Guillermo: HBCU Funding Latest Target of White House Threats to Diversity - Higher Education
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Guillermo: HBCU Funding Latest Target of White House Threats to Diversity


by By Emil Guillermo

If you’re still scratching your head on how President Trump and 217 members of the House of Representatives could gather jubilantly  about the vote to repeal Obamacare without reading the actual bill or getting non-partisan analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, keep scratching.

And then consider it’s just typical of how Trump does government.

Just look at what he’s doing to HBCUs, and maybe all programs based on race, ethnicity, or gender.

President Donald J. Trump

In a normally pro-forma media statement on his signing of a $1.1 trillion omnibus government spending [bill] last Friday, the president sent anyone associated with HBCUs into a major head-shaking jag when Trump questioned the constitutionality of the HBCU Capital Funding Program.

Trump’s statement, according to reports in Politico and The Hill, singled out the program as being an example of one that allocated benefits on the basis of race ethnicity and gender. Therefore, the HBCU program would be treated “in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the law under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.”

Sounds more like a threat than a vote of confidence.

A White House spokesman told Politico that Trump identified that some provisions in the appropriations bill could conflict with his constitutional authority and duties, and that the president will interpret them consistent with the Constitution.

So here, Trump publicly declares he will go with the letter of the law.

Keep in mind, Trump’s the guy who has issued two Muslim travel bans without any hesitation of overreach, only to have both bans blocked by the courts for being unconstitutional.

To that, Trump says, “See you in court.”

That’s his view of the Constitution.

But when it comes to financing campus buildings on HBCUs, will Trump lift a finger and overreach a wee bit in their favor?

Nope, here Trump says he’ll abide by the Constitution. No matter how many HBCU presidents he invites in for a White House photo op.

The bigger worry should be that this isn’t just a threat to HBCUs. It’s really a signal to all involved in federally-backed programs that deal with race, ethnic, gender issues.

In other words, diversity advocates, trouble is ahead.

There’s a real temerity on the part of the administration to defend the right of these important programs to exist.

The Trump statement on an HBCU program could be a careless one. But I don’t think it’s so innocent.

Political vets could hear the threat.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) issued a joint statement: “For a president who pledged to reach out to African-Americans and other minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive. We urge him to reconsider immediately.”

I doubt he will, because the “innocent language” is a dog-whistle of sorts to those on the other side of racial, ethnic, and gender divide.

It’s an invitation to all future litigants to file court cases to challenge such programs as discriminatory. Now. Trump has your back.

And for all who fight for diversity?

Trump won’t hesitate to undo all the equity gains made in the last administration, the last 25 years — or why stop there? Since 1964.

Trump’s now on record. He won’t overreach on diversity. Once he stacks the courts, Trump will wear the Constitution like a paper hat.

Emil Guillermo is an award-winning journalist and commentator who writes for the civil rights group AALDEF at

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