After meeting last week with President Donald Trump, Morehouse President John Wilson Jr. kept it 100, releasing a statement that described the two days of meetings as, well, “troubling.” He said he had high expectations for the outcome, hoping for increased funding for HBCUs, especially since Trump vowed to do more for the schools than previous presidents.
“In general, the meetings were a troubling beginning to what must be a productive relationship,” he wrote. “Trust that the HBCU community will continue to press for the kind of funding that educational excellence and national competitiveness require!”
But the big news that came out of the meeting was an executive order that moved the HBCU initiative from under the Department of Education to the White House, a decision leaders pushed for in hopes of having a more direct line to the president.
Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough complained in a blog post that many of the presidents went unheard after the group made an impromptu visit to see Trump in the Oval Office, notes The Huffington Post.
He did seize the moment to sign an executive order in a photo op that included a much-ridiculed viral image of presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway kneeling on a sofa. The order did not include did funding that many HBCUs so desperately need at a time when several are in danger of closing.
That’s why it’s good that Wilson kept it 100, which is likely why he’s experiencing backlash in the media. On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Wilson was fired from Morehouse when he’s already slated to leave in June when his contract expires.
Still, here are four tongue-in-cheek suggestions leaders could have done to get maximum collateral from the Trump meeting:
1. Kept it 100: Trump’s election platform “othered” pretty much every American that didn’t look like him. Meeting with him is like meeting with the person who says that they’re trying to clean your eye out while they’re spitting into it. It’s also akin to meeting with an abuser while still nursing fresh wounds. So keeping it 100 for all of the leaders, not just for Wilson and Kimbrough, is the only option.
2. Gone Black preacher on them. The HBCU presidents should have called out the sin among Trump’s team. Further, they should have written a joint public statement saying, “As the leaders of the nation’s HBCUs, we are excited to meet with President Donald Trump. He has agreed to apologize for his incessant lies and caricatures of the African American community, which he and his team have espoused from the inception of his campaign. (Note to Ben Carson: Slaves did not come here as immigrants!).” Indeed, a public call to repentance would have put Trump’s team in the hot seat, and more importantly would have set a precedent for other groups to follow.
3. Pulled a Kanye. If the HBCU presidents didn’t want to go all “Black Preacher” on Trump, then at least they should have pulled a Kanye and gone off script. When asked to speak during the meeting, a spokesperson should have said, “We took this meeting out of concern for our students, our historic institutions, and the American people whom we serve. We did so, however, with heavy hearts, for the same administration that we meet with is the same administration that has disparaged and lied about our community and other communities in our nation. We hope that this meeting signals the change that this team is making: from alternative facts to real ones, from disparaging remarks to uplifting ones.”
4. Posed like it was their mugshot. Some of the presidents smiled for the photo with Trump like they had just one the lottery. And in doing so, they gave Trump what he wanted most—that coveted photo op. Instead of flashing those Kool-aid smiles, they should have mugged for the camera like they’d just been arrested for saying that Black Minds Matter. They should have made the same faces that Malcolm, Martin, and Rosa made when they were arrested. Heck, each of them could’ve raised a fist to create an image that would have given the Grand Old Party leaders something they would never forget.
My point is this: it didn’t matter so much how they resisted (whether they took more of a Malcolm or a Martin approach) as much as it matters that they did resist. Their students, our community, and our nation need them to lead with truth, integrity, and honor, especially if our current administration is unable to. Maybe next time?
Chanté Griffin is a Los Angeles-based writer and entertainer. She majored in Media Studies at Pomona College and Spelman College, studying how the media constructs and intersects with race, culture, and gender. When she’s not blogging at Beneath the Surface, she’s producing her YouTube sketch series, 14 Days of Funny. Tweet with her! @yougochante