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State of Emergency for Black Colleges

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“HBCUs have always been in a situation where a lot of them have had to struggle. A lot of that has to do with inequitable funding.” - Marybeth Gasman, University of Pennsylvania

(NNPA) Current financial problems facing the storied Grambling State University football program are a sign of funding inequities that are shortchanging students and threatening the very existence of a growing number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). On October 19th, in protest of severe budget cuts that have decimated the football facilities and led to the firing of Coach Doug Williams, the Grambling State Tigers players refused to take the 160 mile trip to Jackson, Mississippi for their scheduled matchup with Jackson State. The Grambling players’ boycott of the Jackson State homecoming game sent shockwaves through the Southwestern Athletic Conference and highlighted the dire financial status of many of our nation’s 105 HBCUs.

Draconian higher education budget cuts in Louisiana being pushed by Governor Bobby Jindal are a big part of the Grambling problem. According to the New York Times, state funding for Grambling is “down 56 percent since 2008. In response, the university has laid off more than 120 staff members and reduced the number of degree programs to 47 from 67.”

This has left the football program in shambles, with players forced to practice and play in unsafe and unsanitary facilities while sometimes enduring thousand-mile bus trips for away games. The Grambling football experience is unique, but it is also symptomatic of a larger problem that extends beyond the football field to the financial offices and classrooms of the institutions that have traditionally produced the lion’s share of African American professionals.

With lower endowments, cut-rate tuition fees, fund raising challenge and a disproportionate number of first-generation, low-income students, HBCUs have been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Recent cuts in government aid and other funding streams have been the last straw for several of them. St. Paul’s College in southern Virginia closed its doors in June. Atlanta’s Morris Brown College recently declared bankruptcy. And a board member at Howard University, considered by many to be the nation’s premier HBCU, recently wrote, “Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now.”

In addition to the financial strains on HBCUs, prospective students are finding it harder to scrape up the money to enroll. A recent change in credit history criteria in the federal Parent PLUS Loan Program has resulted in the denial of loans to 28,000 HBCU students and a loss of $154 million in revenue to HBCUs. Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Marcia L. Fudge has responded to this crisis by demanding a return to the previous credit policy. She says, “The issue must be addressed and the policy must be fixed now.”

The contributions of HBCUs cannot be overstated. While the 105 HBCU institutions represent just 3 percent of the nation’s higher education establishment, they graduate nearly 20 percent of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees. They also graduate more than 50 percent of African American professionals, half of Black public school teachers, and most of the African American students who earn bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields.

For decades HBCUs have been the backbone of a growing Black middle class and a stronger America. We must do everything we can to prevent their decline and keep them alive.

Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Still Reeling from the Tea Party's Party

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(NNPA) My barber shook his head as I sat down in his chair. He was deeply disturbed by the Tea Party shutdown of the government. Despite the fact that it was over, he was still unsettled. He told me about two tenants of a house that he owns who both work for the federal government. They could not pay their rent. He said to me: ”Mr. Fletcher, yes, they are now supposed to get the money that they lost…but what about the next time?”

What about the next time, indeed.

The Tea Party Republicans attempted to fly their planes into the ‘battleship’ of government, making the assumption that the ‘battleship’ would change course. That did not happen and the Tea Party Republicans lost badly. But their loss was political. For thousands of federal workers and contractors, the loss was very material.

Many more than you might think live paycheck to paycheck, and they were being squeezed more than they have in quite some time. Some of the local chapters of my own union – the American Federation of Government Employees – were providing food and gas-cards for workers so that they could simply report to work (if they had been declared “essential employees”) and survive. And during all of this, the Tea Party Republicans in Congress continued to collect their own paychecks.

The kamikaze run by the Tea Party Republicans seems to have backfired. People are furious with them. Whether that anger will last, and most importantly, whether it will last into the 2014 midterm elections, remains an open question. But for now many of them are serving as a doormat on which countless citizens are wiping their feet.

The Tea Party Republicans felt nothing about destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. They thought nothing of the ripple effect that a government shutdown would have, as in the case of my barber. Think about it. His tenants could not pay him. Well, if the shutdown had continued, he would not have been able to pay his mortgage and could have lost his house.

In the context of this travesty there will be many people who will throw their hands into the air in complete and total disgust. Such a response is quite understandable, but it is equally unacceptable. It is not enough to get disgusted. The brand of politics represented by the Tea Party crowd needs to be removed from the scene. This means that we cannot walk away from elections, but we need, instead, to walk to the polls and cast our votes thoughtfully and carefully. It is not a matter of ‘anyone but the Tea Party,’ as comforting as that may sound and feel. Rather, as we think about 2014 and beyond, we need to really develop candidates who speak on behalf of the common person. They not only must be dramatically different from the Tea Party, but such candidates must understand the plight of the bottom 90 percent of this country and the urgency to act in the interest of positive change.

