The Power of Choice: HBCUs v. Non-HBCUs

So this morning got off to a roaring start when one of my folk started going in on my school.  Though it was in part about majority white schools not being there for black students, it felt very reminiscent of what I went through in going to Hampton as an undergrad... (we won't talk about how long ago that was...)

When I started telling my white classmates in my AP classes I was going to Hampton, after the requisite "Where's that?" questions, I then got from a few, "Why would you want to go to a school that only had black people?"  First, there aren't only black people, but it is majority black.  Second, for the last 13 years of my life, K-12, I have always been in the minority in my classes.  It got worse when I began taking gifted courses.  It went from 3 or 4 in elementary school to just me usually, occasionally one other black person and once me and 2 other black people.  I know you have no concept of what it's like to be the only person somewhere but sometimes it's lonely.  I get tired of answering your ignorant black people questions.  I even asked one person, "You're going to a school with mostly white people where you're comfortable. Why wouldn't I want to be comfortable?"  I don't remember his answer.

So I went to Hampton and I loved it.  LOVED IT!!  I had a blast, I made great friends, even made some we won't say enemies but there was a group of girls who started out as friends and devolved into girls I couldn't stand.  Not fun, but to be expected when people are living in dorms and away from home for the first time.  But best of all was being around so many intelligent black people who were TRYING to better themselves and aiming for the sky.  Even some of the ones who seemed shiftless at the time are doing well now.  For the first time, I wasn't answering a far too frequent barrage of "Do black people...?"  It was a great experience for me I wouldn't change for the world and that if necessary I would fight for others to have.

Before I got to Hampton my dad said, "Why would you want to go to an all black school? That's not realistic? That's not what the real world is like."  First, COLLEGE is not realistic.  When else will you be surrounded by that many people your age WITH SO MUCH FREE TIME and few responsibilities?**  Never.  Second, I have gotten a taste of the real world living in a neighborhood with 500 homes but a handful of black families.  Give me my four years.  Once I got to Hampton and made it clear I wasn't going anywhere, he finally left me alone.  But then one of those black people I had AP classes with said to me after my sophomore year, "You're too smart to go to a black school."  EXCUSE ME!!  The ignorance is outrageous.  Yes, there are black schools that allow people in who might not be able to get in elsewhere JUST LIKE FOR NON-HBCUS.  But only your own ignorance is to blame if you assume out of more than 100 HBCUs, they are all the same with the same standards.

This morning yielded an attack on non-HBCUs, mine in particular.  Here's my point in both cases: everything isn't for everybody.  You like it, I love it and vice versa.  You may even hate it but who cares?  If it's not for you, then leave me to my decision.  You can try to help me but maligning my choice or anyone else's is overboard.  We make decisions based on what we think is right for us.  If we're happy, wherever we go to school is really just icing.  It's about making connections and all of the things you do to apply the knowledge you gained in the classroom that end up mattering in the long run.  Just go somewhere.

**UPDATE: GOT IT! Retirement home.  Carry on.


Momisodes said...

Well said. If one thing was the right for everyone, the world would be a pretty boring place.

I love that you said college is not like the real world. So TRUE!

And I completely understand where you're coming from with, "...what it's like to be the only person somewhere but sometimes it's lonely."

Not so Anonymous said...

You said everything that needed to be said. We've all been told that higher education is an elevation tool toward the american dream, success and all that other good stuff. I just don't get why people attack where a person chooses get that education. For Goodnes sake if someone is making the choice to go to college, celebrate that alone.

Liz Dwyer said...

Folks are just ignorant and think anything with a bunch of black folks is going to not be high quality. They're confused and dumb. Too bad for them.

Nerd Girl said...

Ugh. We're (Mississippians) going through that right now. The governor wants to consolidate all three of the public HBCUs into one. He's screaming "budget" and HBCU grads are screaming "history and tradition." I cannot begin to tell you how many arguments I've heard saying that HBCUs are segregationist, of lesser quality, no longer needed, etc. etc.

I know I'm a little off topic. My bad. Anyhoo, I am a product of two HBCUs and definitely wouldn't trade my undergrad years for anything in the world. My K-12 experience was similar to yours and attending a HBCU was one of the best decisions I've ever made! I strongly encourage HBCUs especially for students with backgrounds similar to ours. I don't care where Lovegirl goes for grad school, but I'll definitely be pushing a HBCU for undergrad!!

Not so Anonymous said...

nerd girl - I also want to push my daughter to go to an hbcu for undergrad and let her choose whatever she wants for grad school. I've told her as much and she kinda laughs me off. I know it will ultimately be her decision, but it's an amazing experience that I'd love her to have. At the end of the day, I'll support whatever she wants...i guess, lol.

Jazzy said...

People get into these heeeeeeated debates about HBCU vs Non-HBCU. I never really understood the debate really. It's like people equate "black college" under performing college"...just ignorant.

Love the way you wrote this!

Rashan Jamal said...

I'm definitely an advocate for HBCUs but I don't see anything wrong with going to an non-HBCU. The college question is one that I feel should be answered by the individual. Each person needs to make their own decision.

Jameil said...

momisodes... danke! don't you get tired of answering people's crazy questions?

nsa... for serious. just GET an education!! ugh.

liz... exactly.

nerd... this is happening all over the country and it's not cute. throwing history down the drain. just a year ago someone tried to tell me HBCUs were segregationist without remembering I went to one and I was like really? Go sit down. Wasn't even worth discussing. Having few blacks around, I def. agree people w/similar backgrounds should get the HBCU experience. SO awesome. I'm pushing for HBCUs w/my kids for undergrad, too. My mom's best friend told her kids she'd only pay for school if they went to HBCUs... I won't go quite that far.

nsa... lol. i guessss. ugh. lol.

jazzy... it really is. and it's irritating and insulting. are you really sitting there trying to tell me i'm not as educated as you? thx!

rj... yeah. i'm going to push for HBCUs, Hampton in particular, but the vitriol is frustrating.