Who Teaches Better: White or Black Professors?

The title may look a little silly, and I feel silly for even writing it. But I think this a conversation that needs to take place at HBCUs and not for the reason you may think. This conversation does not need to happen so that all the white faculty members can be fired and be replaced by black faculty members. This conversation needs to happen because we need to dispel the myth that Black professors are more suited to teach at an HBCU based on the color of their skin.

The thought came about from two different sources: an article on the Madame Noire site  about a discrimination suit filed against Alabama State University from two white professors. They claimed that the HBCU only wanted to hire more black staff with the idea that Black professors are more qualified to teach Black students.

Also, I recently discovered that my Media Law/ Audio Production professor was being fired. Although he did not outright say it, I felt that the reason was that my department wanted more black staff and that thought was confirmed when another professor stated it outright during a class. Other students seemed overjoyed at the prospect of an “all-black” department, but my feelings were mixed. While I am all about celebrating black intellect and supporting black professors and academics, I’m not entirely sure about hiring a professor just because they are black.

Many of the professors I’ve had over the years have come from all races. My favorite Lincoln English teacher is Caucasian, my Thinking About Journalism tutor in London was Iranian American, several others were British, and of course most of my Mass Comm professors at Lincoln are black. And they’ve all been wonderful. And race did not play a factor in how well they taught or what I learned. So, it surprises me that Lincoln, an institution that values itself for its distinguished faculty, would go out of its way to hire a professor not based on their qualifications, but on their skin color. The same institution that strives to discourage discrimination, in fact practices a form of discrimination itself. And that is disappointing.

I can only hope that my university sees this trend and hopes to reverse. My biggest fear is that this trend will continue across departments and even across universities. Which will beg the question: are black universities with all black staffs really survive?

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