Perhaps no group in the history of America has poured more energy into the perfecting of white people than African-Americans.
A consequence of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the subsequent mischaracterization of the civil rights movement he orchestrated is the widely held, misguided belief that the salvation, advancement and evolution of black America is dependent upon the purification and refinement of white America.
Our goal, our campaign for freedom and prosperity, has devolved into a determined, single focus of eliminating white racial impurities of thought, attitude and deed and a destructive indifference to our own thoughts, attitudes and deeds. We fantasize about and work to create a perfect, colorblind white America while plotting our escape from a black America in need of self-repair. We demand from white folks a standard of behavior -- no N-word, no black misogyny, no violence, no disrespect, no mistreatment of our children -- that we don't demand from ourselves.
In a society founded on self-reliance and a planet with a since-birth history of racial discord, the end game of integration was never intended for the overall uplift of the black masses. Integration cleansed white folks of the sins of slavery, Jim Crow and other human rights atrocities, opened additional revenue streams for mainstream institutions, and provided a small percentage of blacks a pathway to the "American dream" through assimilation.
A half century after the movement, black institutions are extinct or crumbling -- victims of black flight and abandonment -- and white institutions are narrowing the pathway for assimilated blacks to crawl to the "American dream." Proof? Look at the historically black colleges and universities that produced Dr. Martin Luther King and the overwhelming majority of the black heroes of the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
Grambling State University and its football program are a prime example. Eddie Robinson's Tigers are on life support. We're debating whether it's worth the trouble to continue a program that produced multiple Hall of Famers and Super Bowl champions and as many NFL players as some BCS schools. Grambling State was the black Notre Dame, and Robinson was the black Knute Rockne.
Do you think Notre Dame's base -- well-to-do white Catholics -- would flee their prized institution and let the football program rot from neglect, indifference and a desire to make non-white Catholics love them?
That is what is happening to HBCUs and their athletic programs across the country. In our desire to integrate, in our desire to create the ideal mainstream/white experience, we have abandoned black institutions.
We have become so lost and delusional that we don't even understand the importance of supporting black institutions.
I'm going to share a story. I'm not sharing this story to single out the subject of this story, Shannon Sharpe, the NFL Hall of Fame player and Savannah State alumnus. Sharpe was a guest on my podcast Thursday. We discussed many topics. At the end, we talked about HBCUs and the importance of them. Sharpe was an awesome high school football player. He was a poor student. He "had" to attend Savannah State to play football.
During our discussion, I asked Sharpe whether he financially supported his alma mater. He unashamedly told me he did not. When I pressed him on the subject, he explained that he felt he did not owe Savannah State support. In his mind, he was a good football player, he stayed eligible and the school sold football tickets in exchange for his scholarship.
It's been my experience that Sharpe's mindset is pervasive throughout black athletes and black people. I attended Ball State University, a mainstream school. When I speak to my former teammates and other athletes about financially supporting the school, they constantly say their performance as athletes years ago was their giveback.
I could tell a thousand stories about talking with my black friends about supporting their alma maters. Sharpe's story is the only one that had an instant happy ending. He pledged at the end of my podcast to write a check to Savannah State. He seemed to understand his responsibility to ensure that the next Shannon Sharpe had a place to evolve physically and mentally in an academic environment.
If you talk with administrators at HBCUs, they will tell you it is extremely difficult to get their alums to give back. We haven't been properly educated on the importance of financially supporting our institutions. We can't fathom the importance of giving $50, $100, $500, $1,000 annually. You don't have to be rich to make a difference at a small college or university. Many of these schools are collapsing now that federal funds are disappearing. That's what is at the root of the crisis at Grambling State, Howard University and nearly every HBCU.
We have bought into the myth that the schools that produced MLK, Thurgood Marshall, Alex Haley, Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee and countless high-profile athletes are inferior.
"HBCUs are still very important," NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams (Southern University) told me Thursday. "We have to expose current students and high school students to the many successful people that have come from these schools. Potential students have to hear and see these stories in order to know the truth about HBCUs and not be misled by the perception or opinions of others.
"A wise man once told me," Williams continued, "that 'It's not what people don't know that hurts them. It's what they do know that's not true.' That wise man was my dad, a Southern U 1968 grad."
As black people, too many of us believe improving white people advances us. That's why rapper/music producer Dr. Dre could make hundreds of millions of dollars exploiting the image of young black men for two decades and donate $35 million to USC in 2013. Do you think Dre believes black boys from Compton are filling up USC?
More than a decade ago, the state of California wiped out affirmative-action policies that gave more minority men and women access to mainstream universities. Things have gotten so bad at UCLA in terms of black male enrollment that it's just assumed that every black male on campus is there on an athletic scholarship. Black males constitute 3.3 percent of the male population at Lew Alcindor's alma mater.
It's easy to criticize Dr. Dre for his decision. But his decision-making reflects a mindset that is pervasive throughout black culture. We fled black institutions. We think it's the federal government's or ultrarich celebrities' responsibility to support them.
Rather than use our athletic gifts to benefit other black students, we volunteered to enrich the pockets and the cultural environment of white folks. Sacrificing for and investing in the institutions with the best track record of and interest in developing our own perfection remains on the back burner.