Wendy Williams made it plain. She gave voice to a notion of assimilation that we, in one or some ways, have all bought into. She simply said that striving for peace and tolerance, regardless of how much culture or pride or autonomy we have to concede to get it, is the best way to be accepted in America.
We didn’t like it because she used HBCUs and the NAACP as an example of how we use the tactic of segregation to fit our agenda, but then criticize white America for using the same tactics.
No, she isn’t smart enough to understand that black organizations, like HBCUs and the NAACP, work to advance the common good of the race, and thereby the nation in which its members live, because her context for a stronger nation is not what’s good for one group, but what is good for all groups seeking harmony.
She’ll probably never make the connection that the organizations exist, because there never has been and never will be anything that closely resembles racial equality in our nation. Nothing in America’s history, or contemporary trends suggests the opportunity and freedom will be guaranteed for us as it is for so many others.
But because she has a platform, and because she’s made it to the top of the heap of celebrity gossip and daytime talk, the opportunity to masquerade ‘Black Survival’ as ‘Black Excellence’ again reared its ugly head.
And whether we like it or not, she does get to be an expert of sorts, because she is black.
But what Wendy Williams isn’t is just a mouthpiece who arbitrarily went off on the notion of black scholarship, advocacy and development spaces being anti-American and counterproductive to race relations.
She’s just stupid enough to translate for America the exact same thing black folks at large have been saying in our own quiet way for more than 50 years about black colleges, minus the massive outcry from the black community.
Do we criticize black athletes who won’t consider playing at our schools? Do we criticize our children, of whom only two out of every ten attend an HBCU?
Do we criticize ourselves as graduates when we don’t give back, come back, or reach back for young people coming out of our colleges?
Do we criticize black faculty who refuse to teach at HBCUs because the wages are low and the work output is high?
Do we criticize black elected officials in Washington D.C. and throughout the country who feign love for black colleges, but refuse to write legislation protecting them from drastic budget cuts, changes in governance, or to encourage enrollment?
Do we criticize black HBCU board members who idly allow political machinations to select presidents, determine academic programs and marginalize HBCU missions?
Do we criticize black media for refusing to regularly cover HBCU issues?
Do we criticize black clergy who have allowed too many private HBCUs to fall into inoperable disrepair and closure?
Did we criticize the first black president of the United States who has done more to harm HBCUs than any president preceding him?
If we can criticize Wendy Williams for questioning the value of black colleges, then we should be fully active in criticizing every person who actively works to diminish the value of black colleges in conscious or unconscious ways.
The answers don’t lie in the work of a few Twitter Hoteps or some HBCU alumni chapters, or even this site committed to covering HBCU news. They lie in what we actually do, as a people, to advance the common good of the race.
In higher education, that means all black folks supporting all HBCUs at all costs and in all ways.
Wendy Williams was talking about assimilation. But that’s all she was doing. We’ve been living assimilation out for years.
And because no one dragged us through the Internet for our negligence, maybe we should avoid dragging her without the proper context on our own failings.