Last month, reporting from a drab hotel conference room in Washington, I witnessed something as bizarre as it was timely: Donald Trump, mired in a race-infused culture war of his own making, receiving repeated applause from a crowd of brown faces. He was heaping praise on the hundreds gathered there for his remarks at the National HBCU Week Conference.
“You have shaped American leaders, trained American legends, pioneered American innovations, empowered American workers, built American communities. And you’ve made all of America very proud of you,” he told the audience. His claim mid-speech that his team’s support for historically black colleges and universities has been “bigger and better and stronger than any previous administration, by far” was a characteristic exaggeration. But it is true that the White House has mildly increased investment in H.B.C.U. programming by 14.3 percent.