Should Black Colleges Accept Donations From the Koch Brothers?

Some critics of the conservative duo say the $25 million is just to gain support for the Republican Party.

Posted: 07/23/2014 01:29 PM EDT
Michael Lomax

Michael Lomax, president of the UNCF. (Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for BET)

Recently the United Negro College Fund received a gift of $25 million from conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.

Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, willingly accepted the donation and also spoke at a conference held by the Koch brothers.

Some may feel that this was an appropriate gesture on Lomax’s behalf as a sign of appreciation for the Koch’s donation, but Lomax’s actions were heavily criticized. Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, severed ties with the UNCF because of Lomax’s acceptance of the donation.

In a letter to Lomax, Saunders wrote, "We are doing this as a result of actions you have taken as president of the UNCF that are not only deeply hostile to the rights and dignity of public employees, but also a profound betrayal of the ideals of the civil rights movement. Your appearance at the summit can only be interpreted as a sign of your personal support and the UNCF's organizational support of the Koch brothers' ideological program."

Donations made to the UNCF are not uncommon and this contribution appears to have come at a great time considering that a lot of historically Black colleges and universities are facing financial hardships.

Howard University saw a decrease in student population from 11,321 students in 1980 to 10,297 students as of February 2014 due to financial setbacks. Morris Brown College in Atlanta had more than 3,000 students enrolled at one time, but that number dropped to 35 in 2014 after the college filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Given these facts that show the need for financial support, what exactly is it about the Koch brothers’ donation that has some people outraged?

Many critics feel that this latest gesture is just an attempt to cover the Koch brothers’ own political agenda. Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, a program geared to strengthen Black America’s political voice, reacted to the Koch brothers’ actions by stating, “Giving someone a check at the end of spending years putting in laws to suppress them is not justice. It's cover.”

Throughout the years, the Koch brothers have aided in funding different programs and campaigns that target African-Americans, such as the "Stand Your Ground" laws and advertisements referring to President Barack Obama as “cokehead in chief.”

The Koch brothers’ affiliation with the Tea Party has caused people like Harry Belafonte to compare them to white supremacists.

With this controversial history, should the UNCF give back the much needed money to prove a point?

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