Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is in hot water for casting Jim Crow education policy in a positive light.
After a meeting with presidents and chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), DeVos suggested those schools were “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” ignoring the fact that black students had no choice as to where they could go to school during the Jim Crow era.
“[HBCUs] are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and great quality,” DeVos said in a written statement.
These types of schools, however, came about precisely because students of color were refused a choice in their secondary education. HBCUs “were established to serve the educational needs of black Americans,” according to DeVos’s own Department of Education website, which further explains that, “blacks were generally denied admission to traditionally white institutions” when these institutions were established. “As a result, HBCUs became the principle means for providing postsecondary education to black Americans.”
Many were critical of DeVos’s portrayal of HBCUs and her comparing them to school choice. For example, Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth, tweeted out the following:
Betsy DeVos on HBCUs as "school choice" vs. basic historical facts about segregation on her own department's website pic.twitter.com/b6fs5v78W0
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) February 28, 2017
Others were quick to point out the problems with the comparison also.
Betsy DeVos's sees HBCUs as pioneers of "school choice," as if black students had a "choice" to go to white colleges in segregated America. pic.twitter.com/75YKvjB70x
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) February 28, 2017
The idea that HBCUs were founded to provide "more options" to students completely glosses over Jim Crow https://t.co/JbROvETABP
— Emma Roller (@emmaroller) February 28, 2017
And political commentator Roland Martin also had some choice words for DeVos:
“If you’re the Education Secretary, can you please have a proper education about HBCUs in this country?” Martin asked. “The fact of the matter is, America segregated, America refused to allow black folks to attend school…it simply wasn’t a lack of access, it was white supremacy.”
Neither DeVos nor anyone else in the Trump administration has provided clarity on her statements as of this writing.
Chris Walker been writing about political issues for the past decade, including for sites such as Elite Daily, AMERICAblog, and Mic. You can follow him on Twitter @thatchriswalker.