Discussions around the relevancy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities pop up a few times a year. This idealistic notion of a post-racial America has people on the right and left questioning any organization based on race. Therefore, when I stumbled on “Black College Graduates Face Bumpy Roads” over on American Renaissance, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised. The article was originally published in USA Today, following President Obama’s first commencement speech at an HBCU- Hampton University. As the title suggests it concisely raises awareness that black college graduates with a BA earn less than white graduates with an Associate’s degree. DeWayne Wickham writes:

But the ugly truth is that the road to success that the degree they’ve earned was supposed to open up is littered with potholes that their education alone cannot overcome. This year, blacks who have earned a bachelor’s degree and higher have a higher unemployment rate than whites who have only obtained a two-year college degree. And blacks with college degrees earn substantially less than white college graduates.

In 2008, the mean annual income of blacks with a four-year degree was more than $13,000 less than that of whites with the same level of education. And blacks who had a master’s earned about $1,500 a year less than whites with a bachelor’s degree.

The disparaging salaries between blacks and whites did not alarm me. Just like it doesn’t surprise me that unemployment, especially when you count underemployment, is much higher for blacks than any other group of people according to Economic Policy Institute.

However, what was an eye-opener were the comments on the American Renaissance site. And the comments on USA Today were equally as bad. Unfortunately, this is what black graduates are up against, especially if you graduated from a “third-rate doofus HBCU.”

*Their typos have not been edited.

Commenters went on an all out tirade questioning the intellect of educated blacks.

My organization has hired many blacks with BAs and the fact is they cannot write, they cannot speak and they cannot reason. A Bachelor’s degree is worth less than a 1955 high school diploma. The way they fill out the job application tells you just how awful they will be as employees.

Say, could it be that those “historically black colleges” (where are the historically White colleges?) don’t have the highest academic standards in the world?… And this little historical tidbit is relevant to the rest of the article…how? Oh, I’ve got it! To make sure all the White lemmings out there understand that it’s Oppression, Racism and the Legacy of Slavery (c) that’re keeping the black man down. It’s never the fault of blacks themselves.

In my experience, the majority of blacks in college (with whom I graduated) make no attempt to alter their dress and speech patterns to conform with the mainstream white collar society they ostensibly seek to enter with their degree. Dressing sensibly and speaking coherently would be “akkin white.”

Nobody wants to hire a black with an AA degree he can barely read. Come on! People know blacks DO NOT earn accreditation, but are given it as part of the plan to keep them from rioting. Having a degree but reading at an eighth grade level and doing math at a 6th grade level doesn’t impress masny[their typo, not mine] employers. They have been hiring them when times were good as a part of private AA policy, but the money isn’t there now. Next headline to cry over: “Blacks [another typo] are first to be laid off in corporations across country!

Many of us now are getting more than tired with excuse after excuse for black failure when it is really black inability.

This is just another one of those silly articles that pretends that a BA in black studies from a historically black college is somehow equivalent to a BA in electrical engineering from MIT. The truth is that the policy of extreme egalitarianism (“everybody should go to college!”) has resulted in many universities (not just historically black ones) dumbing down the curriculum to the point where a BA means less than a high school diploma did 50 years ago. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a BA in some soft subject is no guarantee of a high income.

In plain black and white it has been spelled out what some people think about a black person with a degree. One of the many nonsensical notions was that blacks are being given degrees due to fulfilling some type of affirmative action quota. How soon we forget the greats- Dr. Martin Luther King, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, W.E.B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, Toni Morrison, Debbie Allen, Julian Bond and a host of others- all graduated from HBCU’s.

As a graduate of both an HBCU and a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) I can attest to the different experiences at both. And one thing for certain is my education at my HBCU was not inferior to my education at a PWI.

Not only did I learn in an environment with professors who genuinely cultivated my passions, they also prepared me to deal with systematic institutions of racism. Further, every black professor I had held a PhD at my HBCU. In my graduate program I had white professors who only had a Bachelors or Masters. They were hired based on their “professional experience.”

It is evident by the comments that many white people don’t understand why there are black colleges in the first place. Apparently the ‘Historical’ in its title goes right over their heads. People are so ignorant they type these comments not realizing that all accredited state schools have the same curriculum regardless of if it’s a black or white institution. The comments also suggest that graduates of HBCU’s must have majored in Black Studies. Where do people come up with these flawed logics?

What really struck a nerve was the belief that black college graduates “cannot write, cannot speak and cannot reason.” Grammar, literacy and reading comprehension in general is an American issue, not a black one.We’ve all heard this before: “black people aren’t articulate.” I think many of us refuse to suppress our natural vernacular that may sound too “ethnic” for white folks liking. Let’s face it, “articulate” has come to mean sounding non-ethnic and pulling out your best GRE words even if you don’t know the meaning.

Sadly, the attitude of the commenters may the very thoughts of future employers and colleagues. The generalizations were about educated black people. So imagine what our brothers and sisters who aren’t formally educated are up against.

It becomes more apparent that the way integration manifested itself has been one of the worst things to hit our community. I’m not suggesting we were better off with “Coloreds Only” water fountains, but prior to integration black people had a sense of the collective community that is lacking now. Black people need to own their own companies, run their own black public schools, own banking institutions and spend money in all black businesses. All black everything! (Waits for the backlash for that statement).

In dealing with racism in AmeriKKKa not too much shocks me. But in reading these comments I remembered no matter what we obtain, despite our academic achievements, our ability to articulately express ourselves or no matter how successful we become, we will always be deemed inferior because of the color of our skin. Oprah learned this lesson at Hermes over in Paris.

Are HBCU’s producing less qualified blacks in comparison to PWI’s? Are these comments a reflection of a larger attitude in society or just an ignorant few?

Speak on it.

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  • Cal

    This is a very interesting article but leaves out many key points. Regardless of the education a person of color receives they will still have to apply it to a world that views them with contempt. In the corporate world a white person with a lesser degree and apptitude will usually get more pay and privilege. Why? Pay being a private matter usually results in whites getting more pay with less education and skills. To state that black college graduates are unable to write well or reason is silly. That is like saying every white college graduate is a scholar, as we know that is not true. The variance in pay and earning power is due to racial inequity more than anything else. Contrary to popular relief racism is still alive and well.

  • Stan Helsing

    To answer this question, one must consider many variables. Culture, socioeconomic status, availability to quality education, and DNA. It is clear that minorities have less access to quality education than do there white counterparts. Why, I feel that it relates directly back to culture. Minorities, and blacks specifically, have been indoctrinated by the media that they are supposed to be “true to their heritage” meaning being a “real” black person. So they turn to the definition of black that their culture and media tells them. As a result, many disregard education, embrace gang mentality, have numerous children to different women and summarily forget these same children, and turn to self pitying and entitlement. With respect to education, what good teacher would voluntarily teach at a crime ridden inner city school. As a result the education received there suffers. Then there is the question of genetics. There have been no “real studies” that the scientific community calls credible. That being said, who in their right mind would even attempt to do a study on this topic. They would be labeled a racist; and their career ruined. Until real science can study this question we will never definitively know the answer.

  • Sarah

    There is an all black community. With all black banks,businesses, its 90% black..its called Detroit. A prime example of what happens when blacks try and do it on their own.. Detroit,recently went bankrupt this year. I didn’t even know a city could go bankrupt. But thats what happens when it becomes all black.. So before you talk about how blacks need their own black banks,companies, businesses, ‘all black everything’, think of Detroit and how that turned out.lmao