Donald Trump met with leading figures from some Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the United States on Monday, and education secretary Betsy DeVos released a statement to mark the occasion that is really getting everyone talking.
In the press release, DeVos says that the HBCUs “started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education”. For many, this seems like a particularly light way of describing the history of HBCUs.
HBCUs were set up after the Civil War, during a time when people of colour were banned from applying to many white universities. HBCUs aimed to help open up education to a wider group of Americans at a time when there were huge barriers in front of them. As such, many people are taking issue with the idea that HBCUs were set up to help “school choice” but many say segregation meant that there was no choice in the matter.
Many are outraged at the claim that the Jim Crow education system gave black students “more options” – when in fact it was the only option open to black students in a segregated education system.
DeVos’s statement has caused widespread uproar. Many people are thinking the same thing: DeVos has somehow managed to gloss over the whole racial segregation issue.
Tone-deaf, uninformed statement from DeVos. #HBCUs weren’t “more options” for black students – for many years, they were the ONLY option. pic.twitter.com/fD58rXpHIt— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) February 28, 2017
I like how Betsy DeVos calls HBCUs "pioneers of school choice" when they actually exist because a people were given no school choice.— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) February 28, 2017
Wow. DeVos said HBCUs were "pioneers of school choice."
No, Betsy, HBCUs were created because they HAD no choice. pic.twitter.com/rm2kpptyfQ— jordan (@JordanUhl) February 28, 2017
Betsey Devos: HBCU's were school choice pioneers
Us: More like the only choice back then pic.twitter.com/R4ZjsIBxQV— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) February 28, 2017
In fact, many see it as a gross misjudgement of history.
DeVos saying HBCUs are examples of school choice is like saying the underground railroad is an example of social mobility.— Major Beige (@MajorBeige) February 28, 2017
It’s a particularly hot topic at the moment as Trump is set to sign an executive order on HBCUs this week, and today DeVos is giving the keynote address at a HBCU event.