ABC News reports:
Angry social media users flew into an uproar Monday evening after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a statement that some said ignored the context under which historically black universities were created.
The statement called historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” and came shortly after President Donald Trump held a meeting with several HBCU leaders on Monday.
Some social media users said DeVos ignored the history of how black Americans were denied access to higher education. Meanwhile, others said the statement applauded the segregated Jim Crow education system for giving black students “more options.” The hashtag “HBCUs” trended on Monday evening and was briefly the most-mentioned hashtag on the social networking platform.
More from Inside Higher Ed:
Most of the statement is innocuous. She praises black colleges. In perhaps a sign not to expect too much money from the Trump administration, she says, “[r]ather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.” And she notes that black colleges were created when “there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education.”
But DeVos goes on to link black colleges to the issue of school choice — a cause for which she is an advocate. “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” she said. “They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”
While that summarizes the school choice argument, social media lit up late Monday with supporters of black colleges noting that the institutions were founded because black students had, in many respects, no choice. They could not enroll at predominantly white institutions in the South, even public institutions in their own states. Further, as states created public historically black colleges, they did so to meet “separate but equal” requirements, and never took the equal part of that statement seriously.