Counting Our Global Blessings
A recent trip abroad helped put American higher education — and where people of color fit into it — in perspective for me. We have many, many things to celebrate, the most recent of which are affirmative action victories in Washington and Michigan (see stories, pages 22 and 24). A lot of higher education officials in other countries would never consider that even if their own Blacks don’t have the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, colonization was downright crippling. Its bequest has all kinds of implications on why people of color across the globe still have little access to education. Yet opening higher education’s doors has everything to do with helping to minimize the downtrodden inheritance.
Still, in most other countries, there would be no court cases, no propositions on the ballot. Black folks just have to make it or break it, the latter of which is too often the case for melanin-rich folks across the Diaspora.
Here, we have some political clout. It was a hard-fought battle to get it. But we at least have the moxie to put our issues on the table. We win some and lose others. But it is truly refreshing that we have a sizeable portion of dedicated foot soldiers out there walking the good walk.
Really, in the time that I have served as editor of this magazine — which has been just short of a year — there have been several reasons to celebrate, some small, but many more significant. My very first issue was a special report on the Digital Divide. Since then, there have been many conferences, initiatives and other funding opportunities, all aimed at trying to bridge the divide.
In addition to the affirmative action victories that closed out last year, this edition features a digital victory for two-year colleges. Now able to use the “.edu” extension on their Web addresses, these institutions — which have served as an invaluable higher education access point for many students and scholars of color — symbolically join the rest of the postsecondary community on the World Wide Web. That’s cause for merriment. On pg. 28, we feature an interview with Dr. Joyce Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology — that school’s first Black and first female president, and perhaps a part of the changing face of higher education leadership. All news to celebrate. Some small, others more significant.
So as the dawn of this New Year provides the opportunity for us all to resolve what we would like to accomplish, let us also take stock in what we have to be grateful for. Not that we still don’t have a long way to go. But I must say that I am downright astonished and impressed by the number of hard-working, dedicated professionals out there, including the recently deceased Gwendolyn Brooks and Rep. Julian Dixon, D-Calif. (see story, pg. 9). It is leaders like them who have made it their passion to ensure that ultimately, this is a country that puts its money where its mouth is and truly does stand for liberty and justice for all.
These foot soldiers, the anonymous as well as the more visible among them, certainly re-energized in me a sense of the great possibility and enormous consequences of the work that everyone in the higher education community does, and the importance here of recording that history.
But it is with these important victories and painful losses that I wrap up my tenure at Black
Issues. I leave daunted by the remarkable leaders I have had the pleasure to meet; awed by the creative and resourceful faculty I have come across; inspired by the bright and persistent students.
And yes, I have also been disappointed that we still have to fight this hard. But to look around this planet and consider some of the more depressing possibilities, I’m assured by the persistent progress we’ve made and will continue to make on our shores — one court case, one institution, one student and one leader at a time.
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