The most recent non-negotiable offer made by Gov. Larry Hogan for the settlement of decades of inequitable funding of this state’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is beyond unreasonable and could be more appropriately termed disrespectful. When it comes to righting past wrongs enacted upon people of color, the response has always been less than fair when left up to white leadership. Mr. Hogan has offered what I would expect from someone who has no real sense of the value provided to our nation by HBCUs.
In light of his “no-room-for-negotiation offer,” I am more concerned by the other white state leaders and officials who are choosing to remain silent on this issue. Many of them will seek and court the black vote in major ways in the coming months. What about them? Do they think similarly?
I don’t want us to forget that our state legislators have a voice and a platform. The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus chair, Del. Darryl Barnes, should not have the sole weight of waging this battle placed on his shoulders. What about many of his other white colleagues, who will also reach out for black support in their upcoming campaigns and legislation? The state comptroller has a lot to say about many things, and he too should be held accountable.
When it comes to issues of justice and fairness, the arc 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.
When it was rights for those in the LGBTQA+ community, the state’s African American community stood on the front lines with them. When the issue involved state tuition for Maryland’s immigrant population, the African American community in the State House and throughout the region stood in support of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom were from the Hispanic community.
But when it comes to our issues, where are they?
Where is the leadership of the Maryland Democratic Party, whose base is sustained and secured because of black support? And lastly, where is the lieutenant governor, an African American graduate of an HBCU? Of all interested parties, he should be demanding justice and reminding his colleagues of the responsibility to deal with our community from a stand point of fairness.
The demand to fairly and equitably fund these institutions is not without a history. A 1937 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, another Maryland report described the “uphill struggle on the part of the Negro colleges to secure facilities on par with white institutions.”
The impact of program duplication at traditionally white schools in the following years was the driving nail that would ensure the inadequate standing of HBCUs, and the steps to correct that is what leads us to this place today.
What The Sun paper wrote in 2012 is still true now: “Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities were underfunded during the era of segregation now the state must find a way to empower them to compete effectively with their traditionally white peers.”
I’m calling on the white peers of the legislators in Annapolis and Washington to use your offices and your voices to demand a fair and more just offer from this state’s top leader. If they truly care about the just society then this is a great place to start.
If this is a problem for any of them today, then I think it ought to be a problem for all of us on Election Day.
Kevin A. Slayton Sr. (email@example.com) is pastor of Lanham United Methodist Church.