I must tell you that one of the most enjoyable aspects of my professional life is that it provides opportunities to visit places and interact with people that I would most likely have never come across were I not a Professor. Let me be forthright and say that I absolutely love the alluded to opportunities as they provide me an opportunity to explore new places and hopefully learn something that I did not know when the day started.
I guess that you can say that even after earning four graduate degrees that I have been able to retain my intellectual curiosity. It is an aspect of my being that I pray that I never relinquish regardless of the circumstances.
I was recently gifted such an opportunity when an exciting project that I am heading called for me to make the trip to Waco, Texas, a location that I have always humorously mused was where blind Jesus appeared, of course, that is a humorous view of David Koresh, a glasses wearing figure who led a religious group in Waco by fashioning himself as Jesus Christ incarnate. I was called to Waco for a meeting on the Baylor University campus.
Anyone who knows me well realizes that everything that I do is not only by design, but also for some purpose. Realizing that not only did I not want to risk getting caught in traffic/construction, but also feeling the need to take an individual walking tour of the Baylor University campus, I planned to arrive in Waco at least two hours prior to my 9:00 meeting.
Fortunately the travel to Baylor University went as smoothly as possible and with the benefit of the students being on the break, I was able to secure a convenient parking space and begin my walking tour of what I soon would deem a breathtaking campus. Baylor University’s physical facilities are in a word, breathtaking. Now that I reflect upon it, the more appropriate term for Baylor University is, historic.
The use of the word ‘historic’ is most certainly no indicator of a negative such as decaying facilities, rather an unbridled applause that indicates the positive manner in which literally every space, and I do mean every space, is used to inform you about Baylor University; even the concrete has information about the school and its traditions etched into them. Baylor’s impressive display of both its historic origins and those figures/organizations that made a notable impact upon it caused me to reflect upon the storied history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
In a ‘politically correct’ climate that implicitly harkens institutions to conform in a host of ways that begin with curricular offerings, it should not be surprising when those who administrate HBCU’s seek to mimic predominantly white institutions and de-emphasize Race.
What those who administrate HBCU’s fail to realize in their haste to be ‘politically correct’ and accommodating for non-Blacks attending their institution is that the issue of Race has been, will be, and should be emphasized as an integral part of their story. Failure to honor racial matters as a primary reason that HBCU’s were created is to not only be false to the past, but also dooms these colleges and universities to be false to their future.
One of the most maddening aspects of HBCU’s attempt to erase racial matters from its past and present is that predominantly white institutions, to their credit, do not attempt to hide their sordid racial past and actually highlight the Black firsts that occurred at their institution. For example, while touring Baylor University, I found large photos of the first Black professor, the first African-American football and basketball player, respectively, on display.
It is a university’s honesty regarding its past that simultaneously informs its students of the rich legacy that they inherit by walking its sacred halls and provides them with crucial information that prods them toward becoming future contributors to this all important legacy as engaged alumni supporting the university community from whence they come in ways that include, but is in no way limited to, financial contributions. Hopefully, HBCU’s will make Race the very pivot that their creation and current existence emanates from, if for no other reason than that it is a crucial to not only the telling of their story, but also the uplift of the Race.
Lord knows that we need it.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016