By Mayowa Fageyinbo, Contributing Writer
Earlier this year, students of the University of Cape Town celebrated the removal of the statue of British colonial Cecil Rhodes. To many, its presence on campus was a symbol of the exploiting and stealing from black Africans, white supremacy and the foundation of Apartheid in South Africa. The taking down of the statue was preceded by weeks of protesting under the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign, a student-founded initiative on campus.
This resistance against Rhodes raises questions in regard to one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, the American Rhodes Scholarship. This award is open to college students in all 50 states in the United States along with the District of Columbia. Students are chosen based on their academic achievements, leadership, character and philanthropic spirit. The winners are invited to study at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Rhodes scholars hail from globally-acclaimed universities and colleges such as Yale, Harvard and Stanford. However, it is not only students from predominantly White institutions applying. Students from HBCUs, namely Howard University, have also applied for and received the award. In fact, the first female Rhodes Scholar from an HBCU attended Howard University. Howard has the scholarship listed on its website under “Undergraduate Programs of Excellence,” and a portrait of a Rhodes Scholar can be found hanging on the ground floor of the administrative building.
As a historically Black institution, Howard integrates the learning of Black history and culture into its curriculum, and tends to create a greater appreciation of the Black race for its students. Considering this, it is ironic that the University encourages its students to apply for the Rhodes scholarship. Cecil Rhodes’s legacy seems to conflict with the ideology and mission of “the Mecca.” This may be the result of a lack of knowledge on Cecil Rhodes. When Howard students Arfie Ghedi and Aidan Keys were asked who Cecil Rhodes was they said, “Isn’t he the Rhodes scholarship guy?” and “I don’t know.”
Perhaps the question of whether to acknowledge the Rhodes scholarship is one Howard should ask itself.