Pastor of Lanham United Methodist Church in Lanham, Maryland
The Governor’s offer of $200 million to address the decades of inadequate funding of Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) should be an insult to our intelligence. He has made the mistake that so many of our White brothers and sisters do on a fairly regular basis. They assume that Blacks will take anything, and just maybe that is not so unwarranted considering our previous behaviors.
But this issue of adequate funding for our HBCU’s has been a constant in our policy and legislative debates since the stirrings of Delegate Rudy Cane and Senator Joan Carter Conway some 15 years ago. Then they argued that evidenced and egregious duplication of programs at the Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) was extremely instrumental in the decline in many of the state’s HBCU’s. Almost every year our African-American legislators have had to deal with this same issue of fairness and equity only to be met with stalled negotiations and outright disrespect. The Governor, like so many before him, relish in the portrayal of our communities as beggars, but that is not the case at all. We are merely demanding that the wrongs of our states past be made right for this generation and those to come.
The demand to fairly and equitably fund these institutions is not without a history. As far back as in 1937 a Maryland Report of the Commission on Higher Education of Negroes pointed out that there was “enormous differential in favor of the white race.” In 1950, the Maryland Weglin Commission Report described the “uphill struggle on the part of the Negro colleges to secure facilities on par with white institutions.” This was reinforced by the 1954 Brown v Board of Education ruling where, the Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” was illegal under the constitution.
As I previously mentioned the impact of duplication in the following years was the driving nail that would ensure the inadequate standing of HBCU’s and the steps to correct it is what leads us to this place today. The inadequacies were so obvious that the Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan, admitted in 2006, that the state had “not done right over time by Historically Black Institutions and they deserve special scrutiny and attention in terms of adequacy of funding.”
Now is the time for all of our local and national organizations to pony up and put their advocacy resources to work confronting this administration’s most recent offer. The Maryland Black Caucus and the state delegations that are predominantly of color must not shoulder this work alone. The leaders of our Divine Nine, NAACP, Urban League, National Action Network, Links, Faith Communities and Masonic Lodges should all descend on Annapolis in a major demonstration demanding that the Governor and his Lt. Governor, who happens to be African American and a graduate of an HBCU, do the right thing and put this matter of justice to rest. We must demonstrate to those in the ivory towers that we can do more than host an amazing party and dance the night away. We can do more than raise money, host wonderful affairs, and serve as guest in your private sporting event boxes. Now is the time to show the powers that be that we can also organize and recognize when we are being insulted.
But not only should our leaders take to the streets, so should our white elected officials. Those officials who conveniently silence their rhetoric on this issue. Meanwhile in the coming months they will be aggressively pursuing African-American support. Senators and congressmen alike have much larger platforms, yet they too remain silent. For too long we’ve put the matter of addressing white injustice to those in the Black community. I would strongly suggest that the time has come that our White brothers and sisters do some of the lifting to address those in their communities. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
Also, on this issue, the Black community should seek and request some reciprocity from those other interests whom we’ve partnered with and supported in their time of struggle. When it comes to issues of justice and fairness the mark bends toward justice when we are all doing our part to point it in that direction. Unfortunately, historically, it has been one sided when it comes to issues pertaining to the Black community in this state. When it was rights for those in the LGBTQA+ community it was the state’s African-American community standing on the front lines with them. When the issue involved in-state tuition for this state’s immigrant population it was the African-American community in the state house and throughout the community in support of our brothers and sisters, a majority from the Hispanic community. But when it comes to our issues where in the hell are they?
Lastly, where is the leadership of the Maryland Democratic Party whose base is sustained and secure because of Black support? Where do they stand on this matter and what has been their vocal and political interest in helping to address an issue that affects so many of their base support. This, in my opinion, is a major problem. But, if this is a problem for any of them today, then I think it ought to be a problem for Black voters on Election Day.