A Sustainable HBCU Platform Must Be Part of the Democratic 2020 Agenda

Howard University alumna and United States Senator Kamala Harris announced her bid for the 2020 presidential campaign this morning, joining a growing list of diverse faces in position to take the Democratic party’s nomination for the chance to topple Donald Trump.

Her announcement comes 24 hours before former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is scheduled to appear at Benedict College for a conversation with students, a likely pre-presidential campaign announcement tour stop designed to show face with an important voting bloc; black youth across the south.

Five years ago, Republicans were still trying to figure out how to court and convert voters from HBCU communities, two years off of another drubbing by Barack Obama delivered in part by black voters and two years away from selling their souls to the Alt-Right. And in our American political matrix, the same thing is about to take place in the Democratic party, with the Alt-Left preparing to push liberal centrists further to the west side of the political spectrum.

Republicans failed black voters by refusing to reign in their governors and state lawmakers on decimating HBCUs through budget cuts, Trojan Horse appointments to state institutions, and rule-breaking approaches to hiring presidents. Democrats will fail for propping up the stereotype that black people and our votes will be easily swayed by appearances on campuses and slang used from our stages to signal black empathy.

We don’t want empathy. We want policy. We want any conversation about free college to include all public and private HBCUs. We want any conversation about healthcare reform to include mandated funding for HBCU research and community outreach programming.

We want guarantees that federal agencies will commit seven percent of their grantmaking to higher education institutions to HBCUs, which on average return more than triple of the investment in the percentage of trained black professionals working in STEM fields, criminal justice, agriculture, education, and social services nationwide.

We want the areas surrounding every HBCU in the nation to be designated as opportunity zones, and specific exemptions for small business development instead of corporations being able to buy-in cheap, create jobs low-level jobs for black citizens while reaping astronomical profits through tax breaks.

We want HBCUs to be the awarding agencies for loans given to minority entrepreneurs who open specific businesses in opioid addiction recovery, mental health service clinics, charter school education, hemp production and resale and non-emergency medical treatment facilities, and for those entrepreneurs to receive three years of repayment deferment.

What we don’t want is for the party to believe that appearances and pandering will be enough for us. At least, it shouldn’t be at a time where more black folks are likely to vote, and more likely to be politically discerning than we have been in previous election cycles.

Just ask Andrew Gillum.

In an election decided by less than half a percentage point, Gillum’s race plainly could have been a key factor in DeSantis’ win.

But so could the strikingly large number of black voters in Florida who chose not to vote for Gillum.

Exit polls showed 86 percent of black voters cast ballots for Gillum, and 90 percent backed Nelson. At least 95 percent of black voters backed Barack Obama 2008 and 2012.

Nelson received a couple hundred more votes than Gillum in Florida’s only majority black county, Gadsden in North Florida. And the white three-term senator won more votes than Gillum in the five counties with the highest share of black residents, including Gillum’s home county of Leon.

Some Florida Democrats wonder: Did Andrew Gillum lose because of race? – Adam C. Smith and Langton Taylor (Tampa Bay Times)

We’ve been here before and the result, eight years later, was Donald Trump and an unexpectedly historic run of support for HBCUs. If Democrats, even black politicians with HBCU roots want black folks to pull this off for them again, they better do more than preach this time around.

Because if money and recent history show us anything, who we like and who we will support at the ballot box can be two totally different people.

3 thoughts on “A Sustainable HBCU Platform Must Be Part of the Democratic 2020 Agenda

  1. This HBCU program for the Democrats continues to mystify the source of HBCU exploitation and corruption. HBCU Digest thinks HBCUs are the venture capital for Black businesses and professionals (future Black billionaires) and should collaborate with the government in giving out minority business loans — not an educational function.
    Opportunity Zones should be created for small businesses not “empowerment zones” that ultimately benefit big corporations? All of this has nothing to do with education. And it mystifies that HBCU Digest (and many others) is happy to accept capital from any source, bigger or smaller, without establishing an ethical standard. This mentality is the source of the exploitation at Bethune Cookman. Misleaders there thought B-C was their opportunity to get rich in the name of maintaining the infrastructure of the school.
    That predominantly white schools vendors attach themselves to their budgets and endowments to enhance their wealth is not the point. We are not white, says our melanated HBCU T-Shirts. Our students cannot recover from those who pimp the college budget to advance themselves where there is no endowment. We are supposed to maintain independent values, higher standards, if we have a claim to being in the forefront of Black autonomy… this “HBCU program” reveals no ethical principle outside the main barbaric currents of white society.

  2. That’s actually incorrect. Many colleges and universities of all types administer small business grants and funding to support development with campus and state footprints. See schools like the University of Connecticut (https://tip.uconn.edu/) Clemson (http://www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/spiro/service/accelerator.html) as examples. Secondly, why would HBCUs look to established corporations to create jobs and economic development, rather than a slate of small to mid-sized businesses headed by constituents of our campuses with more allegiance to our campuses and opportunities to serve as vendors and career pipelines?
    The government has used colleges for these purposes, and can do more with HBCUs as true anchor institutions in black communities. Not sure the point you are making here, but certainly it is outside of what is possible for black colleges.

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