Contested Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has stuck her foot in her mouth once again.
Social media erupted in a tizzy after DeVos issued a statement that some say shamelessly misrepresented the context under which historically Black colleges and universities were established.
In her statement, the newly appointed governess of education called HBCU’s “real pioneers of school choice,” omitting the fact that Black Americans were barred from attending white universities and thus forced to create their own. The statement also failed to consider the stringent Jim Crow laws that kept racial segregation alive and denied African-Americans access to equal education.
“[HBCU’s] are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they’re afforded greater access and greater quality,” DeVos wrote. “Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”
The Secretary of Education’s comments followed a meeting between President Donald Trump and more than 85 presidents and chancellors of HBCUs at the White House on Monday, Feb. 27. Black university leaders also are expected to meet with Republican lawmakers at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 28, where DeVos will deliver the keynote address.
Moreover, there are reports that President Trump is slated to sign an executive order related to historically Black colleges later that same day.
“HBCUs” took the top spot among trending topics on social media Monday evening following DeVos comments. Some lashed out at the education secretary for suggesting that HBCUs were established as a better alternative to predominately white universities, rather than acknowledging that the racist school system left African-Americans with no choice.
Betsy DeVos said HBCUs were about school choice. As if white/colored water fountains were about beverage options. pic.twitter.com/I3tNlER43n
— Resist Dystopia (@AynAyahSteenkur) February 28, 2017
@nktpnd betsy devos: "rosa parks is a real pioneer when it comes to seat choice"
— Sam Deutsch (@samdman95) February 28, 2017
— Whitney (@whit_toussaint) February 28, 2017
Hey @BetsyDeVos HBCU's were NOT founded to reflect "School choice". They were founded because there was "No choice". I know you get confused
— Lanee Gee (@lanee_gee) February 28, 2017
All my white friends after me explaining Betsy DeVos' recent statement about HBCU's. pic.twitter.com/HOXvesGrTc
— Benjamin Di'Costa (@BenjaminDiCosta) February 28, 2017
Others asserted that DeVos lauded the Jim Crow system of segregation for providing Black Americans with “more options” to education.
Betsy DeVos: "Watch as I spin historically despicable "Jim Crow" laws into proof that my agenda works." Betsy, some things are spin-proof.
— D Lemon Knapp (@LemonKnapp) February 28, 2017
— Addison DiSesa (@Adderz08) February 28, 2017
What's next, Japanese American kids learned better because we could focus inside those camps? Good grief. https://t.co/xZkd8wGotD
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 28, 2017
I told my mom, who grew up in the Jim Crow South, that Betsy DeVos said HBCUs started bc of school choice—she laughed
— Yukio Strachan (@boldandworthy) February 28, 2017
Betsy DeVos Sees HBCUs as “Pioneers of School Choice” Completely Ignoring Segregation in Jim Crow Era https://t.co/6KnxfVUJ3o
— HinterlandG (@hinterlandg) February 28, 2017
DeVos was narrowly elected as education secretary in early February after Vice President Mike Pence cast a historic tiebreaking vote in her favor. Critics disputed DeVos’ appointment to such a powerful position and pointed to her lack of experience dealing with the public education system. During her confirmation, the education secretary admitted that neither she or her children had attended public schools.