Last night, I penned an article attempting to make a case for the HBCU community to harness its resources against the whims of people and systems who can change our fortunes as easily as they can change their minds. The two subjects in the effort to make the case were two of the more noticeable white women with an impact on the HBCU community, researcher Marybeth Gasman and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
The goal was to examine what real power looks like in the form of instant, transformational outcomes as desired and granted by a single person. I wanted to advocate for the HBCU community cultivating similar wealth and expertise, without being at the mercy of folks who may know us well, but who don’t know us best.
Gasman and Scott are not the same, but they are in the same lane driving through our communities as curious tourists and looking out into our neighborhoods to find areas for potential and growth.
The biggest difference between them is glaring, and one I should’ve made more clear, particularly as this morning, advocates and defenders of the HBCU culture have specifically reached out to ask “what did you mean? What were you trying to say? Are you now praising someone who has caused us so much harm?”
So let me be very clear. Scott is someone who I believe means HBCUs well in that she wants to ally with our institutions receiving some form of public or private goodwill and reversing the trend of the institutions being ignored for the same. When so many have it to give and never think of HBCUs, she and her team did the opposite and will continue to do so.
Gasman, on the other hand, does not mean us well. In fact, she means us harm.
Gasman is an alleged sexual predator. She is an opportunist. She is a politician of the worst variety, one who doesn’t avail herself to the crucible of elections or who even ventures to comment on politics that are harmful towards HBCUs in the public eye. She is one who strategically targets sections of the HBCU body politic to wield influence over institutions, careers, and administration.
She doesn’t do it for the sake of HBCU improvement as much as she does for the sake of redefining white shareholding in Black affairs; that 21st-century white proximity isn’t best expressed through control but in access.
She gets access to relationships with foundations with millions of dollars at stake by presenting to them a universe of HBCU operational and cultural disadvantage within the petri dish of research emphasis, with the promise that a little bit of white influence and a lot of white money can make the world a better place.
She gets paid, HBCUs get paid. She gets famous and HBCUs get mentioned. Hundreds of Black people dedicated to scholarship and teaching in this sector have endowed her real estate by researching under her name and institutional imprint. She has scores of publications and research to her name while many who labor under her still long for even a portion of what she has amassed in wealth, influence, and research resources.
Scott gave HBCUs more money than they’ve ever received in history and got out of the way. She’s never granted an interview, never been on TV to gloat about her support, never asked for tickets to a game or for a building to be named after her. Gasman opens the door for HBCUs to finally collect on what they’ve earned over generations and is addicted to the celebrity of being a white spokesperson on behalf of Black people and institutions.
She is just like Trump doing “more for the Blacks than anyone.” She is just like the police officers who believe that law and order in Black communities are best expressed when criminals, real or perceived, are slain in the streets as a casualty of civility lost. She’s just like them, except she masters a more liberal presentation of how a little bit of white sensibility cures everything that’s missing from Black autonomy.
If you’ve read the Digest for an extended period, you’d notice that I take great pride in being able to write on HBCU issues without using the word “I” because it has never been about what I think, but how effective I could be in communicating the needs and values of a sector of 100 institutions and hundreds of thousands of Black people. It is a very serious job with serious implications every time I write.
I should’ve made my position much clearer. I didn’t and it was a grave error to have missed so poorly on such an important topic in our community. In 11 years of trying to speak for the culture, I’ve never shied away from speaking to certain truths inside or outside of our communities.
I got another text today from an HBCU president. It ended with:
“We have found the enemy, and he is us.”
And maybe that’s where it should all end.
— Jarrett Carter Sr., Founding Editor