More Compelling Explanations for HBCU-TWI Salary Disparities - Higher Education

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More Compelling Explanations for HBCU-TWI Salary Disparities

by Benjamin McKeever

More Compelling Explanations for HBCU-TWI Salary Disparities

According to the article, “Study: HBCU Graduates Earn Less Than Black Graduates of Traditionally White Institutions” (see Diverse, May 17), the economic gains of Blacks who attended historically Black institutions as opposed to Blacks who attended traditionally White institutions declined dramatically from the 1970s to the 1990s, according to “The Causes and Consequences of Attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” by Drs. Roland G. Fryer and Michael Greenstone. After considering and dismissing other plausible explanations, Fryer, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, attributed the “decline” to the enhancements that White institutions have made in educating Black students.”

A more compelling explanation is the recidivism of racism, which perpetuates the perception that “that which is White or may be identified with Whiteness is superior to that which is Black or may be identified with Blackness.” Racism is no scientific mystery; neither should be its predictable, almost cyclical, recurrence. The image and status, affluence and influence, prestige and power of traditionally White institutions have always impressed White employers, so graduates of these institutions have enjoyed the advantage of the positive assumptions, warranted or unwarranted, made about their competence and potential.

Black graduates of HBCUs, whose mission has been the much less glamorous enterprise of empowering Black students with the skill and the will to survive and succeed against the odds, are probably in much less demand. HBCU grads have been taught to confront the vicissitudes and grotesqueries of inequality and injustice and are perhaps better prepared to speak truth to power, having emerged from educational environments in which their intelligence was not doubted and their character was not suspect.

— Benjamin McKeever, English Professor
Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio



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