The highest stage of oppression is when your own people, who speak in the name of pride and empowerment, shoot you down for trying to liberate yourself. It can be very confusing, even totalitarian. That is what HBCU Digest (see JL Carter’s recent article “Howard University’s Resist and Rhianna Just Made Howard Financial Issues Much Worse”) has done by attacking Howard University student protesters from last spring, blaming them for the corruption at their school and the now heightened cash monitoring under the federal government. To overcome grave crime among your people requires a special gathering of yourself out of disappointment and sometimes a break with past ideas you may have shared with those who betray. To be clear, the black-on-black crime here is being carried out by the Black misleadership class - in this case, Black college administrators and so-called independent Black journalists.
Totalitarianism is a word that was used during the Cold War to undermine idealism that a new society was possible. Instead, we were told communism and fascism were kindred spirits. While one party states may be oppressive similarly, the fight against racism and the empire of capital by working people is not the same as a regime that serves white supremacy and seeks to be the bodyguard of capital. Those who identify with HBCUs as a fledgling collective project or “Black Nation” should keep this in mind.
The Russian Revolution was a workers’ revolution. But at a certain point, in the name of the workers, the government above society shot down the workers who independently organized themselves. This must have been shocking to ordinary people. The Chinese Revolution encouraged ordinary people to bloom like 100 flowers. When they bloomed against the state, termed the “People’s Republic,” they were shot.
Imagine the pain they felt when those who spoke in the name of the people repressed them. The Black Power movement, was to a great extent, a revolt against white police. But when Black mayors and police chiefs came to power they kept shooting Black people down, and this has been very disorienting except for the most advanced Black radical thinkers. All of this is true independent of the crimes of white imperialism.
Some people want to reform prisons, police, and schools. But though many will speak against institutional racism, far fewer seem to believe there is actually something permanently wrong with these or other institutions. This suits those for whom equal opportunity means find their places in the hierarchy. Such Black people, especially in the post-civil rights era, have to both criticize and apologize for white supremacy. Take a closer look at JL “Booker T” Carter and HBCU Digest. They are not our kind of people but these kind of people.
The fact is that HBCUs, the subject of much experimental discussions about Black autonomy, were never created as a product of a social revolution in Black self-reliance. Black middle and professional classes who preside over dependent Black community institutions have to pretend that they maintain some type of liberation program for their people. They cannot do it, they’re not permitted to do it, they don’t have the character to even want to do it. So they pretend to be black and prideful-- it is part of totalitarianism. Is black the experience of the gaze of oppression on all Black people or an ethic by only certain people that fight it? Black students attend Black colleges to identify with and affirm themselves, and yet there is something wrong there. But it is difficult to pinpoint what it is. Those who oppress speak in the name of pride, and Black people’s historical development.
HBCUs were created by white wealthy Northern industrialists and some sympathetic Southern white elites for their own reasons, including to disorient and divide the Black community by spreading capitalist ideals among those who owned no land and capital. They wished to create a social class that would apologize for the repression of Black sharecroppers, Black toilers and Black household domestics mobilizing for mass democratic power. HBCUs were historically founded to destroy the popular revolt for Black self-reliance.
Now many aspiring Black capitalists preside over HBCUs like they are the Black community’s dependent capital. Not surprisingly, they are threatened by Black labor and Black students where they don’t maintain a servile attitude toward a retrograde conception of Black empowerment.
HBCU Digest generally, and the writings of JL Carter, are classical examples of the Black political class spreading propaganda to manipulate the meaning of Black pride and self-reliance so HBCU students will identify with the undemocratic, dependent, and authoritarian regimes above them as models for “black power” that they too might someday preside. Like student governments, where college presidents observe them like children in the sandbox and smile while they make sand castles in a pit that is demarcated off from reality, HBCU Digest watches over Black students hoping they will never leave their play spaces. When Black students figure out what is going on, they have to be scolded. They have to be told: “see how you have inadvertently put yourself in a role as part of the white man’s plans to undermine our independent Black institutions.” What skullduggery! What treachery! Treason is not the monopoly of the white race.
