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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Project 21’s Massie Responds to Black College Presidents in Washington Post

From David Almasi:
Last Sunday, the Washington Post published a letter to the editor from four presidents of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Maryland, who took issue with Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow and U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom asking, in a Wall Street Journal essay, "are historically-black colleges good for blacks?"

Why they chose the Washington Post to air their grievances and not the Journal is unknown, but here is a portion of what the four contended:
Such mistaken interpretations of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the landmark 1992 Fordice Supreme Court case do a great injustice to historically black institutions and the students they serve. Most unfortunately, they threaten to open old wounds related to race and poverty.
In a rebuttal published in today’s Post, Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie responded:
Asserting that U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom failed "to understand that a main object of the civil rights movement was to enhance educational opportunities for [blacks] by eliminating the vestiges of segregation and enhancing their educational institutions" is nothing short of revisionism.

The 1992 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Fordice did not hurt historically black colleges and universities. It upheld Title IV, on desegregation of public education, in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

There is no debate that historically black institutions have been permitted to escape adherence to Title IV specifically because they are black. What's more, they have escaped penalty while their proponents viciously castigate other institutions for lacking diversity.
To read all of Mychal’s letter, click here.
To contact author David Almasi directly,
write him at [email protected]


Addendum from Amy: The DarkStar Spouts Off blog has published a long critique (attack?) on Mychal's letter. I found it odd in a couple of respects:
1) DarkStar/Ed Brown refers to Mychal's "race hustling ways." I've been unable to find a definition anywhere for the slang term "race hustling," but I thought it referred to the exploitation of racial divisions for personal profit. If I am right (I invite readers to write to tell me they disagree), I don't think the term applies to someone who advocates the elimination of racial divisions in an uncompensated letter to the Washington Post written on his free time.

2) DarkStar castigates Mychal for not addressing a litany of other, related issues, but letters to major newspapers intended for publication nearly always must be short and succinct to have any hope of being published. Writers can't address everything they might wish to.

3) DarkStar ends with:
Here is the bottom line to all of this, besides the disgust I'm feeling towards Massie's letter. Why is it that people like [Abigail] Thernstrom and Massie say close down HBCUs because of their segregated history, instead of saying close down HWCUs, because of THEIR segregated history?

Close down the HWCUs, transfer the money and facilities to the HBCUs, and then let's see what happens.
Mychal's letter didn't call for closing down historically-black colleges; he exposed the hypocrisy inherent in calling for integration while promoting segregation.

In their letter's lead sentence, the four HCBU presidents called for "eliminating the vestiges of segregation and enhancing [black] educational institutions..."

The four HBCU presidents opposed and supported segregation in the same sentence.

As to Thernstrom: Although you'd be hard-pressed to tell from the college presidents' and DarkStar's attack on her views, she expressed support for the continuation of historically-black institutions. Her essay concludes:
"[Historically-black colleges and universities] do seem to meet a real need, serving their students well in important respects. In a free society, many private and public institutions will have a distinctive profile. Group clustering is not necessarily unhealthy; indeed, it's an inescapable feature of a multiethnic nation. No one worries that there are 'too many' Jews at Yeshiva and Brandeis, 'too many' Catholics at Notre Dame and Holy Cross, 'too many' Mormons at Brigham Young. And so it should be with Howard, Fisk and Mississippi Valley State. That's what democratic pluralism means."
Hardly a call for the "closing down" of HBCUs, as DarkStar alleges.

4) The college presidents and DarkStar attacked Abigail Thernstrom, yet Abigail Thernstrom's essay was jointly written with her husband, Stephan Thernstrom. Isn't the man's input as worthy of note as the female's?

Possibly this anti-male inequity could be addressed by establishing and supporting all-male universities...

...or perhaps it is that kind of thinking that got all this higher education inequity started in the first place.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:13 PM

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