On Monday, President Donald Trump walked back a statement made on Friday suggesting that he did not support setting aside funds for historically black colleges and universities.
The suggestion that black colleges should be defunded was made on Friday in a signing statement after Trump had signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill. In the signing statement, Trump suggested that it was unconstitutional to set aside money for higher institutions of learning that focus on one race because of a violation of due process laws.
It seemed to be a nod to the conservative view that affirmative action and similar programs are actually discriminatory to whites, though it was not clear from the statement whether Trump was simply nodding to that view or if the White House would refuse to allocate the funds that Congress had already set aside for the HBCUs.
White House aide Omarosa Manigault denied that the signing statement signaled a shift away from HBCU support, according to the New York Times, saying “I worked to make sure there was clarity because I observed that there was feedback and some were misconstruing the signing statement.”
Still, that didn’t help those in the African-American community who were left feeling like they had been left in the cold, especially since Trump had met with HBCU presidents in the White House for a huge photo op in February.
The White House later issued a statement late Sunday saying that Trump’s signing statement “does not affect my unwavering support” for HBCUs and that his commitment “remains unchanged.”
However, Michael L. Lomax, the president and chief executive of the College Fund, said that the statement was a step in the right direction but that actions would speak louder than words.
“The clearest indication that they accept what has been the policy and the practice since 1965 would be the immediate release of the funds and the implementation of the program,” he said.