J.L. Carter is an agent of subordinate Black capital sponsored by much larger white capital that hopes HBCUs never produce a political and economic education for Black students except “think and grow rich – a Black choice.” The choice for Negroes, with little or not capital, is whether you will be the spook that sits by the white man’s door or not, waiting for fatback and biscuits, while pretending to critique his institutions.
The real struggle is to defend and advance independent Black institutions with liberation values, but JL Carter and HBCU Digest both critique and work for white supremacy. Carter and HBCU Digest are the friends of the Black professional hierarchy at HBCUs who exploit Black students and steal educational funds for their development.
Is Carter really against the heightened cash monitoring of Howard University? Why not then attack the office responsible for carrying out this accounting in the federal government, instead of attacking the student protesters? Carter will not bite the hand that feeds him so he bites rising Black students at HBCUs.
Why does Carter not just explain how heightened cash monitoring works as policy? Why doesn’t he explain who is responsible for carrying out the policy? Who runs the federal government office, and what are their real tasks?
Carter and HBCU Digest cannot tell those truths. Why? Well for one thing it is run by people of color whose office in the federal government is designed not to subvert HBCU corruption at all, but to help their administrators steal. Oh Yes! Every close observer of HBCU administrations knows who runs the Minority Serving and Under Resourced Schools Division (MSURSD) and what they actually do. Why not tell the HBCU students?
J.L. “Booker T.” Carter wishes to keep it secret. Instead he explains heightened cash monitoring from the perspective that it oppresses the Black elites who administer HBCUs. It certainly slows down those who have a record of stealing. But nobody will underline the obvious. This federal government office allows the college administrators to steal from the students and works with accrediting bodies to look the other way while they do this. One of the goals of this federal office is to expand opportunities for these institutions to successfully continue their participation in the Title IV programs and work to proactively identify ways in which schools can more effectively manage their Title IV programs. This means part of this office’s function is to serve as trainers in financial management of HBCUs. And their actual policies, unlike with predominantly white institutions, allows for exorbitant grace periods to explain where monies have disappeared. MSURSD is responsible for training HBCUs not to steal the financial aid, but it doesn’t shut down them when they do steal it.
The federal government looks the other way on this theft from black students as a kind of entitlement, in the name of being considerate to historical African American, Native American, and Hispanic higher education institutions. This means, that the federal government is thoughtful in how they subordinate and repress Black students while allowing Black elites to steal and mismanage the resources set aside for the community in the name of repairing enslavement. When you repair something, you patch it up. When you patch up enslavement you maintain dependent subordinate institutions led by misleaders who have an interest in betrayal.
Every Year Black college presidents and administrators attend a conference with this MSURSD office led by its director, Marcia Boyd, a Black woman. Boyd has been in her position several years. Don’t her records indicate where Howard University’s students’ money was disappearing? And now, Howard is only on “heightened cash monitoring?” Why doesn’t Carter call for opening up of the accounting books of Marcia Boyd’s office who keeps the records of financial aid administration of all HBCUs? Because like Boyd, Carter is the worst form of Negro. He presents facts, only to mystify trickery. He trafficks in Black pride as he aids and abets crookery.
Carter is notorious in all his essays for comparing HBCUs to predominantly white institutions (and in the next sentence saying this is inappropriate). He compares financial aid scandals at Howard with Columbia and Stanford to say when predominantly white colleges have a large endowment, they are not subjected to heightened cash monitoring by the government. But what he does not say is the federal government is a sponsor of a comprador social class that keeps HBCUs and Black students and teachers down. Compradors are middle men who only attain wealth by allowing the empire of capital to exploit its own people. Then they present themselves as so-called experts on “strategy.” Carter never uses successful Black community leadership and institutions in one location as a measure of condemning the corruption among other Black leaders and institutions. Carter’s sense of Black pride is no measure of Black achievement and ethics should expose exploitation by Black people of Black people.
Carter argues: “We shouldn’t look for perfection as the goal, individually or institutionally. Instead, unity and strategy should be the aim. We should take what we know about the systems of white supremacy and discrimination and work within them, not towards a Utopian view of being equal to who and what makes things unequal for our suffering.”
