There is ample friction between African-Americans and President Donald Trump. An example of how Trump still gets the short shift from blacks is the executive order he signed on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Reports made it seem that Trump give little time or thought to the plight of HBCU presidents and only sought a photo op with them. Not true.
While black partisans ridiculed the occasion, HBCU leaders met with Trump at the Oval Office. The meeting was coordinated by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) to give the HBCUs chance to lobby Trump for aid under his “New Deal for Black America” initiative.
HBCUs are institutions of higher learning established for the education of black Americans. The years that followed passage of the second Land-Grant Act in 1890 led to the creation of exclusively black institutions.
Vice President Mike Pence told HBCU presidents them how much he and the president “admire the contributions of historically black colleges and universities.”
“You’ve transformed lives through education and helped to lead our country to a more perfect union,” Pence said, adding that the administration is “committed” to HBCUs.
Blacks say that the HBCU presidents were “wrong” to be photographed with Trump, that “no person of color should engage in photos with a president who regularly trucks in racist innuendo, stereotypes and discriminatory policies.” Most notably, Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick was the target of graffiti attacks on his campus for a recent meeting with Trump.
But when will the black populace note that HBCUs haven’t fared all that well under recent political practices? An Obama policy that changed the ways in which parents access federal loans for their children to attend college had a disparate impact on black families and HBCUs.
While the more than 300,000 students currently enrolled at HBCUs are mostly black, HBCUs represent 3 percent of all U.S. colleges by number but received less than 1 percent of the federal money that goes toward academic research in 2014.
HBCU presidents asked Trump to include $25 billion in his budget request to Congress to upgrade schools’ infrastructures and renovate their facilities, many of which are historic sites.
Whether he’ll honor that request remains to be seen. While some see Trump’s outreach to HBCU leaders as an attempt to address concerns of African-Americans, others are still skeptical. To that end, Trump would do well to again appoint Leonard Haynes, former executive director for the White House Initiative on HBCUs, working with him in tandem to engage the private sector to leverage HBCUs’ capabilities.
HBCUs are valuable to blacks in contemporary times. To truly help them, let’s ditch the skepticism — it’s time for blacks to coalesce with the president.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.