More than 200 black faculty members — including several from Atlanta-area colleges — have signed an open letter of support to the graduates of Bethune-Cookman University after the grads booed commencement speaker Betsy DeVos.
“The world watched you protest the speaker you never should have had. We cheered as we saw so many of you refuse to acquiesce in the face of threats and calls for complicity. Your actions fit within a long tradition of black people fighting back against those who attack our institutions and our very lives with their anti-Black policies and Anglo-normative practices,” said the letter, which initially was published on a blog site.
“Betsy DeVos’ commitment to dismantling public education and her egregious framing of historically black colleges and universities as ‘pioneers’ in school choice are just two examples of why she should never have been invited to speak at an event celebrating black excellence.”
Camika Royal, an assistant professor of urban education at Loyola University Maryland and one of three principal authors of the letter, said the message was clear that the students needed support.
“As a graduate of an HBCU, I know how important an education is for an individual, as well as a community,” Royal said. “So, to look at these Bethune-Cookman students have that moment taken away from them and see Betsy DeVos be held up as a speaker, was a slap in the face to them and their families.”
DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education, was a controversial decision to begin with. Critics of the school’s decision to invite her point back to a February statement in which DeVos referred to black colleges as “pioneers of school choice,” asserting that the schools “started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education.”
The remark seemed to ignore the fact that black colleges – like Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta – were direct responses to slavery and Jim Crow when blacks had fewer educational options.
SOURCE: Ernie Suggs