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Lift Ev'ry DeVos and Sing

I was a little concerned when Donald Trump won. I didn't believe the "fake news" that Mr. Trump was racist; I just figured that we'd soon hear zombie conservative arguments about how historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are anachronistic, or worse, racist. I was wrong. President Trump's meeting with the presidents of HBCUs last week elated me. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos even met with an HBCU president her second day in office. Whether or not Mr. Trump had heard much about

I was a little concerned when Donald Trump won. I didn't believe the "fake news" that Mr. Trump was racist; I just figured that we'd soon hear zombie conservative arguments about how historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are anachronistic, or worse, racist.

I was wrong.

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President Trump's meeting with the presidents of HBCUs last week elated me. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos even met with an HBCU president her second day in office. Whether or not Mr. Trump had heard much about Frederick Douglass before 2017, whether or not Ms. DeVos' staffers know how to spell "DuBois," matters less than what Mr. Trump and Ms. DeVos are doing: putting money where their mouths are.

But the reaction from many African-Americans has been baffling.

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On Facebook you can read warnings of a Trojan Horse. Go to HBCU Digest, and you'll see comments like "Something wicked this way comes. We have to be very careful when we get into bed with the devil." "I don't trust him or his intentions." Some even interpreted Mr. Trump's order to "just get it [legislation to help HBCUs] done" as, "sounds like hurry up and get them out of my house."

It's always sensible to be wary of a too-good deal, but I wish black voters were this savvy when Democratic politicians came to their neighborhoods only to disappear after the election for four years. While the Washington Post reported in 2015 that "historically black schools say Obama's policies have fallen short," blacks themselves as a rule have been Mr. Obama's biggest cheerleaders. Meanwhile, many purported friends of typically cash-strapped HBCUs were actually angry when the conservative Koch brothers donated $25 million to the United Negro College Fund.

Give the Koch brothers and Ms. DeVos a chance. After all, it's clear why Mr. Trump is pursuing this HBCU partnership: He is hunting good will from enough blacks to weaken his Democratic opposition.

Works for me.

And in exchange for the Republicans' olive branch, I'm personally willing to tutor Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway's kids in math.

Democrats have lost their way. The cities they have led for decades, and the school systems within them, have failed. As President Trump stated, they offer nothing but carnage. Of course, the Democrats counsel patience, so their leaders can preserve their riches, preserve their chokehold on urban residents and condemn those children to illiteracy, joblessness and homelessness.

What solutions does Chicago native Barack Obama have for Chicago? Why won't he move there at once to stop the carnage?

Betsy DeVos has answers, and they are simple. That does not mean they are easy — each new generation must find the courage to fight.

If a school is defective, shut it down. Even my contemporary at Oxford University, Democratic Senator Cory Booker, agrees with Ms. DeVos: Give parents the choice, the opportunity to give their children the American dream. Let parents send their children elsewhere today, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is too late. An improvement promised next year will never come.

Praise hard work, dedication and discipline. Praise modesty, kindness and decorum. Punish wrongdoers.

I think Ms. DeVos has a true understanding of James Weldon Johnson's poem "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," often called the "Negro National Anthem." I am certain Booker T. Washington, once a slave, later the founder of Tuskegee University, would rush to embrace her.

We should all do the same.

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Jonathan David Farley (www.latticetheory.net) was named one of "15 people who have shaped the global conversation about science in 2005" by Seed Magazine.

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