If we have learned anything from the government shutdown it should be that governing is much too important to leave to the slicksters, demagogues, and those representing the rich and powerful.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. works for the American Federation of Government Employees, and is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Bullying Does Not Lead to Suicide

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By Raynard Jackson
NNPA Columnist

Hardly a week goes by when there is not a tragic story of a teenager committing suicide. Tragic as these deaths are, there is absolutely no causation between bullying and suicide. The media’s simplistic and sensational coverage of these teenage deaths are very problematic in this regard.

Suicide is never, let me repeat, suicide is never the result of one cause. Suicide is always the result of a culmination of events that triggers the deadly act; any one event could be the tips the scales.

Every kid is teased, picked on, or bullied growing up. I can guarantee that most people born in the 60s and 70s do not know anyone who committed suicide as a kid. So, why in today’s times, does it seem to be so prevalent?

The simple answer is that the media has taken tragic events, and then converged them with unrelated issues to create a dangerously sensational narrative that drives ratings, but are not based on facts.

Last month 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Winter Haven, Fla. jumped to her death from the top of an abandoned concrete plant. Two of her female classmates (12 and 14 years old) now face felony stalking charges in this case.

Journalists have tried to create a narrative that Sedwick’s classmates taunts was the cause of her killing herself. There has been no evidence linking one to the other. Journalists must be more responsible in dealing with sensitive issues like this.

I have not seen any stories that mentioned the fact that Sedwick had already tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists a year before. So, there were obviously some issues with her long before the problem with her classmates.

Earlier this year, the New York Daily News reported on the suicide of a girl who was said to have been bullied. “The devastated parents of Gabrielle Molina said the 12-year-old girl had been tormented by schoolyard bullies for months – and the abuse may be the reason she hanged herself in her Queens home.”

May be the reason? That’s pure speculation.

Clearly, abuse from her classmates was a component of a more complicated issue facing Gabrielle. The family tried to keep secret the fact that Gabrielle frequently cut herself as a form of self-mutilation. So, she had other issues unrelated to bullying.

Let’s put aside for a moment the convergence of complicated factors in these suicides; let’s put aside the simple narrative the media creates when writing about this tragic issue; and let’s talk about the one issue that no one wants to discuss.

Today we have people who are simply terrible parents. Part of it is not their fault. Parents today are the great grandchildren of feminism. The feminism of the late 60s, combined with the beginning of the destruction of the family unit has wreaked havoc on our society today.

As a part of this feminist philosophy, many women today proudly proclaim that they don’t need a man to help them raise “their” kids – as though they got pregnant by themselves. Many women today don’t connect the institution of marriage to having children. I have heard many women go so far as to say “what does marriage have to do with having kids?” I am not making this up.

This gutting and redefinition of the family unit is at the center of all the dysfunctionality we see in today’s society. Again, it’s the conflagration of these issues that create the pathologies we see today.

Men, especially Black men, have been so marginalized in the public square and on TV that I can’t blame women for not wanting to marry. Just look at the way we are portrayed on your favorite sitcoms today. We are caricatured as being stupid, incapable of having a stable relationship with a woman, and are constantly used for nothing more than being a sperm donor.

Like the issue of suicide itself, this lack of good parenting is also a complicated issue. Women have no constitutional right to have children and men have no constitutional right to impregnate women. But they both have moral imperatives to bring children into the world within the context of a stable family environment. Being a parent is not a right, it is a responsibility. And with more responsible parents, we are likely to see fewer suicides and other signs of dysfunction.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.

Washington Football Team Owner Changes Tactics, but not Decision

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(NNPA) After insisting that the Washington football team would not change its name, Daniel Snyder, the team’s owner, decided to get warm and fuzzy and send out a personal letter to fans. This, of course, a few days after President Obama entered the fray and raised serious questions as to why the “Washington Redskins” continued to use a name that many people find offensive.

The gist of Snyder’s argument was that the name has been with the team for a long time and many Native Americans do not find the term “redskin” offensive. Apparently recognizing that his arrogant approach to this debate was winning him few friends, he decided to change tactics and come across as an understanding individual who felt that the legacy of the team would be harmed by a name change.

So, let’s try it this way, Mr. Snyder. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the name is not intended to be offensive. Does that really matter? Even if it is the case that some (or even many) Native Americans do not find it offensive, I think that in using a ‘reasonable person standard’ most of us would agree that, at a minimum, the term is archaic and certainly not a compliment to the Native American people.

