Friday, December 11, 2009

Missing Pakistanis: maybe Howard U and other HBCUs should enroll African Americans?

Read the MSNBC story here about the DC-area Muslim young men--all fitting the profile of middle-class, educated rather than goat farmers--arrested in Pakistan after bolting the country in pursuit of Jihad glory. Of course these guys were rebuffed as amateurs once they naively showed up, but what motivates young men with everything to lose? Look at US Army Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan--a trained MD and shrink. What is this inner voice that says I am somehow unworthy of my accomplishments in this world...this alien world that has given them so much? Why do they think it's robbed them of their souls as Muslims?

The mosque in Virginia where many were members has been outspoken in their opposition to radicalization, and is largely a congregation of families. Regular people. But the refrain's the same: "He/they were cool people, never giving an indication they would disappear, run to Pakistan, try to join al Qaida or other radical groups, or assist the Taliban in Afghanistan." So how well do they really know these fellows? There is a similar refrain in when folks are asked Did you know he was in a gang...a drug dealer...selling her body for meth/crack...did you know he was a serial killer? Sometimes it's not a lie or covering up. It's denial, disbelief. Willful blindness.

Then we come to Howard and other HBCUs. One of the Pakistani 5, Ramy Zamzam, is an honor student at Howard Dental School (I can see the campus from my window as I type this). At one time, the best and brightest of black America went to places like Howard and the suberb graduate/professional schools attached thereto. But in the last 20 years things have morphed from a brain drain to the UN. Medical school, law school, dental, school of pharmacy studies, engineering and even liberal arts/humanities related gread programs are full of well...Ramy Zamzam. Yes, white Americans have discovered these schools as lower cost, high profile, but the unstated truth is that they are filled with Iranians, Iraqis, Nigerians, Congolese, Syrians, Russians, Ukrainians, Albanians, Chinese, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Indians, Saudis, billionaire kiddies from that mega Disney fanstasy called Dubai, Tanzanians, South Africans etc etc. Many can pay in cash or cut a check that won't bounce, or that mom/dad didn't have take out a second mortgage to cover. Uncle Sam isn't going to sweat them for financial aid...Uncle Sam actually likes having them as much as the colleges' comptrollers do. Well, some parts of the government aren't as happy. Like the State Department, Homeland Security, etc. The African Americans there? Well, they are trying to carry the flag as minorities in an HBCU. Irony? Oxymoron? Nope. And most of these are females. Young men like Zamzam are welcomed with open arms (and deposit slips); young African American men? Ummm...

So what are you thoughts, fanboys & girls?


Anonymous said...

Nat - shame on you. What these guys did has nothing to do with Howard being an HBCU. Also, the graduate schools have always been more diverse, so this is not news.

Lisa said...

I think he's right, especially when you look at the investment in young black AMERICAN MALES vs. people like Zamzam and his cohorts in the professional degree programs. This isn't only HU's problem. HBCUs and universities in general want the $$$. So who cares about our black men like my son, who'll approach college age a minority within a minority in his own country.

My dad was HU Pharmacy School in the early 70s and he doesn't recognize the place when he comes east to for reunions or for meetings.

Russell said...

Willful blindness would explain it.

Hathor said...

The one thing it will accomplish is that it will give HBCUs better status in corporate America, especially in engineering firms. The blacks that graduate from schools will not be viewed as having second class degrees. A view I have seen.

Anonymous said...

Surely as a college Professor you should know the numbers better than anyone else.

If you are African-America male with good grades and an interest in the Sciences - you have a pick of schools to attend be it HBCU or otherwise. HBCU's simply cant compete for that level of talent and they have to make up the numbers; to do that they open up to everyone..Russians, Nigerians, Ukrainians, Indians anyone with the score to get in or cash to pay.

Reality is that Americans (not only AA) have drifted away from the sciences with focus on social sciences or that amorphous degree - the MBA. My nephew is just finishing up Pharmacy school in West Virgina, and they have more Asian and African students than any other group. Its the reality of new America - the vast majority of indigenes are in a state of stupor from a steady diet of Fast food, trash TV and low expectation schools. If you in doubt try explaining the emergence of Sarah Palin and the success of Glenn Beck.

