About a week ago on September 20 and 23, two local newspapers published articles written by white reporters about two lawsuits filed by white lawyers against Cheyney University — the oldest Black institution of higher learning in America.
Those two articles used alarmist phrases and sentences like Cheyney administrators allegedly “‘misused’ federal... dollars,” “‘raided’ a scholarship program to pay university salaries,” “‘raided’... federal funds,” “accreditation decision ‘looms’,” “inflated enrollment figures... to save the school’s accreditation,” and “the... [lawsuit] paints a ‘damning’ picture of a university ‘desperately’ attempting to stave off... the loss of its accreditation.”
But what both articles failed to clearly point out for the necessary purpose of putting everything in context is that those lawsuits, like all lawsuits of these kind, are nothing more than self-serving allegations by plaintiffs (e.g., disgruntled former employees in my opinion) and their high-priced lawyers who want money. One of the two articles failed to include any formal-filed response from Cheyney’s attorneys to the allegations and the other article included only a part of just two responses to the allegations.
Both articles failed to note that anybody can file a lawsuit for anything at anytime.
Both articles failed to indicate that lawsuits could be as easily thrown out for being without merit as easily as they were filed. It’s called a summary judgment, which is a judicial order dismissing a lawsuit prior to trial.
Both articles failed to mention that lawsuits could be thrown out by a judge if he or she determines there is insufficient evidence. It’s called a directed verdict, which is a judicial order dismissing a lawsuit during a trial.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines sabotage as “the deliberate obstruction of or damage to any... movement....” Accordingly, in my opinion as a Black man who holds two undergraduate degrees from Cheyney, those articles not only sabotaged my alma mater but did so in a racially insensitive (albeit not racist) manner. By the way, why did those reporters publicly present such a negative portrayal of Cheyney a little over a month before the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) renders its final decision regarding the university’s accreditation? Was it to try to get MSCHE to stop using the glowing terms it’s been using to describe Cheyney’s amazing vetted turnaround- terms like “compelling evidence” and “significant progress?” Hmm....
Malcolm X was undeniably correct in his quote that I posted with this column. He was referring to situations like this one wherein if you didn’t know any better, certain white reporters might intentionally or unintentionally persuade you to keep your Black children as far away as possible from that inept discredited Black-led HBCU called Cheyney and rush straight to that wonderful white-led Ivy League-type bastion of scholarly education a few miles down the road called West Chester.
Am I saying that any particular white reporter is racist? Of course, I’m not. But, I’m saying that most, if not all of them, are racially insensitive in that they consistently focus on Black folk’s societal symptoms and relentlessly ignore the societal disease- which is the deadly racism that began exactly 400 years ago with the first documented arrival of enslaved Africans in British colonial America. From that came sharecropping, then the Redemption Era, then the Black Codes, then convict leasing, then peonage labor, then Jim Crow, then gerrymandering, then redlining, then 2019 and beyond.
Despite that disease of systemic racism that infected the Black Cheyneys of America and privileged the white West Chesters of America, white reporters tend to shout from the rooftops about Cheyney finishing last again in the races for institutional success. But those same reporters sit quietly in the darkened basements when it comes to exposing the racist system that continues to paralyze Cheyney’s legs before those races even begin.
Consider the following:
1901: While Cheyney was a stand-alone teacher training school, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania paid the full yearly tuition and stipend of $140 to white students to attend white state-owned teacher training schools but paid only $25 to Cheyney students.
1969: The Commonwealth was identified by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the ten worst states (including the usual suspects, namely Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, et al) discriminating against Blacks in higher education.
1983: The Commonwealth for the first time ever finally submitted a formal anti-racial discrimination proposal that was deemed acceptable by the U.S. Department of Education following repeated warranted rejections. But it was later discovered that proposal wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
1999: At the insistence of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Commonwealth signed a contract to resolve issues of racial discrimination against Cheyney. Commonwealth officials signed that contract which, by last year, should’ve resulted in at least $100 million to Cheyney for essential resources. However, 20 years later, much of that $100 million is still contractually owed to Cheyney.
Undeterred by all of that, and in the profound and prophetic words of Maya Angelou, “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt. But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
And here’s exactly how historic Cheyney University rises:
Cheyney’s recent meteoric increase in the number of academically talented students has been officially validated by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
Cheyney’s “persistence rate,” regarding freshmen proceeding directly to sophomore status without interruption, is at 70 percent (up from 37 last year). That verified 70 percent figure is the highest in a quarter century at the university.
Cheyney not only has worked out an arrangement to pay its old state and federal (reduced) debts but also has met all of its financial obligations on time. Moreover, the school last month ended 2018-1019 with a whopping $2.1 million surplus.
Cheyney, a few months ago, exceeded its recent $4 million fundraising goal by nearly a half million dollars. And it has already begun another one.
Cheyney’s on-campus Institute for the Contemporary African-American Experience, which is a cultural solutions-oriented think tank involving a collaboration with the likes of Thomas Jefferson University’s Medical College that will build a medical facility on campus, Epcot Crenshaw Corporation that will relocate its environmental consulting headquarters on campus, Starbucks Foundation, a hotel chain that is discussing plans to construct a hotel/conference center on campus, and other powerful public/private partners to promote the academic, employment, and community service interests of Cheyney students.
I don’t want anyone to think I take the position that only Black reporters, journalists, and columnists should be permitted to write about Black issues like Cheyney. But I do unequivocally take the position that only Black reporters, journalists, and columnists can properly- meaning equitably and contextually- write about Black issues like Cheyney.
Women know sexism. Muslims know Islamophobia. Jews know anti-semitism. Gays know homophobia.
And Blacks know racial insensitivity (and racism). I’m jus sayin’.