Six Months Later, Betsy DeVos Wishes She Hadn't Said HBCUs Were Pioneers Of School Choice

But the controversial Secretary of Education still couldn't say whether race should play a role in college admissions. 

Veronica Hilbring Aug, 10, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is walking back her comments on HBCU’s from several months ago.

In an interview with the Associated Press, DeVos expressed regret at her previous comments. “When I talked about it being a pioneer in choice it was because I acknowledge that racism was rampant and there were no choices. These HBCUs provided choices for Black students that they didn’t have. My intention was to say they were pioneering on behalf of students that didn’t have another choice. This was their only choice. At the same time I should have decried much more forcefully the ravages of racism in this country.”

She kicked off a firestorm of controversy in February when she said Historically Black Colleges and Universities were ‘real pioneers when it comes to school choice.’ DeVos is a Republican billionaire donor from Michigan who has been a staunch proponent of school choice.

DeVos now says she should have done more to reach out to the Black community around the country to explain her agenda. “I’ve had these conversations with some of the African-American organizations that represent higher education, but probably not as explicitly as I am right now.”

But DeVos and the Trump administration has faced harsh criticism from civil rights advocates for the undoing of civil rights protections. The administration has recently rescinded Obama federal guidelines that instructed schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, and the Justice Department is targeting affirmative action programs in colleges.

While DeVos claims to have seen the error in her ways, not everyone is convinced of DeVos’ sudden revelation. University of Pennsylvania education professor Marybeth Gasman isn’t convinced. “At the time she made the comments about school choice, I am certain she was trying to promote her school choice agenda. I am glad she realizes the comments were offensive. That’s important.”

DeVos’ appointment was historic. Vice President Mike Pence had to break the 50-50 Senate tie to confirm DeVos as education secretary in February. Students at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida booed DeVos and walked out on her commencement speech in May.

Despite recognizing her previous error with HBCU’s, DeVos refused to discuss if race should play a role in college admissions. “Well, they are looking at that is a factor today. I am not going to debate that, I am not going to discuss that.”

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[BLANK_AUDIO] Is it our job to educate white folks when the racism hits the fan? We're asking because recently Katy Perry has been on an apology tour for all the cultural appropriation she's done. Even sitting down with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson Take a look at this. Even in my, you know, intention to appreciate Japanese culture, I did it wrong with a performance. I didn't know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong, and sometimes that's what it takes. It takes someone to say Out of compassion, out of love, hey, dude, this is where the origin is, you know? And do you understand? And not just like a clap back, you know? Right. Okay, so not only do we have to endure the racism, but we also have to be nice when talking about it. Got it. So we're asking you again for today's viewer poll. Is it our responsibility to educate white people when they do something racist? Vote A for yes. B for no. Using hashtag EssenceLive. Now our ear to the internet streets is manning social media for your comments right now. Hey, Kayla. Hey. What are folks saying on social media? Alright, comments are already rolling in. Bernadine Thorpe says, Katy Perry, still fierce. There's going to be flops here and there. She's going to be all right. Renette Williams says, white people should use the common sense they have and check each other. We have a lot of our own work to do. Making sure they get it right is a waste of our time and energy that we need for other fights. [SOUND] Liz Jackson says, do your research like everyone else. I know that's right. Google is free and it is available to everyone. Alright, now keep those votes and comments coming. We really want to hear them and we'll read the results later on in the show. We asked earlier, is it our responsibility to educate white people when they do something racist? Responses were mixed. [LAUGH] Yeah. Most people said yes. [UNKNOWN] says being ignorant is not a pass Educate, empower, and research. Thankful Glasper says, every race's misdeed is a teachable moment. But John Weatherow said that, I don't think it's our responsibility but some people need some guidance. Wow, sounds pretty mixed. All right, so let's see the results of today's viewer poll. We asked you, is it our responsibility to educate white folks when they make racist mistakes? And here's how you voted. [BLANK_AUDIO] All right 79% of people say that's the only way we'll see real change and 21% said no, white people should educate themselves. Now that is an interesting breakdown. I tend to agree with the 79% that yes We have to talk about these issues, and we have to, like, that's the only way that we'll get real change, right? [BLANK_AUDIO]

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