Carter could have said white people don’t have the monopoly of beauty, intelligence, and power. But that would be too much ! He wouldn’t want to insult his sponsors who pay him to “pretend.” Carter actually finds his power by acknowledging the permanence of institutions that exploit Black people and being employed as a running dog making excuses for them. This means he expects that Howard University and HBCUs will be run by corrupt individuals – he told us himself -- and they will steal from their people. Moreover, Black students must be careful not to make common cause with those who want to fight for democratic accountability. Instead, they should unify with the Black faces in high places that steal from them and let traitors educate them about political and economic strategy.
Carter advocates we should work within systems of white supremacy and discrimination. You really can’t make this stuff up! Carter says the struggle for social equality is false. It is a game invented by white people who benefit from Black suffering. Thank you, Booker T. Carter.
The struggle for liberation and justice within Black institutions is not a game invented by white people. It is the battle for democracy (majority rule) without which, Black institutions don’t have the right to exist. The measure of a profound ethic for Black empowerment is not how white colleges exploit and manipulate their students and get away with it. Further, when Carter critiques utopian ideals, he is of the view that Black protest is helpful only when it places state and administrative power in Black elite’s hands. After that, Black people should only mobilize to support the strategic agenda of Black elites above society. Or they can be shot down. The only future he can foresee is servility for the Black multitudes.
When Black students and toilers independently mobilize themselves, it becomes much clearer how power works within Black communities and Black community institutions. Ultimately, Carter’s assertion that nothing can be further from the truth that heightened cash monitoring will improve Howard University’s already beleaguered financial profile is correct. But the way he places forward the argument is a distraction that defends Black faces in high places and throws a blanket over the search for justice at HBCUs.
HBCU Digest and JL Carter are apologists for neocolonialism and for the subordination of ordinary Black people in the name of "independence." These are the terms that they constantly “defend” HBCUs and if necessary attack their most perceptive, ethical, and uncompromising students when they take independent action.
Howard University students should be taught about the true nature of the nation-state, capitalism, patriarchy, ecological destruction and the white supremacy that pervades institutions; not simply how they work, but how to overthrow them and design real community institutions distinguished by a deeper autonomy. It may be that the Howard “Resists and Rhianna” movement could have had better slogans than “Bitch better have my money.” It certainly does not ring of a critique of the empire of capital. But what the Howard University protesters did, they did well. They exposed the Black political class at Howard was stealing from Black students. And the government, while it seeks to maintain its own legitimacy and is no friend of Black people, had to take minimal action to acknowledge this injustice and temporarily undermine the liberation struggle. Our job is to clarify the relationship of the Black political class to institutional racism and the government. We need to also help clarify the means by which Black students will take their next insurgent initiative.
Part of the next development in the struggle at HBCUs will be to confront the federal government and accrediting bodies that paper over the exploitation administered by Black college presidents and administrators. We cannot do this as an ally of, or as a favor for, the Black elites who have exploited us. They must ultimately be discarded.
We might see all three (Black college presidents, the federal government, and accrediting bodies) as an unholy trinity undermining Black autonomy at HBCUs instead of one being a racist force fighting an anti-racist, pro-black force – this is an invention of clowns posing as independent Black journalists.
Black college administrators, an insightful, ethical, and strategic anti-racist, pro-black force? They have never been anything historically but a social class sponsored by and collaborating with white racists that has repressed the democratization of Black community formation.
Marcia Boyd at MSURSD, who has worked for both President Obama and President Trump, is the woman of color that better tell the Black community where the Black students’ money is, and why her office enables stealing at HBCUs. She should open up her accounting books to the Black community. Enough pressure on Boyd, and she too will be discarded.
Every HBCU student protest movement should make this a coordinated national demand, MSURSD and every local HBCU administration must open its accounting books to the public. Another demand might be taking steps to expose and ensure JL “Booker T” Carter and his journalistic friends at HBCU Digest no longer are seen as having any legitimacy to speak on behalf of the race and its educational institutions. We understand they might still find work posing as “friends of the Negro” but not of Black people. Any argument that argues for the condemnation and repression of our Black student protesters who are rising against the Black political class is that of a traitor.
Dominica Dunbar Dessalines may be reached at [email protected]
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