Unintended Consequences

As far as I know, only one black school’s students marched to protest the closing of their school for integration of public schools. During the days of public schools being integrated because of the Brown v. Board decision by the Supreme Court, black schools were closed, and their students were required to move to the previous white schools. Black communities across the country, and especially the south, lost a valuable institution, as the building (deemed inferior by the white board of education) was closed and with its students its teachers and leaders were scatted across the land for integration. But students in Walnut Cove, NC marched to keep their school opened, even if it were poorer than the white school.

On September 12, 1970, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), like so many local black schools during the 1960’s, lost its valuable assets when the all-white football team of the University of Alabama got whipped by a University of Southern California team led by Jimmy Jones, Sam Cunningham, and Clarence Davis, three star and black football players. The south’s football, and later basketball, college programs realized the need to recruit black players. The drain of black talent was on—and it made revenue of  $1.1 billion for the NCAA in 2017.

These words are engendered by an article in the October 2019 issue of The Atlantic by Jemele Hill. Why Black Athletes Should Leave White Colleges argues the case for historically black colleges and universities that if star athletes, who earn that billion dollars for white schools, would enroll at such schools as Grambling, Shaw, J.C. Smith then they would  earn much needed money for the struggling historically black colleges and universities. However, Hill explains that star athletes such as Kayvon Thibodeaux choose such schools as the University of Oregon over Florida A&M University because, as Thibodeaux is quoted , “Nobody wants to eat McDonald’s when you [sic] can eat filet mignon.” The comparisons between HBCU colleges is stark. Hill writes that the “Entire endowment of North Carolina A&T is worth barely as much as Clemson’s football campus.” Besides stating the obvious, Hill’s quotation reveals more about major college use of young black men. For instance, why does Clemson have a football campus? To make money, to be competitive in the Power Five athletic conferences. And the young black men sign on at such schools as Clemson (94 % white) to eat filet, not hamburger.

But like the Walnut Cove school, HBCU’s produce a valued product. To quote Hill: “Despite constituting only 3 percent of four-year colleges in the country, HBCUs have produced 80 percent of black judges, 50 percent of the black  lawyers, 50 percent of the black doctors, 40 percent of the black engineers, 40 percent of the  black members of Congress, and 13 percent of the black CEOs in America today.”

Should a rising star athlete go to a college with sub-par facilities or one that serves as a possible springboard to an NFL or NBA signing bonus? Thibodeaux answers for us. But, if he and others can’t bring themselves to attend Grambling State and ride a bus to away games but attend Clemson and play THERE in front of fawning, white fans, then at least give a large portion of that signing bonus to Morehouse, Shaw, or some  other HBCU. They had a great deal of forming the world you benefit from. You owe it to them, whether you are aware of that fact or not.

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