In a meeting with Black Michigan leaders on Thursday, President Donald Trump spoke about possibilities of what would bring more value to Michigan, specifically Detroit. One idea brainstormed between the president and a legislator has ignited a rousing conversation on social media.
The controversy surrounds Michigan Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Detroit, and her interest in bringing a new historically black college to her city. In footage captured from the meeting, Whitsett touts her idea of bringing a historically black college to the Motor City.
“I would love to see a historically black college in the city of Detroit, and I think you’re just the president to do it,” Whitsett told Trump during the meeting.
Trump responded quickly, expressing optimism about the plan.
“It’s an interesting idea,” Trump said. “They’ve got a lot of money now. They’re all set. Maybe we can work something out. We’ll talk about that.”
He adds that bringing “one, real good one,” is a “great” idea. Trump turned to John James, a Republican candidate for a Michigan Senate seat, and suggested he “start working on that.”
Why did the discussion get backlash?
Most of the chatter around the seemingly harmless conversation has pointed to the lack of historically context around it. Namely, a “historic” black college, in the federal definition, cannot be newly introduced.
The U.S. Department of Education and the Higher Education Act of 1965 considers historically black colleges as institutions of higher learning established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, whose principal mission was, and still remains, to educate black students. Therefore, a new college could not be designated as a historically black college.
There are 107 colleges deemed as HBCUs, according to the Department of Education. Detroit was once home to an HBCU, Lewis Business College, which also is known as Lewis College of Business. Lewis was established in 1928 and closed its doors in 2013.
The concept of the new HBCU brought much mockery on Twitter on Friday.
Trump has not responded to the critics as of Friday. He was in town Thursday to meet with legislators and tour the Ford Motor Company’s Rawsonville plant, which has been repurposed to manufacture ventilators and personal protective equipment.
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