The following article by Rebecca Klein was posted on the Huffington Post website February 28, 2017:
Her statement on the issue is offensive and inaccurate, scholars say.
Many historically black colleges and universities were formed in response to systemic discrimination that kept African-American students out of white institutions, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos thinks they are a great example of “school choice.”
After meeting with leaders of these institutions at the White House on Monday, DeVos released a statement that some leading academics, politicians and rights groups are calling an inaccurate and offensive retelling of history. In her statement, DeVos praised HBCU’s for providing opportunity to black students during a time when “there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education.”
“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,” says the statement from DeVos, published Tuesday. “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.”
In truth, many HBCU’s were formed as a matter of necessity when white supremacist structures systematically denied black students access to mainstream educational institutions, says University of Pennsylvania Professor Marybeth Gasman.
“I found the statement to be completely ahistorical,” said Gasman, who studies HBCUs. “It completely ignores slavery, it completely ignores Jim Crow, segregation, oppression, mass discrimination across the country, it ignores our entire history. It’s a whitewashing of HBCU history … African-Americans did not have a choice when black colleges were established ― that was the only thing they could do.”
On Twitter, many also questioned the validity of DeVos’ statement, including Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.):