Dont go nativist, you are better than that. I am always suspicious of such arguments - blaming others for your woes.

Try increasing the number of black males in undergrad programs who finish within 6yrs (thats the average), but looking at increasing the numbers in Science based Grad schools.

Anonymous said...


Thats a straw man argument. In the new world, you son is competing with other college age kids around the world. There is no college age kid in this country that intently wants to attend college and will be unable to achieve that aim. There is no correlation between Mr Zamzam problems and your son attending college.

I am a naturalized American, and every time some "non america" is hired or promoted I hear grunts from some folks around the office. These idiots cant relate the fact that over 50% of the companies profits is made from our overseas affiliates; and going my the companys stated glidepath - future growth will be from the following countries: Asia - India, China, Indonesia, Africa - Nigeria, Latin America - Brazil. To succeed it has to hire the best and in order to retain offer these employees comparable career opportunities with affiliates around the globe.

There will not be less "foreigners" around you there will more. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreemeny with 'Nat'. I attended Howard in the 90's and received a Phd. The program was dominated by West Indian, Nigerian and Arab students. I had no problem with that as I came from the westcoast and was just pleased to attend an HBCU.

While I agree that the bottomline is $$$$, the historical and social environment created by these non-African American students, was to my perception, 'choking the life out of the historical' objective of the university. While it pains me to have to say that, that was/is the reality. I found myself fighting tooth and nail for my very dignity with these students who had little to no respect for the historical and courageous struggles of 'my' African American ancestors. I found myself defending my 'community' against accusations of how 'ALL' Black Americans were, on drugs, welfare, overweight, dumb, etc., etc,. etc, from Africans and West Indians!. I worked as an admissions counselor, while there, as all/most teaching assistantships and the like had been wrangled away by the non-African American students. Fine, as competition can be a good thing, but that is no what occured here.

In the office where I worked, the West Indian staff were building a 'stronghold' on all such staff positions. Damn shame what Howard has become, or has had to become Fine. But the 'racist/ethnic' disrespect I experienced from folk, many who looked like me was ,heartbreaking, if not soul destroying. I went there with no preconceived(negative) notion of any cultures not my own;but when I left, I was a changed person. I currently teach for the University of California, and have just been introduced to the 'newest' group to bring with them there xenophobic and ethnocentric perceptions of Black Americans--Asian students, where the Southeast asian, Japanese, Chinese etc. ,make whites look tame by comparison.

Native born African Americans are in for a much ruder awakening, as more new immigrant group continue to alter the face of America; not necessarily for the good. 'Nat' has called it as it is. Hold strong. Nayo

Kristopher Militant Mosby said...

My wife works @ Howard and I've been hearing the same thing (that the Anonymous PhD typed) for years. I took the liberty of forwarding this post to a friend of ours, who also received a Doctorate from Howard a few years back:

"WOW!! You know what Kris. To me, this is right on time. I thought I was the only one or one of a few that saw this phenomenon when I was at Howard. I noticed that the student body was slowly getting 'whiter' and 'whiter'. What I mean by whiter is that the student body was becoming more and more of everyone BUT black students. These other students have money, they come from all over the globe with money to pay tuition and housing and fees in cash. They don't need the U.S. Dept. of Education to help fund their education. Howard takes them in without a second thought."

"They also come to Howard sometimes, quite honestly because they could not get into Georgetown or GW, or other places. Also, I think another reason places like Howard accepts a broader student body is because the US Dept of Education says they must to continue to receive funding from the federal government. Howard and other hbcu's get less and less money from alumni so they are more and more dependent upon government funds. Maybe if Howard weren't so awful to you as a student, then a student might feel more obliged to continue funding as an alumni. But when you get your ass beat every step of the way until you walk across the stage, you ain't thinking about the alumni foundation or giving any money back. I know I am not. I am very surprised that one of the missing Pakistanis is actually an HU dental student! I bet you now they are considering doing some background checks on selected students. This was an interesting article. I do understand where the author is coming from."

