Tag Archives: Betsy Devos

Bravo Bethune-Cookman Graduates: Why Black America Must Acknowledge the Protest of Betsy Devos’ Commencement Address

I must be honest and say that I realize that the disapproving gaze that I cast upon this latest generation of African-American collegians is closely tied to my getting older and hopefully a bit wiser. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the path to black liberation clearer than I did a decade ago.

Unfortunately for my sanity, it is experience gained through an often emotionally difficult trial-and-error process that has endowed me with this pristine view of American racial matters and an accessible path to “the liberation and salvation of the black nation.” Predictably, the latest cadre of African-American collegians who have not traveled this path has a much cloudier and less focused view of the issues and maladies facing our community. I feel comfortable in saying that this unfortunate reality of our students not “getting it” is the bane of more than a few African-American professors existence. The recent events at the venerable Bethune-Cookman University have once again caused me to pause my often harsh criticism of this latest generation of African-American collegians.

In case you missed it, for some inexplicable reason Bethune-Cookman University President Edison Jackson provided U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos the esteemed honor of delivering the 2017 commencement address. To President Jackson’s horror, the graduating seniors, buoyed by a wide-array of alumni who disapproved of DeVos’ selection as commencement speaker, not only shouted “Liar!” toward the Secretary of Education but also stood and turned their backs as she delivered her address.

As a frequent critic of young black collegians, I must publicly state that I have never been prouder of our young people than at this moment. Via their beautifully timed public protest, the recent graduates of Bethune-Cookman University have displayed courage not seen within the African-American Freedom Struggle since Angela Davis battled the state of California or Assata Shakur escaped the clutches of America and found refuge in Cuba. I pray that the courage to “speak truth to power” regardless of the setting displayed by the Bethune-Cookman graduates becomes the latest “trend” among African-American collegians.

So I take this moment to publicly applaud you for your political astuteness and courage to send a resounding message regarding what is not permissible in our centers of higher education. I now hope that more will follow your lead.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

THE MISAPPROPRIATION OF THOUGHT: WHY SECRETARY OF EDUCATION OF BETSY DEVOS STOLE LBJ’S SPEECH AND WHY IT SHOULD MATTER TO THE ENTIRE NATION

I consider it a blessing that Hip-Hop Culture significantly impacted my values and priorities. It is impossible for me to count the ways that Hip-Hop Culture, particularly the musical wing, Rap Music, has influenced my life.

Even recent converts to Hip-Hop culture recognize that one of the most important aspects of Rap Music is the art of emceeing. Trust me when I say, although the Deejay may have been the original star of Rap Music, the man or woman holding the mic would soon surpass them.

Make no mistake about it, more than a few fights occurred over a disagreement regarding which emcee had better “flow” or “lyrical content.”  For my generation, such matters were so important that they possessed the potential to pivot African-American youth culture in an instant. Although there was an unconscionable amount of diversity found within Hip-Hop Culture, there was a point of consensus that all agreed on. That being, immediate dismissal was due to any “biting” emcee. A “biting” emcee was one who was caught stealing the words, thoughts, and ideas of another emcee. If Melania Trump were an emcee, she would have been swiftly excused as a result of her theft of significant slices of Michelle Obama’s speech. Such behavior was considered a crime worthy of execution.

For those of us who have spent a lifetime listening to rap lyrics, it was not difficult for us to discern if words, thoughts, or ideas were stolen from another emcee as it fostered a feeling of déjà vu within our souls. It was this very feeling that I felt after reading the statement from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos after her “listening session” with the Leadership of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Although the alluded to statement is unbelievable fertile soil for criticism, I will focus solely on the passage that raised feelings of déjà vu.

A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.

There was something eerily familiar to this thought pattern that reverted my mind back to my book Creating Revolution as they Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Put simply; I heard this thought before. After a few short moments of pondering, it dawned upon me that Betsy DeVos or some underling working in the Department of Education had reverted 50 years and stolen the ideas and spirit of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s June 4, 1965, Howard University commencement address.

Although many lauded the initial passages of Johnson’s address to an attentive audience of graduating HBCU students and their families that

“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.”

