By Brenda Robinson
Prior to his death in 2009, Oral Roberts, an American Pentecostal televangelist and president of Oral Roberts University, stirred up controversy with his alleged receipt of millions of dollars from a contributor’s gambling payout. A Fort Wayne minister made a clever statement about the alleged contribution. The minister said, “Sometimes the Lord sends it and the devil has to bring it.”
This preacher’s statement is an appropriate response to the contribution to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) given by the billionaire Koch brothers (David and Charles). There are critics of UNCF President Michael Lomax for his acceptance of a $25 million gift designated for black colleges and black students. The most recognizable and powerful critic is Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Sanders is black and also disillusioned. Our message to Sanders is the Lord sent it and the devil had to bring it.
Let’s dissect Sanders’ reasoning. He contends acceptance of the dollars is a betrayal of the ideas of the Civil Rights Movement and the union must sever the UNCF/AFSCME partnership. He said the conservative Koch brothers have worked to suppress African Americans’ right to vote through limiting voter registration opportunities and pushing voter identification laws. However, there are movements in place to prohibit this suppression and Sanders union members could join the movement. Sanders is correct. Voter rights were a significant part of the Civil Rights Movement, but his other complaints do not fit the category.
Lomax’s appearance as a guest and speaker at the California million dollar affair, sponsored by the Koch brothers, does not mean Lomax supports the Koch agenda. In addition, the other guest, reportedly 300 billionaires, and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell among them, decreases any influence Lomax may have helped promote, particularly on racist planning. His record with educating black students dispels any belief he would “sell them out.”
Finally, reportedly Charles Murray was at this California Koch event. Murray is the social scientist who co-authored the book, The Bell Curve. Sanders and others assert this book implies black children are genetically inferior. Well, the book was written 21 years ago. Murray’s views are unfounded and considered invalid by reasonable people, particularly educators.
Sanders’ organization is one of the largest labor unions in the country with 1.6 million members. Sanders must be applauded for AFSCME’s contributions to UNCF. According to Sanders, his union has consistently contributed about $60,000 yearly, provided college students summer employment, and personal scholarships to students during their junior and senior years. In addition, local unions have given additional dollars. It can safely be said that this union has contributed a minimum of one million yearly, and that is not chump change. However, UNCF, according to Lomax, has 100,000 donors, yet those receipts are not enough to keep black colleges financially stable and the majority of black students are struggling to remain in college.
The financial need of black students behooves Sanders to relax. Lomax’s history of sound commitment to black students is enough to trust him with obtaining dollars for UNFC. Perhaps, Lomax’s motivation is similar to those of the characters in the 1969 novel, “The Spook Who Sat By the Door.” This novel reflected the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) training blacks as officers who later used that training against the CIA (LOL). Lomax could have obtained a wealth of information in that California meeting which could translate into more dollars for UNCF, with no strings attached.
An old Negro spiritual sums it up: Now that we know better, Sanders, other critics, and all of us, let’s look beyond the Koch brothers’ faults and see the need of UNCF.