Anonymous said...

Guys....Is looking at this issue at the College level not a tad too late?
There are countless high schools in several cities where black male kids graduation levels are utterly appalling! If that is not addressed how can they compete with the top of the crop from other countries who can afford to attend HBCU's?

I found this statement cringe worthy!

"They also come to Howard sometimes, quite honestly because they could not get into Georgetown or GW, or other places"

It implies the standards are lower, yet native students are not overwhelming the admission office.

Its a competitive world folks and you cannot create/insulate yourself from the dynamics of the wider world.

Hathor said...

anonymous 7:58,

At work, I was sort of dumbfounded when an intern that had been in the country a few years, didn't know it wasn't PC to tell me to my face how those people were (lazy, only waiting for welfare,etc...).

Kristopher Militant Mosby said...

It may be cringe worthy, but in many cases, based on their grades, it's the truth. The foreign students do have a lot of what the "native students" don't...MONEY! No grants, no loans, just cold hard cash, that makes them more attractive than some black kid with a student loan that may or may not come thru by registration time. Hard to compete against oil welfare money.

I did not graduate from Howard, but having a "back door" look at the way that place is being run, I'm embarrased for "The Black Harvard".

Anonymous said...


How come black females dont have this same issue? They are disproportionately represented in a facets of black life that involves some form of education.

This is all scapegoating! I know quite a number of Nigerians that attended Universities in the US (not exclusively HBCU's); their parents are paying these fees with blood and sweat!

There is very little credit in Nigeria the cash you spend is your hard earned savings (or loot from the Treasury for the very tiny few that are so disposed or lucky). The vast majority of these students are very well aware of the sacrifice of their parents and come here highly focused to perform academically.

Kristopher Militant Mosby said...

“How come black females don’t have this same issue?”

Let me state up front, that my background/degree is in Visual and Performing Art, not Social Science. Your question has been addressed extensively, over the years, by folks far more qualified to answer then myself. :)

From what I’ve seen/read, the problem starts/goes back to the Elementary-Middle School years. Mainly teaching styles and behavior expectations. Girls TEND to be quieter, more reserved and able to work independently at that age. Boys TEND to be more energetic and rambunctious.

The problem is figuring how to channel that male energy into something productive. Unfortunately, some teachers mistake disruptive behavior (talking in class, unable to sit still, etc.) as a sign of a disability, which leads to an overrepresentation of black males in special education. Later, many are given “social promotions” a cruel policy that guaranteed that kids who lagged far behind their classmates would never catch up. Those who don’t drop out before/during High School, graduate with inadequate knowledge and skills for students preparing to go on to college.

As for your Nigerian friends, I know quite a few also. Those I know who attended Howard (graduate programs, Law, Medicine, etc.) are like the ones you described, BUT they paid for their education up front, with cold hard cash. Like I stated, hard to compete with that. The Black Americans who do have access to that kind of cream, I don’t believe Howard or some other HBCU is going to be their first choice, unless they do not have the grades/scores to get into the Harvards, Georgetowns and Duke Universities of the world. Yes, the foreign kids ARE more motivated, maybe because the price of failing has greater consequences. The ones I’ve known DIDN’T want to go back to their county. Graduate, find a job, extend that Visa, STAY in America. If a “Native” fails, he/she can get a “do over”(enroll in Community College, work somewhere and apply to another, cheaper school, etc.) a lot easier.

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roxanne said...

Since when was HU only for African descendants from the U.S? I think you are all misremembering HU's history. Kwame Ture was West Indian and for every Paul Laurence Dunbar there has always been a Nnamdi Azikiwe (former President of Nigeria and HU class of 1955).

Furthermore the assumption that international students are all wealthy and "pay in cash" erases the role the economic racism and U.S.-centrism play in the world.

As an recent HU alumna who also lives within walking distance of the campus I think that you are confused about who and what HU was and is. . .a Mecca of people of African descent and for those who want an alternative to the dominant, euro-centric education system.