I am very proud of Mr. Butler, the Missouri Tigers Football team 2015 and the students and faculty who persistence has resulted in a change from the top that now must be managed by a movement from the bottom up. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. My parents attended the only institution of higher learning that was meaningfully available to them: Stowe Teacher’s College operated by the St. Louis Public School system. They took their Master’s degrees from Washington University.
What I learned from my parents was that they had no real choices beyond the HSBCU that was literally in their neighborhood. There was a desire on my mother’s part for my youngest sister to attend Howard, but it was an unrealistic wish: my parents had after all raised their children in a multi-racial environment and as for schooling, well I did not attend a majority black school after I was in fourth grade.
There is a place for HSBCUs in the same way that there will almost always be a place for Catholic colleges and universities and other institutions of higher learning that are expressly affiliated with various religious denominations. On the other hand, the lack of the presence of Black and other racial minority students in public institutions, particularly when compared to the numbers of racial minorities trapped in the criminal justice system, is simply appalling. What is lost in the rhetoric and the emotion is the fact that no child gets into college without a great deal of planning and support from the child’s family and the child’s community and for many children it may only be the community to support and sustain a child’s dreams of completing a four year college degree. One process is the AVID program which started with high school students but in various iterations works with elementary school children who do not have a parent who has attended college to build the dream of higher education within not simply communities of color, but communities generally where higher education is viewed as out of reach or for someone else.
My sense is that the next head of the University of Missouri system will have a mandate to do two things: create an open and welcoming community on campus and take the campus to the communities where higher education is desperately needed. In other words, there is a reason that I and two other children whose mothers attended Stowe Teachers’ College are graduates of the University of California at Berkeley. Our parents felt that they had to do better for their children and that meant making it possible for them to go somewhere else.