There is no doubt that the more important aspect of the address occurs moments after the Texan’s progressive thoughts. It is at that moment that President Johnson slyly situates responsibility for racial improvement squarely on the shoulders of American blacks. According to LBJ,

“Equal opportunity is essential, but not enough. … Ability is stretched or stunted by the family you live with, and the neighborhoods you live in, by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the infant, the child, and the man. . . . Overt job discrimination is only one of the important hurdles which must be overcome before color can disappear as a determining factor in the lives and fortunes of men . . . The extent to which an individual is able to develop his aptitudes will largely depend upon the circumstances present in the family within which he grows up and the opportunities which he encounters at school and in the larger community.” 

Although I am not surprised that the Trump administration has decided to mimic LBJ’s position that the problems facing the black community are due to structural problems within Black America, I am woefully disappointed in a cadre of HBCU leaders who paraded into the White House for what amounts to little more than a photo opportunity for the Trump Administration without making a demand for a larger share of Federal dollars for their financially strapped institutions. More troubling than this failure is the reality that while the cameras were flashing, Secretary DeVos was pinning a communication that if read closely and situated within its proper historical context was a slap in the face for not only Black America but also every black educator. Considering black leaders continuing pattern to refuse to “call a spade, a spade,” I will translate the communication for them. “The onus is upon Black America to solve their problems, please stop looking for any additional money from the Federal government and direct all of your attention toward correcting the foundation of your house.” A damning message no doubt, but one that actually would prove beneficial to Black America in the end as no one is coming to save us and it is time that our leadership understands that fact.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

WHY WE MUST IMMEDIATELY SHUT DOWN THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE: TRUMP AND HIS ENTIRE CABINET DESPERATELY NEED IT

Dr. Anthony Quinn, also affectionately known as Tony, is undoubtedly one of my closest friends in the entire world. And I will tell you, if there was a poster child for what a man, regardless of Race, should be for his family, he is the gold standard. I consider him the Barack Obama of black fatherhood. Considering his past history, I was most certainly not surprised to hear that he had already purchased tickets to visit the National Museum of African-American History and Culture a full 8 months prior to a planned trip to Washington D.C. He is quite simply that type of fellow, a homey-type of responsible Negro.

So I hope that you can understand that the following request regarding the National Museum of African-American History and Culture has little to do with Tony and everything to do with the safety of the nation. Although I am most certainly not against the Quinn family visiting this historic museum, I am hoping that they and the droves of others who are planning a visit will give great consideration to my request that they delay their visit for at least a full calendar year as the museum needs to be closed to the public for at least that amount of time.

Tony, I love you, however, I hope that you can understand that it is imperative that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture be closed to the public for at least the next year because I am certain that it will take that long to educate the entire Trump administration about the contributions that African-Americans have made to this nation.

I am calling for the use of an American Christian tradition called the “lock-in.” A “lock-in” is when Christians are locked into the church for at least one night so that they can be immersed in the Gospel; the “lock-in” is most certainly beneficial to backsliding Christians.

It is time that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture be put to good use by “locking-in” newly elected President Donald Trump and his entire cabinet. I ask for one thing in association to this “lock-in.” Whoever is entrusted with locking America’s new President inside of the building, I hope that they place the chain outside of the entrance doors to ensure that any attempt to escape much-needed knowledge is aborted. Considering the cast of characters that we are seeking to educate, I think that it is necessary that we not only chain the doors but also have the Fruit of Islam circle the building as an extra security measure to prevent anyone from escaping this much needed educational experience; only the Lord knows the lengths that Trump and his roving band of imbeciles will go to escape enlightenment.

Now I am certain that there are a few of you who consider such actions a waste of taxpayer money. However, I would remind them of the cost of having the nation directed by an ignorant Commander in Chief. Trust me when I say that monetary costs should be the least of our concerns as we are all in peril with Trump and his band of nitwits making crucial decisions that they have little understanding of.

