Sanders College Tour Spotlights Black Student Power
By Nathalie Baptiste | Jan 19, 2016
Independent senator and Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders has launched a tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in an apparent bid to reach out to young black voters who so far favor Hillary Clinton in the polls.
In visiting HBCUs, Sanders is casting the spotlight on institutions that have given black students, who have been protesting racial discrimination on campuses across the country, a vital safe space. As Darrick Hamilton wrote in the Fall 2015 issue of The American Prospect, HBCUs provide “safe and nurturing spaces for thousands of students,” but “are at risk of extinction” due to fiscal shortfalls.
After facing criticism from black voters that Sanders has a racial injustice blind spot, the campaign took drastic action last August by releasing a lengthy and detailed racial justice policy platform. “It is an outrage that in these early years of the 21st century we are seeing intolerable acts of violence being perpetrated by police and racist acts of terrorism by white supremacists,” it reads.
Sanders’s education platform, which calls for tuition-free and debt-free colleges, appears tailor-made to draw support from college students and may also resonate particularly with black students at severely underfunded HBCUs. Despite gains in wealth, employment, and education, the racial wealth gap persists, making college affordability a big problem within the black community, as Hamilton explains in the Prospect.
Because young college students played a crucial role in helping elect and re-elect President Barack Obama, it’s little wonder that the Sanders campaign has selected HBCUs for his next campaign tour.
HBCUs still matter to black students, notes Hamilton in the Prospect: “Given ... the ongoing societal presumption of black inferiority maintained by many college faculty and administrators, HBCUs have not outlived their purpose—indeed, their need calls for greater strengthening.”