I was on twitter scrolling through my timeline a week or so ago and one of my college friends posted the following picture and asked for his follower’s thoughts.
Initially after reading the post, I was filled with rage because as a graduate of a PWI (Predominately White Institution), I get tired of the constant bashing of black students that decided to go to a PWI instead of a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
My first response was “are there HBCUs in every state? Do most high school graduates even know what a HBCU is, or more importantly their history?”
This fight between PWI and HBCU students/graduates has gone too far, and what many HBCU attendees fail to realize is that the majority of high school graduates don’t know what a HBCU is. We go through 12 years of history lessons and in those years 10% or less is used to inform students about African American history. The majority of that time, the focus is solely on slavery and a few members of the Civil Rights Movement (mainly MLK and Parks). How can we expect young African American high school graduates to choose to go to a HBCU when the majority of them don’t even know the full extent of black history, or fully understand the toll that racism has on the black community until they go to college?
I understand the views of the person that wrote that post, but what extreme HBCU fanatics fail to realize is that PWIs are advertised much more that HBCUs. In fact most state public universities are PWIs and they are the ones that are focused on, especially if a high school student is looking for a school what will give them scholarships/grants to attend. High school students are constantly discouraged from pursing private schools because of the cost. If students are wondering how they’re going to pay for college, why would a private institution be on their list of schools to apply to? Additionally, many black high school students are often the first of their families to go to college, there isn’t a legacy of HBCUs passed onto them. Parents are simply happy that their children got into a college and decided to go, after years of preaching to them the importance of a college education.
People shouldn’t belittle PWI attendees for their choice or lack of knowledge. African American students learn far to late about the significance of HBCUs, or have been brainwashed into thinking that going to an HBCU won’t provided them with a real world experience because of the lack of diversity. Between that, the lack of funding to attend college and the constant rumors that HBCUs are losing their accreditation, what would you expect a high school graduate to do?
As a college graduate from a PWI, I will push my children to attend a HBCU, but if they choose not to, I won’t assail them for it. How does that help create support and unity in the black community, two heavy disregarded factors that we need?
That said, why can’t African American students attend predominately white institutions? If they don’t protest and boycott for their right to be accepted at an institution that they pay to go to, what are we really telling kids? The Civil Rights Movement was sparked purely for this reason. We wanted our right to equality, a part of that included integration. Do people really think that the fight is over because we are allowed to sit wherever we like on a bus, are “free” and can now vote (even though we don’t take advantage of the latter)? If students don’t fight for their right to be accepted, just as they did in the past, what happens to future generations? Civil rights activist didn’t fight for integration, for us to decide years later that we aren’t going to take advantage of that by not going to a PWI and instead a HBCU.
The problems with HBCUs are not that students aren’t attending them. The problem is the lack of exposure that they are given. The problem is that the black community doesn’t teach their kin our history, because the majority of our community is ignorant to the truth themselves…or too caught up in their own lives to care about the community as a whole.
If you want to help HBCUs
ask, no demand that our community starts giving back to black owned businesses. Ask alumni to donate to their alma mater. Demand from school boards that African American history become a mandated course within itself, that’s sure to help create pride and awareness in future generations to come. Ask celebrities, the ones that many black youths look up to, to discuss the important of knowing black history and supporting black owned business.
That’s our problem as a community, we lack unity and support, and post like these only help to create a greater divide. Instead of using your passion for HBCUs to condemn black PWI students, revert your energy towards uplifting youth so that they know the truth. Revert your energy towards the government, fight to make African American history a course that is learned in secondary, and not just post-secondary institutions. We can’t fix our future if we don’t know our past.
Whether HBCU or PWI, focus not on the divide created by the institutions themselves, but focus on the community; the community of black youths that decided to college to better themselves. It doesn’t matter where they went, all that matters are that they did. That alone should be a reason to celebrate and not criticize a person’s choice.