We can’t stay in a position of asking forever.
There is a dangerous trend emerging around HBCU campuses that is honorable in its intent, and stupid in its logic and execution. With the harsh realities of just how much rich white people control this country, and just how hard they are willing to work to keep other folks from joining their ranks, there is a sick culture rising amongst our communities masquerading as pro-black points of pride.
The notion that we can’t speak to or negotiate with our enemies is sending us down a dangerous path of destruction, and it complements the continuing culture of wanting and claiming independence without investing in the same.
Shaw University is ground zero for this latest display of cultural confusion and racial arrogance. Raleigh Mayor Nancy MacFarlane has rejected the university’s request to discuss a potential police substation on or near campus, citing the financial and racial complexities associated with it.
“Staff talked about it, and it’s not anything we can do. It’s too complicated,” McFarlane said.
Her decision comes as students and community members have generated attention for their opposition to the idea, and have earned the attention of the city’s black media intelligentsia. Barry Saunders, a News & Observer columnist who annually attacks the hypocrisy of Charlotte’s CIAA Basketball Tournament as an annual spotlight on the struggling conditions of its member schools, calls out Shaw for shortsightedness on bringing police closer to campus to more efficiently harass or harm its students.
Years ago, an unbearably bourgeois former friend of mine lamented that most HBCUs are in inner cities.
That’s precisely where they should be, I told him, and those schools’ social science eggheads should be working on solutions to the intractable problems besetting such communities — so maybe dudes will stop gunning each other down right off campus. For instance, those kids studying to become probation officers?
What makes Saunders’ argument so uniquely stupid is that he endorses the same kind of outreach Shaw seemingly was trying to make with a substation, framed as an argument against it. According to him and others, HBCUs should solve persistent problems and create professionals who can address them — just don’t let them do it on campus and with resource support and cooperation with the police officers they are trying to supplant.
What makes it even dumber is that the Raleigh-Shaw public safety partnership would not have been unique to higher education. It would not have even been unique to HBCUs, as Edward Waters College in Jacksonville was among the first historically black campuses to open a substation and to use it not only in policing efforts and community relations building, but as a learning lab for criminal justice majors at the school.
No one would argue with a bank operating on a campus, despite the number of banks which have had to pay billion-dollar settlements for discriminatory lending practices against black consumers.
J.P. Morgan to Pay $55 Million to Settle With U.S. Over Alleged Discrimination Against Minority…
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. will settle with the U.S. Department of Justice for $55 million over allegations independent…www.wsj.com
And no one would argue with black students training under these banks to become the professionals who could, one day, help to eliminate predatory culture targeting black consumers. But police? Nah, we can’t go there.
Thanks to our backwards, non-strategic thinking, we’ve not only put Raleigh’s mayor in a tough spot on potential support for crime prevention in Southeast Raleigh, but we just took away the potential for Shaw criminal justice students to have workforce training steps away from their dorms; all in the name of fear.
The same fear that will always exist beyond our campus, but which we could have mitigated with direct contact and conversation between Raleigh police and our students, faculty, and staff at the oldest HBCU in the South. There’s no better way to show why Black Lives Shouldn’t Matter than by turning away job opportunities and resources to support them in the name of racial pride.
This is the kind of rhetoric we are beginning to specialize in, and its extended beyond community levels. Thousands of black folks nationwide are suggesting that HBCU presidents preparing to meet with President Donald Trump is racial high treason, and antithetical to all elements of HBCU history and culture.
Maybe meeting with Donald Trump would be just that, but meeting with the president of the United States, regardless of who holds the seat of power, is never a bad idea. There are elements which, of course, should be considered — the optics of the meeting, the terms upon which they meet and the kind of outcomes we are seeking.
But for everyone who thinks that meeting with the president is a bad idea on account of his positions on race, gender and politics is losing sight of the ultimate question on all of these matters. How has avoiding people we don’t like worked out for HBCUs?
Do HBCUs need federal money or not? Do HBCU students deserve high-quality public safety or not? Because in the end, protesting historical inequities limits our position to negotiate for more of what we need. And that’s not to say that we forget or accept the cultural realities of the people with whom we’re negotiating, but we do so understanding that our priorities are ordered by preservation first, politics second.
Working with police works for black communities. Ask some HBCU graduates who dedicate their lives to doing that work as police officers.
Working with Donald Trump could yield the gains we had long hoped for under President Barack Obama, but which never came to fruition under the guise of his appearances at our commencements, and the administration’s lies about support.
Black people are either not wealthy enough or too selfishly short-sighted to keep HBCUs open on our own, and data tends to point to the former more than the latter as the reason for our institutional struggles.
White liberals aren’t totally bought in because they are getting our money and votes anyway, and are unthreatened by any defection or organization on our part.
And some white conservatives are hoping that if we keep all of this up a little while longer, we’ll drain ourselves of talent and bargaining position in short order.
So what do we want to be, Black America? Proud and destitute, or strategic and stable? How much more does America need to prove that we can’t refrain from improving ourselves, but still have it both ways?