Democrat Reps. Pete Stark of California and Stephen Cohen of Tennessee both have substantial numbers of black constituents.

So they both applied to join the Congressional Black Caucus. But both of their membership applications were turned down – because their skin shades are insufficiently dark.

Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., a cofounder of this racially segregated group, circulated a memo telling its members it is “critical” that the group remain “exclusively African-American.”

On Jan. 4, the Washington Post reported another (yet far less outrageous) race issue under the following headline: “Trial focuses on whether Md. black colleges receive enough funding, support.”

That inevitably raises the question: Should racially integrated Maryland taxpayers be obliged forever to especially subsidized schools that are “historically black”?

If so, should this financial support of “historically black” colleges go on forever?

Or are supporters of this racial recognition willing to accept that such racial funding should not go on forever – without any stipulation whatsoever about how long they believe it should continue?

If such black racial college funding is still justified (with no end in sight), what was wrong with its opposite number in the last century: colleges that were “historically white”?

The Post reported that in Maryland, “Blacks were mostly barred from several public colleges until the mid-1950s, and the institutions remained deeply segregated until the 1970s.

“Today, more than two-fifths of black students enrolled in Maryland public universities attend what were known as ‘traditionally white’ institutions.”

Do any of these Maryland colleges ever describe themselves as “traditionally white” institutions?

Not to my knowledge.

But the Washington Post reports: “Yet leaders of the state’s four historically black public institutions – Bowie State, Coppin State and Morgan State universities and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore – say they are unable to compete with those schools for talented students of any race.

“‘From the beginning, [historically black] universities were treated as second-class institutions,’ said Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law. He is representing the plaintiffs, who are students and alumni of the four schools.

“The lawsuit, filed in 2006, alleges that Maryland has failed to ‘honor its obligations’ to historically black schools.

“Under a civil rights agreement approved in 2000, state leaders were to ‘enhance’ those schools, partly by favoring them in funding for instruction and construction. Instead, the lawsuit contends, state funding has risen more quickly at Towson and UMBC than at the historically black schools. Construction projects have taken, on average, three years longer at historically black schools than at historically white ones, the lawsuit says.”

Let me repeat the question: Are there any colleges or universities in Maryland which presently identify themselves as “historically white schools”?

Not to my knowledge.

And, in what I surely imagine is the total absence of any Maryland colleges identifying themselves as “historically white schools,” why is any Maryland college identifying itself as “historically black” not an example of racism?

Surely any Maryland college advertising itself as “historically white” would be charged with racism and ordered by the O’Malley (Democratic) state government to cease and desist.

The Post also reports:

“State officials contend that historically black schools have received relatively more state dollars than other public institutions in the past decade. From 2001 to 2006, they said, state funding to historically black schools rose by 7 percent a year, while support to other comprehensive public universities rose 2 percent annually. New construction also has proceeded at a faster pace, and the population of African-American students has grown across the university system, according to state data.

“‘No current state policies or practices have restricted the choice of any student to attend any institution of higher learning in the state of Maryland,’ Craig Thompson, an attorney for the defendants, said in opening statements before U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake.”

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