You get a car!
You get a car!
And you get a car!
Everybody gets a car!
Only they weren’t cars and Oprah wasn’t the giver, though her spirit hung over the whole thing.
This time the philanthropist was Robert F. Smith, a black billionaire who pledged to pay the tuition and loans of the entire Morehouse class of 2019. The media showed us the grateful students and their families jumping up and down thanking Jesus, going on after a while about how their mamas and aunties had worked and prayed for a miracle like this. This is about what you expect. But something was missing. Apparently none of the media covering the Morehouse tuition giveaway – not MSNBC or USA TODAY or CNN or Fox or any of them could find a student or group of students from Morehouse or anyplace else to stand up and say that college tuition was already free in a number of countries, and that saddling grads with crippling debt was unfair and immoral.
Amy Goodman, interviewing one of the 2019 Morehouse grads made space for the new grad to say something like this Twice in the interview, she almost appeared to try to pull the answer out of the young man, but he gave no sign that collective solidarity against predatory lenders and wih other students was something he understood. Ben Jealous was a friend of the family, he was Afro-Brazilian and his mother worked and prayed really hard. If Oprah wasn’t there, she definitely wrote the script.
It fell to former NAACP head Ben Jealous to make the points that student loans are inherently predatory, and that student debt should be eliminated. Would that Ben Jealous had spoken so plainly when there was a black president in the White House for two terms.
If I had finished college it would have been about 1972 or 73. If today’s predatory student loan system existed I cannot imagine organized groups of students NOT standing up to oppose it. The only exception to the joyful noise coverage was a grumbling LBGT-Q former Morehouse student who had to drop out early because it just cost too much. The story had him grousing because he’ll likely get nothing.
But why didn’t the media find any students who thought student loans we unfair? Has the enemy conquered our young peoples minds so thoroughly that organizing to question the predatory student loan system is just not in their universe of things that can be done? It’s been a long time since I was young, but I’ll bet there were and are students at Morehouse and the rest of the AUCs who know enough to stand up for themselves and their communities just like students did half a century ago. And free tuition and child care will give them a lot more time in which to do it.