Using HBCU Lies As Alibis

Walter M. Kimbrough
10 min readAug 30, 2020


You remember the group En Vogue? Their debut album, “Born To Sing” came out in the summer of 1990, 30 years ago! The great harmonies by these attractive women made them the rulers of what we would now call a “hot girl summer.”

Last week’s RNC included several speakers that told lies about President Trump and HBCUs, using those lies as alibis to prove that he is not racist. The accomplices were Black men, a strategic visual representation to embody a veracity to the lie.

The En Vogue hit “Lies” repeats the chorus:

Lies, lies, using lies as alibis
Lies, lies, just a devil in disguise

I’ve been fascinated watching Trump loyalists and bots run with these lies, flooding social media in defense of a president who, if not a racist, surely knows how to play one on TV. But each of these lies are easily debunked. Let’s go through them.

Vernon Jones. The Dekalb County (GA) Democrat who is now on the Trump Train. He attempted to establish credibility to his lie by sharing that he is an HBCU graduate, which is true. After doing so, he says:

When President Trump took office he changed everything. He delivered historic funding to HBCUs, and he guaranteed it for 10 years, something that’s never happened in the history of this country. That gave our HBCUs stability, the chance to grow, and produce the next generation of black leaders.

During the 2010 White House Initiative HBCU Week, President Obama said the following:

We also want to keep strengthening HBCUs, which is why we’re investing $850 million in these institutions over the next 10 years.

So the $85M for 10 years is neither historic or something never done before. And delivered? Trump was silent on the funding until AFTER it was signed. He had a chance to offer a full throated endorsement in September of 2019 when he spoke at the White House HBCU meeting (which, to his credit, is something President Obama never did. However his opponent, Joe Biden, did speak at the event in 2015 so they’re even on that one).

Trump talked about all kinds of things, even making up a faith based HBCU funding restriction he said he would fix but never issued an executive order to fix what wasn’t broken.

He spoke at the meeting in mid September, weeks before the existing 10 year, $85M a year funding would expire. Thurgood Marshall College Fund president Dr. Harry Williams shared his concerns at the time:

… the most obvious way for the Administration to meet that commitment real-time is to leverage the White House’s influence with Congress to achieve passage of the FUTURE Act.

He never did. But now his supporters give him credit for delivering funding. If he had made that commitment in front of that audience he could say he fairly delivered it. Instead he made up a problem with faith-based HBCU funding.

Dawn Robinson of En Vogue sang,

It’s just a waste of time
Made for simple minds
So why do people insist on lies?

How about Secretary Ben Carson, famed neurosurgeon and former candidate for the presidency. During his RNC speech he said:

One of the first things he did as president was to bring the office of historically black colleges and universities into the White House, so that it could get proper attention and financial support.

This isn’t a lie but more of a misdirection. The office had been in the office prior to George W. Bush who moved it to the Department of Education. That may have been done in part because his secretary of education was Rod Paige, an HBCU grad. The attention is debatable, and the funding had little to do with President Trump.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He really has been working sincerely in the HBCU space, and in 2017 hosted the first HBCU Republican fly in with Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina. He has been a supporter of major HBCU legislation as well so I consider him to be a strong HBCU supporter.

During his RNC speech Scott said:

Once again, to clean up Joe Biden’s mess, President Trump signed into law historically high funding for HBCUs, as well as a bill to give them permanent funding for the first time ever!

His statement actually is true, but it implies much greater presidential support than occurred. Has HBCU funding increased these past 4 years? Yes. But Trump did not ask for it in his budgets. I’ll show that later.

I believe Scott to be a team player, so he gives credit to the head of his party, the President. But if we REALLY want to be honest here, Tim Scott is more responsible for HBCU advancements over the past few years than any other Republican, including the President. I think his launching of the Republican HBCU fly-in at the start of Trump’s presidency in 2017 is actually one of the most brilliant moves in recent history. It was almost as if he realized there needed to be something intentionally done to counteract future issues with the President.

We all knew there would be.

I recently had someone on Twitter share with me remarks Scott made about his meeting with the President after Charlottesville. Scott was upset about his Charlottesville comments and after they met he said the president said, “Tell me how to help those I have offended?” Scott said he rolled out ideas like Opportunity Zones and HBCUs. Here is the clip. So if this is true, Scott is the real MVP!

