How Will HBCUs Look if Talladega Performs in Donald Trump’s Inaugural Parade?

Two years ago, Talladega College’s Marching Tornado Band made headlines for its first invitation to the annual Honda Battle of the Bands…

Two years ago, Talladega College’s Marching Tornado Band made headlines for its first invitation to the annual Honda Battle of the Bands competition. Today, the band is drawing criticism for apparently accepting an invitation to perform in the January inaugural parade for President-elect Donald Trump.

The university’s website doesn’t provide a release or statement on the invitation, but if true, it represents the latest tough spot that the impending Trump era has placed on the nation, and specifically on black people and black institutions.

Before 2016, an HBCU receiving and accepting an invitation to perform in the inaugural parade was a no-brainer; a door flung open to massive gains in media coverage, philanthropy and alumni outreach. Regardless of the politics or the controversies surrounding an election or its winner, HBCUs have never had difficulty separating the person and the politics from the position on opportunities like this one.

Trump has changed all of that. The person is viewed as the embodiment of white privilege in its vilest forms; racism, sexism, elitism and narcissism. The politics are those of disillusion; a notion that America is made greatest by discrimination, incivility and fear of its inevitable browning.

And because of these things, the position is unworthy of honor. Except Trump will be president regardless of if honor is earned or withheld. This puts HBCUs and the people they serve in the ultimate trick bag; do we participate in the era of Trump and work for alliance in an age of antagonism, or withdraw and brace for the impact of ignorance?

Talladega seemingly is at the center of how complex this decision can be. The Marching Tornadoes can participate and draw the scorn of black folks who surmise that performing for Trump is more disgrace than distinction.

Decline the invitation, and potentially miss the benefits other HBCUs have enjoyed under far less-controversial figures.

Shaw University President Tashni-Ann Dubroy recently addressed the potential of forging bipartisan partnerships in benefit of HBCUs, and how they could help to make communities stronger and richer.

“…we believe we are in a prime position to walk down the middle of political aisles and to effectively make the case as a bridging institution of common interests between uncommon partners. We’ve garnered support from leftists, rightists and centrists, and we remain open to conversations and ideas that focus on helping Shaw University to accomplish its mission. This is the way in which will develop a culture, not of friends and enemies, but of common interests and uncommon alliances to support America’s growth.”

Making money has a funny way of helping people and ideas to meet in the middle. But on the issues centered around patriotism, culture and racial pride, are we better served or worse off if one of our bands performs for the man whose most prolific take on race in America was this?

How will Talladega and black colleges at large be viewed by America at large at Trump’s inauguration? In a perfect world, this is how they would look to black and white folks, liberals and conservatives and everyone in between.

But in the age of Trump, there is a concern among many black folks that an eagerness for partnership makes us look like this.

There’s a sense that being willing to align symbols and sounds of black culture with the nation’s new political movement makes us sound like this.

If that sounds like it’s a lot of pressure or an extreme view of Talladega’s trip to D.C., that’s an understatement; it is the kind of social pressure cooker that has steamed our existence for far too long. That pressure which works to discourage diversity in black political ideology in one direction, and inspires self-hatred in another doesn’t make the decision easy or legitimate in either direction.

It only serves to divide us, and to inspire more questions than answers. But more than anything, we all can agree that we don’t want, and the Tornadoes don’t deserve to wind up on a commentary video like this one.