On Monday night, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a statement celebrating historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), as some 90 of their leaders are in Washington to meet with congressional Republicans and President Trump. DeVos started off by lauding HBCUs for helping "students to reach their full potential" ever since their founding. "They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education," she said. "They saw that the system wasn't working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution."
Then DeVos really doubled down on the self-serving euphemisms. "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." DeVos is a big proponent of "school choice," but of course HBCUs were founded because black students did not have any choices. The "system" she said "wasn't working" was segregation. As President George H.W. Bush said in 1991, in a quote you can find on the website of the Education Department, "At a time when many schools barred their doors to black Americans, these colleges offered the best, and often the only, opportunity for a higher education."
Many of the nation's more than 100 HBCUs, all founded before 1964, are success stories, but it doesn't honor them to downplay their origins or the structural and financial disadvantages they had to overcome. Especially when, according to an article linked to from Trump's official POTUS Twitter account, "Trump seeks to outdo Obama in backing black colleges."