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After Black History Month bomb threats, we must rebuild the sense of safety at HBCUs

Historically Black Universities and Colleges changed the course of our lives, and countless others, for the better. These institutions were built to educate and celebrate the Black community when very few would. 

At Xavier University in New Orleans, a single mother was able to bring her six children to class with her, so she could finish her degree. Little did she know her children and her children’s children would later attend the same HBCU, solidifying its forever role in the family. 

At North Carolina A&T State University, they invested in a young Black woman from the ghetto streets of Newark. Her mom saved every penny so she could be the first in her family to attend college. The university’s committed investment in her provided the academic support she needed so she could succeed in ways she never thought were possible. They took her from cleaning houses with her mother to serving in the U.S. House. 

Generations of our family members have had the opportunity to think critically, advance their academic pursuits, be themselves, and celebrate their culture at HBCUs. 

Learning is a deeply personal experience — one in which students need to feel safe, respected, and encouraged to ask questions and advance understanding. To many, these institutions can be safe havens in a world that all too often directs bias, stereotypes, and racism toward young Black people. Many a student have weathered difficult storms in the safe harbor of an HBCU community. 

But recently, this sense of safety has been rocked to its core. 

On Jan. 5, at least eight HBCUs received bomb threats. Multiple schools ordered evacuations or lockdowns and alerted local enforcement.  

Then, on the first day of Black History Month, six more bomb threats occurred

On the second day, fourteen. 

Some schools, like Howard University where our son and grandson attend, experienced two bomb threats two days in a row last week. 

Let us be clear: these are acts of terror, and these are hate crimes. 

As such, they must be urgently investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

As members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the HBCU Caucus we have been pushing for federal law enforcement involvement, which is ongoing. The FBI has identified several suspects but has not yet made any arrests. 

While no explosions have occurred, harm has already been done. Students and faculty at these HBCU communities across the country are frightened, and their academic endeavors have been disrupted.  

Terrorism and racism have no place on college campuses or anywhere in our nation.  

It should not take multiple instances of threats or a bomb going off to understand that something is deeply wrong here. 

The perpetrators somewhere, whoever they are, either want to harm the Black community or they want us to be afraid. 

Both reasons are utterly deplorable and blatantly racist. Both must be prevented at all costs. 

HBCUs are resilient institutions that will continue to persist and weather every storm.

As Dr. Maya Angelou said, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

We will never be reduced or be made smaller than who we are. We are proud Black HBCU graduates and advocates.

In Congress, we are closely monitoring the situation and are doing everything possible to bring an end to these threats and to support law enforcement in their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

But we cannot just treat the symptom. We have to cure the disease. 

At our kitchen tables, on our main streets and in our churches, we must not be afraid to talk about race and hate — even when it’s uncomfortable. 

Everyone has a role to play in challenging racism and hatred. 

Let us meet this moment and help build safer, stronger-knit communities. 

Together, we can live up to the true meaning and intention of Black History Month. Let us make every month going forward one in which Black communities are safe and respected.

Carter represents the 2nd District of Louisiana and is a member of the CBC. Adams represents the 12th District of North Carolina and is the chair of the Congressional HBCU Caucus and a member of the CBC.

Tags Bomb threat HBCU bomb threats Historically black colleges and universities

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