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George McLaurin forced to sit in anteroom at University of Oklahoma. — ARCHIVES / UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA

 

In 1948, McLaurin was denied admission into UO to pursue his Ph.D. in education because of a state law that made it a crime for Blacks to attend any school with Whites. After successfully challenging that law in federal district court, he was admitted into the university over its strong objection. And the officials there decided to humiliate him by segregating and isolating him not only in all classes by putting him in anterooms with a separate desk but also segregating and isolating him in the library, in the cafeteria, in the restrooms, and at sporting events. Think about that level of suffocating humiliation for a minute.

He then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and on June 5, 1960 won, thereby forcing Oklahoma to end discrimination, segregation, and isolation statewide in all of its schools, colleges, and universities.

The fact that McLaurin was 61-years-old when he applied to UO in 1948, the fact that he held a Master’s degree, and the fact that he was a retired college professor who had taught for 33 years at Oklahoma’s only HBCU, Langston University, didn’t matter to those racists. They considered him to be nothing more than an educated n——.

Many Black students who attend White colleges and universities today are knowing or unknowing victims in an abusive relationship with those schools even though the historical (and modern day) record clearly exposes that abuse. Education for Blacks was outlawed in all schools from elementary on up since slavery became law of the land in 1619. Speaking of law, there was legislation throughout the country similar to a 1740 South Carolina law that proclaimed “(It) shall be unlawful” for “all… slaves or free Negroes…” to be taught “reading or writing. And any… (judges)… may… direct… any officers… to inflict corporal punishment” on the educated slaves or free Negroes “not exceeding 20 lashes.”

That abuse continued with the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott ruling that Blacks have no rights (educational or otherwise) that whites are bound to respect and its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that Jim Crow is acceptable based on the “separate is equal” fallacy.

And if you think that academic abuse ended with the overruling of the Plessy case by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case known as Brown I, consider this: Although the court ruled that educational Jim Crow is outlawed because “separate but equal is unconstitutional,” that decision in reality wasn’t worth the paper it was written on since most states ignored it because the feds didn’t enforce it. Then came the vague 1955 Brown II “all deliberate speed” decision. But that moved just as slowly. Then came the tardy 1978 Brown III (what I describe as the) “we supposedly mean it this time” decision. But that wasn’t supposedly implemented until 1998. And, it still hasn’t been fully implemented.

Even worse, just ten years ago in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, Chief Justice John Roberts in 2007 tried to turn Brown’s “separate but equal is unconstitutional” decision on its head by claiming that historic ruling meant the exact opposite of what the Justices unanimously said in 1954. Wow!

It gets worse. And I’m not talking about that ten-year-old Supreme Court decision in 2007. This year, a month ago, the fake so-called president took steps to redirect the resources of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division toward suing the (few good) white colleges and universities that promote affirmative action. He considers that to be “reverse discrimination.” But you might say he’s the exception because he’s an ignorant racist thug. But you must remember that it ain’t just him. Did you forget that he received 63 million votes? Did you forget that the Republican-controlled Senate and House are filled with his racist lapdogs? Those voters and those Senators and those Congresspersons are him and he is them. Together, they are white America. And white America has never wanted us in their schools, colleges, or universities It also has abused us each time we try to build a relationship with it. But we keep coming back like the wife who says her husband didn’t really mean it when he repeatedly blackened her eye, busted her lip, or slapped her face.

Blacks need to finally get a “Protection From Abuse” order — but not one issued by a judge. Instead, we need to issue one to ourselves. We need to, “leave that zero and get us a hero.” And that hero is HBCUs because, although HBCUs constitute only three percent of all colleges and universities in this country, they produce the following:

• 80 percent of Black judges

• 50 percent of Black lawyers

• 50 percent of Black professors

• 40 percent of Black engineers

• 40 percent of Black Congresspersons

• 30 percent of Blacks with Bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields

• 22 percent of Blacks with Bachelor’s degrees in all fields

• 13 percent of Black CEOs

• HBCUs are the top 21 producers of Blacks who attain a Ph.D

This is why we must embrace the institutions that truly love us and that express that love as shown in the aforementioned percentages. Love is based on respect, not abuse. But instead of loving those who love us, our forced self-hate causes us to believe “White people’s water is wetter than Black people’s.” For example, the number of HBCUs has decreased from a high of 121 in the 1930s to a low of 101 in 2017. And while over 17 percent of Black students attended HBCUs in 1980, only about eight percent do today. We can do better. We must do better.

Happy 130th Birthday, Prof. George McLaurin! But instead of us giving him a gift, he gave one to us. He allowed himself to be humiliated in 1948 in order to provide us with the ability to choose to attend any college or university we want. Choose wisely. Choose an HBCU.

Michael Coard, Esquire can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD96.1-FM. And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.

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