I am quite certain that you are well aware of Trump’s Black History Month gaffe that led him to speak about the venerable Black Abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the present tense as if he were still alive; the Commander in Chief was oblivious to the fact that Douglass died over a century ago in 1895. More recently, the latest addition to Trump’s roving band of idiots, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took to twitter to share words of wisdom by William Edward Burghardt DuBois, the greatest intellectual the American academy has ever created. The Department of Education twitter account shared the following words by the Harvard Intellectual,

“Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life.”

(W.E.B. DeBose)

Yes, you are reading that correctly, they misspelled DuBois’ name. And just when you thought that things could not get any worse for the U.S. Department of Education, they issued the following correction.

Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo. — US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017

Unbelievably, during their attempt to issue a correction for a misspelling gaffe involving W.E.B. DuBois, they misspelled apologies with ‘apologizes.’ What a scary world we are living in at this present moment as we are being governed by a President who has no idea that Frederick Douglass died over a century ago and a Secretary of Education who has similar weakness in African-American history that are dwarfed by an inability to either spell or monitor those who are speaking for the government agency she now heads.

On second thought, maybe we should push the pause button on locking Trump and his cabinet inside of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. It appears that we may need to start their enlightenment at a local elementary school, preferably a public school so that Secretary DeVos can add such experience to her barren qualification sheet, which will give them a solid footing in the basics. At least it is a start. And as with all Herculean efforts, we must start somewhere.

May God bless America because she and her citizenry most certainly need it.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2017.

Unqualified and Inexperienced: Why Betsy Devos’ Nomination Must Be Blocked

I remember the statement very well for one simple reason; it made so much sense to me. The alluded to statement came from a gentleman who painstakingly explained to me that he considered himself neither Republican nor Democrat. Instead, he preferred to “look at the issue for myself, evaluate how it will impact my loved one’s, and then make an educated decision based upon my priorities. Anyone who is voting along party lines is often working against their best interests.”

I have noticed that the older I get, the less likely I am to experience moments when logic converges with common sense. I partially attribute this fact to my increasing understanding of political matters. However, I also believe that the rise of illogical individuals who often work against their own interests can also be partially attributed to a decline in the American educational system.

Unfortunately for  American schoolchildren, a partisan fight between the Republicans and Democrats regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos has placed their access to a quality education in further peril.

In a classic case of what more could go wrong with American education, the future of U.S. schoolchildren is close to being placed in the hands of Betsy DeVos, a person that persons on both sides of the political aisle agree lacks any of the necessary qualifications to become the Secretary of Education beyond being a billion-dollar donor for the Republican Party. There is no other explanation for the nomination of this candidate other than the fact that she has proven willing to reach into her

There is no other explanation for this candidate’s nomination than the fact that she has routinely reached into her deep pockets to aid the Republican Party. One would think that a person nominated to lead the Department of Education would possess some form of education experience. Frighteningly, DeVos has never taught a class, run a school as a administrator, or even led a PTA club. The alluded to lack of experience was prominently displayed during a recent hearing that not only displayed her lack of understanding regarding all things education, but also devolved to a point that her Republican supporters shut the much needed debate that highlighted for the nation her lack of knowledge regarding all things education and set the stage for a quick vote.

One would think that a person nominated to lead the Department of Education would have some form of prior experience with the American educational system. Frighteningly, DeVos has never taught a class, run a school as an administrator, or even led a PTA club. Devos’ lack of experience was prominently displayed during a recent hearing that not only displayed her lack of understanding regarding all things education but also devolved to a point that her Republican supporters shut the much-needed debate down and therefore set the stage for a vote regarding her nomination.

It is frightening to see so many politicians allowing financial campaign contributions to shape their perspective on a matter as important as education. At this moment, it is crucial that American voters, regardless of their political leanings, send a definitive message to their elected officials that when important matters such as the education of American schoolchildren arise that partisanship must be muted. Failure to take such a logical step not only marginalizes American schoolchildren in the present, but also handcuffs the nation’s economic future.

It is with the best interests of our children in mind that we must do all that we can to urge elected officials to display their concern for American schoolchildren and deny Betsy DeVos this crucial position.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.