He does note that the funding increase was the result of the Republican party which again supports my contention — Congress is the only branch that can appropriate funding.

The FUTURE Act, the permanently funded program, came to the President with a veto proof majority in both chambers. This is a great article that explains veto proof majorities:

This bill was veto proof, so if vetoed and the vote held, it would become a law without his signature. Trump didn’t like the Russian sanction bill but it had a veto proof majority so he signed it.

He’s in the same situation with the National Defense Act Authorization which also is veto proof. We’ll see how it plays out.

He didn’t have a choice on the FUTURE Act, plus what sense would it make for someone who had been bragging about being the best president for Black folks to oppose the bill. Plus, according to Tim Scott, he seems to have understood that Charlottesville was a problem so it would have been bad to fight this after asking Scott what he can do.

So he gladly signed it and then got y’all to give him ALL the credit for it.

Dawn Robinson sang it best:

The nation’s leaders as well as teachers
Practice lies as a way of life, yes they do
So think before you speak
’Cause what you sow you reap
The truth will always be brought to light

Clarence Henderson. 1960 Greensboro activist. When I saw him I immediately said that Trump went to find his own John Lewis, especially after he disrespected him in so many ways. So he found one and filled with the right talking points. He is an HBCU grad like Lewis, and participated in the movement. He also has a compelling life story no one can deny:

I was born on what some would call the wrong side of the tracks. I don’t even have a birth certificate. I never attended an integrated school, and I am the only one out of my family who graduated from college, an HBCU. I am a Civil Rights activist and I am a Republican.

All good. But in making his support for Trump he went too far:

Leaders are priceless. The record funding Trump gave HBCUs is priceless too.

Not sure how many times I can say this. Congress, a co-equal branch of government, appropriates money. The process starts with a written budget by the president. Once Congress agrees on a final package the president gets it to sign. A budget though is a statement of your values. So does Trump’s budgets reflect this historic support for HBCUs?

Heck no!

A lot of articles mention a 14% increase in funding. That happened due to advocacy of folks like Senator Doug Jones and, guess who, Senator Kamala Harris of California. They worked it into the overall spending bill that the President needed to sign to avoid a government shut down.

Here is the President’s FY 2018 budget:

Look at line F for example. You can see his 2018 budget is the same as the 2017 appropriation. Then if you go to the 2018 appropriation you see a 14% increase.

Let’s look at one more:

This is the President’s FY 2019 budget proposal. Again, look at line F. He tried to erase the work of Harris and Jones as he proposed to ERASE the increase we got in FY 2018. But if you go over a few rows to the FY 2019 appropriation and you will see a 1% increase.

Trump signed off on these budgets, but he proposed either flat or reduced funding. This goes to Jones assertion of him delivering funding. And with regard to Senator Scott’s statement, signing your name is not delivering. Rep. Alma Adams (NC) made that plain in a recent tweet:

And she rightfully can make that claim. Let’s look at his FY 2020 budget.

This time look at line G. This is the 10 year, $85M a year signed by Obama in 2010 which expired with the FY2019 budget. Trump’s budget was introduced March 11th. As you can see, his proposed funding is $0. (Obama did the same thing and got destroyed for it; Trump got off easy).

To address it, Rep. Adams wrote the FUTURE Act and introduced it in the House on May 2, 2019. She got bi-partisan sponsors.

She pushed for House passage on September 17, 2019.

Once again. One week before the House passed the bill, President Trump spoke at the HBCU Week conference. He mentioned several legitimate accomplishments, including Katrina loan forgiveness and return of year round Pell. But he never mentioned the FUTURE Act, the program that is the long term, permanent funding he and his supporters now credit him for achieving.

Debbie T. raps on En Vogue’s hit

Politicians lie about the things they’re gonna do
And they re-lie the tale, affects me and you

For many of the President’s supporters, they won’t believe any of this. But there have to be more people armed with the facts so that HBCUs aren’t being used like a Bible in front of a church — as props.

I hope the critical thinkers in our nation will listen to Cindy Herron’s refrain in this En Vogue classic:

I’ll live my life a different way
Refuse to let myself become a victim
Caught up in a vicious web of lies

Because lies about HBCUs are being used as alibis.

The Prez



Walter M. Kimbrough

12th president of Philander Smith College. 7th president of Dillard University. Now in an Intermission.