoping that question from Trump was just rhetorical.
The White House suggested that construction funding for historically black colleges and universities might be unconstitutional and thus, should be more closely monitored and conceivably cut off. What a blow that would be.
Administrators at these colleges and universities say the president’s contemptuous remarks reveal a fundamental misunderstanding that the schools favor Blacks and other minorities over white students.
What did you expect from the man who thought Frederick Douglass was still alive and doing a great job for civil rights? Did you think he knew the roots of establishing historically Black institutions of higher learning? Did you think he even cared?
An observer says that because they are called HBCUs “suggests to some that the institutions are for Blacks and not others, or that Blacks are provided preferences at these institutions. Neither is the case,” said Lezli Baskerville, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, a not-for-profit advocacy group.
Number 45 spoke in his usual ill-informed manner as he threatened to challenge under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, a construction-funding pro-gram for HBCUs, lumping it with other programs that he said “allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender.”
The statement was attached to a spending bill he signed Friday to keep the government operating through September. It surprised many, considering 45 had promised to support HBCUs both during his campaign and during very public Black History Month meetings, when HBCU presidents posed for pictures with the president in the White House. So he lied? No one would consider that breaking news.
Advocates pointed out that HBCUs do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender. In fact, they were set up in direct response to predominantly white colleges and universities that refused to admit Blacks or other minorities. The Donald not knowing that is only half the problem. The other half is his anxiousness to go on the attack.
It seems like only yesterday that HBCU leaders were in the Oval Office for photo ops as Orange Man pretended to care. His helpmate Kellyanne Conway didn’t even front, you will recall, as she sat nearby, inattentive to the meeting with her legs curled under her, texting on her smart phone. Not so smart.
“Sadly and shamefully, HBCUs, including the schools that President Trump met with, are left to wonder whether he wants to help or hurt them,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond, D-LA. and Representative John Conyers, D-MI., the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
The Donald also plans to move offices dedicated to HBCU institutions from the Education Department to the White House. What kind of sense does that make and how does that go without explanation – particularly when he has yet to choose a director for the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Apparently, it is not a priority.
The most optimistic insist that 45 plans to keep his commitment and that his statements were misinterpreted. But never forget that during that signing event, he clearly said, the government “shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws” under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Interesting to see how and when the Donald becomes an advocate for equal rights. He certainly doesn’t apply that as zealously in the matter of women, or those with different religious beliefs, or people of non-white ethnicity.
Michigan Congressman John Conyers and Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana remarked, “For a president who pledged to reach out to African Americans and minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive. We urge him to reconsider immediately.”
It would be better not to reach out at all if you have to do it swinging a club. Now we know more – though not all – of what we have to lose.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].