Names and terms change over periods of time. The term “Negro,” for instance, which was used during much of the 19th and 20th centuries, was perceived as offensive by many African Americans, and ceased to be used as the consciousness of people of African descent within the U.S. changed. Specifically, we discarded the term—except when used in very distinct historical contexts – as we sought to clarify our identity as Black and of African descent.

In this sense, whether the term “redskin” is intended to offend misses the point. Let us be clear: many Native Americans (and their allies) do find the term offensive. But the central point is that the term is not used today in any respect that is in the least bit heroic, positive or an endorsement of the legacy of the First Nations of the Western Hemisphere. That is all that we actually need to know to help us conclude that the time has arrived to change the name of the Washington football team and enter the 21st Century.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Republicans and the New 'White Flight'

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By Lee A. Daniels
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) Now that the GOP-manufactured economic crisis is over (for the several months, anyway), one might say the lesson for the Republican Party is best expressed by that old warning: Be careful what you wish for.

Driven by its reactionary Tea Party faction and the Right’s newest demagogue, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the GOP tried to use forcing a shutdown of the government and the debt-default threat to hijack the democratic process – to effectively repeal Obamacare and destroy the authority of the president.

However, wrapped in self-delusion, they misjudged President Obama and the Congressional Democrats – and, as the Republican Party’s sinking to record lows in many polls show, the American public – just as they did in the 2012 national election. Not for nothing did conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, watching the battle unfold, label them Congress’ “suicide caucus.”

The outrageous stunt has likely tilted the political calculus for both the 2014 midterm congressional elections and the 2016 presidential contest more in the Democrats’ favor. One has to believe that the Democratic Party get-out-the-vote strategists, who’ve performed so superbly in 2008 and 2012, are already figuring the best ways to make hay from the GOP’s missteps.

But one of several critical questions this astonishing episode of American history has cast into sharp relief is who’s going to win the political war that’s now broken into the open within the Republican Party between the Tea Party faction and its establishment wing represented by Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

True, a significant bloc of the party’s establishment elected officials and business supporters such as the U.S. Chamber of Congress took concerted steps last week as the shutdown and debt-ceiling deadlines loomed to muster enough votes of GOP Senators and Representatives to back down from the confrontation. And they have promised to work to rein in the Tea Party’s extremist influence on the party as a whole by financially backing mainstream-conservative candidates in the primaries.

Nonetheless, the GOP’s political terrain looks mountainous, for Tea Party activists and Congressional representatives are even more scathing toward establishment Republicans and vow not to back down from the next confrontation.

You can take them at their word because, despite its defeat in the Congress and battering in the polls, the fact is the Tea Party did force the GOP pragmatists to allow their radical scheme to shut down the United States government– throwing tens of thousands of government employees temporarily out of work, temporarily blocking millions of Americans from access to government services – and causing more than $20 billion in damage to the U.S. economy.

The outcome of the GOP civil war between the Tea Party ideologues and the establishment wing is important not just for the Republican Party but for the country as a whole.

That’s because the Tea Party represents the most significant backward political force the country has seen since the defeat in the 1960s of the racial segregationists of the Jim Crow South. Indeed, they’re the latter’s spiritual descendants: in today’s far more diverse society their intolerance spans the spectrum of any group that’s “different.”

That’s why, as the nation’s cities have become more and more diverse, with more and more Americans of different backgrounds gathering in the same living space, the living space of the conservative and extremely conservative Whites who are the base of the Republican Party and its Tea Party faction is just the opposite.

As Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker’s political correspondent, noted in a recent article, “Where the G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives,” the districts of many Republican members of Congress “actually became less diverse (his emphasis) in 2012.” These districts, predominantly exurban and rural, where whites constitutes at least 80 percent of the residents, “represent an America where the population is getting whiter … and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular.”

In other words, supporters of the GOP, and especially of the Tea Party are repeating in a slightly different way the “White flight” dynamic of the mid-20th century. Then, as more and more Southern Blacks migrated to the cities, more and more Whites fled their urban neighborhoods for lily-White suburban enclaves.

Today, the country’s demographic changes and Republicans’ deliberate Congressional-district gerrymandering have combined to effectively produce conservative Whites-only political “fortresses” that are, as the shutdown crisis showed, bastions of a voting bloc which values its “ideological purity” above the country’s political traditions and economic viability.

True, those kinds of voters have always existed in America. But it’s not a comforting thought to understand the last time such a group exercised significant political power was when the regime of Jim Crow ruled the South.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.

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