Before we begin, let’s get this out of the way: Contrary to what is being reported on the internet and airwaves, left-leaning journalist Jemele Hill did not write a piece promoting segregation. If you were keeping up with the news last week, you might have been led to believe that her article in The Atlantic was just another piece of race-baiting tripe. It would be hard to blame you as she has engaged in this type of rhetoric in the past.
Hill called President Donald Trump a white supremacist and expressed frustration at black men who sided with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was the subject of questionable allegations of sexual assault. But despite what most conservative media outlets have reported, the article contained no calls for segregation.
However, the former ESPN anchor did put forth a solution to a problem one wouldn’t expect from a leftist. And it is one of those rare times when someone on the left eschews a statist solution to a problem in favor of a free market remedy.
Jemele Hill Addresses Plight of HBCU’s
Jemele Hill penned a piece for The Atlantic discussing the problems many historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) and how they impact the black community. The journalist explained how HBCU’s have contributed to the success of many black Americans and the middle class:
“Despite constituting only 3 percent of four-year colleges in the country, HBCUs have produced 80 percent of the black judges, 50 percent of the black lawyers, 50 percent of the black doctors, 40 percent of the black engineers, 40 percent of the black members of Congress, and 13 percent of the black CEOs in America today.”
Many HBCU’s are experiencing financial difficulties. These issues are endangering these historical institutions, and despite receiving about $460 million from the federal government, other solutions are needed. The solution that Hill proposes in her article would involve groups of high-performing black athletes who choose to attend an HBCU to help the schools increase their revenue. “While NCAA rules prevent them from making money off their own labor at the college level, they are essential to the massive amount of revenue generated by college football and basketball,” she wrote.
This is where the confusion about segregation comes in. Some have assumed that she called for all black athletes to attend HBCU’s – which regularly admit white students – to help them earn more revenue. In reality, she suggested that a small group make this step. “Three or four of them could spark a national conversation – and in basketball, could generate a championship run that attracted fans and money. Now imagine five or 10 or 20 – or a few dozen. That could quickly propel a few black schools into the athletic empyrean, and change the place of HBCU’s in American culture,” she explained.
A Free Market Solution for HBCU’s?
It is worth pointing out that at no point in her article did Hill suggest pushing for more government funds to pull HBCU’s out of their financial woes. Instead, she proposed a solution that would rely on the free market to revitalize these historic institutions. Indeed, other black Americans – despite their support for the Democratic Party – have embraced capitalism to solve problems in their communities.
Before his unfortunate death earlier this year, rapper Nipsey Hussle used the millions he made from his rap career to buy businesses, create jobs, and build resource centers for black youth in his city. Jay Z recently joined with the NFL to provide a more productive way for football players to make their voices heard without alienating fans. In fact, many black entertainers and entrepreneurs have turned to the free market to rebuild their communities rather than sitting back and waiting for Uncle Sam to act.
Could Hill’s suggestion work? It’s possible, but there are other issues at play even if a group of players followed her advice. One glaring point is the players themselves; what will they get out of such an arrangement? There is also the issue of television coverage. Bringing in more high-profile athletes would certainly provide somewhat of a boost to these colleges, but would networks be willing to cover their games? Likely, this would not happen until they built a team that competes with the upper-tier universities.
Either way, the fact that some on the left are willing to rely on the free market to address problems in the black community should be an encouraging sign. It is easy to assume that most on the left are rabid socialists who want the state to control our lives. But the reality is that some are not the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez type. Perhaps these are the sort of areas where conservatives – who understand the power of the free market – could make inroads with minority communities that have more in common with them than they might think.