William A. Foster, IV
The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself. — Thales
Pictured Above: Virginia State University’s Reginald F. Lewis School of Business
In the 1940s, Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted the legendary doll test. This husband and wife psychologist team put before young African American kids two dolls. One doll was African American and the other European American, then asked the kids which doll they preferred. The children identified the European American doll as the good doll and the African American as the bad doll. A sign that as a community we lacked enough mediums to show our children healthy images of beauty and value within themselves. Carter G. Woodson, famously talks about the African Americans distrust of African American owned banks and doctors due to us believing that we mentally were not capable of achieving such feats. However, when you have an opportunity and a medium to counter such a belief, is there an effort made to ensure it is used, developed, and promoted? If we are to promote HBCU students becoming tomorrow’s HBCU faculty, deans, and presidents, then do we not need to show them that it is not only possible, but wanted?
An internal survey by HBCU Money showed that apparently HBCUs do not believe much in the pipeline they have produced over the years. Our survey showed that only 23 percent of HBCU business school deans and chairs have a degree of any sort from an HBCU. Even further, it showed that only 67 percent of HBCU business school deans and chairs are of African descent. It is saying to our students do not look to your own institutions as an opportunity because we do not believe you are qualified even though we trained you to run our institutions. It also continues to say that we do not understand the purpose of our institutions looking out for our interest. How many understand that HBCU business schools should be tackling the African American unemployment problem? Or the wealth gap due to lack of ownership for African America? Why is it important for African American businesses to bank with African American banks and connect to the overall African Diaspora ecosystem? They run these business schools as if they were just another college. In comparison, a look at Ivy League business schools, excluding Brown and Princeton who do not have business schools, and including some of the premier business schools like Berkley, University of Chicago, Duke, Rice, and Stanford the story is the exact opposite of ours. Of the eleven schools none had a dean of African descent and 9 out of 11 had a degree from one of the 11 schools. That is circulation of intellectual capital. That is truly believing in the product you are producing.
This speaks to a need to increase interconnection between HBCU undergraduate and graduate schools. It is clear we need more Morehouse College and Spelman College graduates making their way into the graduate schools of the likes of Southern University and North Carolina Central University. There is a unique opportunity for HBCUs to teach African Americans how to operate African American institutions and enterprises with a curriculum designed around the specific experiences that we encounter. However, this opportunity is missed as school’s like Johnson C. Smith University are too busy trying to reshape themselves into a “diverse” HBCU. A diversity that is not defined by an increase of African Diaspora citizens from around the world, but instead a diverse definition mimicked by HWCU/PWIs that brain drain the most talented from other communities meanwhile not relinquishing any of the actual power. We on the other hand will give up the entire farm to make others feel included. The group with the least resources shares the most.
It would strongly behoove HBCUs not only in the business schools, but overall to create a program for alumni called Future HBCU Faculty/Leadership of Tomorrow programs. This would allow for students to get a first hand feel for shadowing a professor, chair, or dean for a day. The HBCU Faculty Development Network could play a large role in facilitating the implementation of such a program on HBCU campuses. If HBCUs claim they can not find qualified HBCU graduates to head up their business schools or can not find professors with HBCU backgrounds, then that means they have not done a good job of developing them. I assume that is not a notion they want to admit to themselves, but one that will continue to cost HBCUs in the long-term dearly.