When the protests at the University of Missouri started to make headlines last week, many HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) alums took to social media to shame those who went to PWI’s (Predominately White Institutions) for going to schools to face racism.
Strange juxtapositions surfaced, from “If you went to an HBCU, you won't be called a N***** by a redneck in a pickup truck” to “You went to an HBCU. You can’t get a job after college.”
As an HBCU alum, I thought the polarizing sentiments weren’t warranted. In fact, they were downright misguided:
This PWI vs HBCU thing is ridiculous. We're all trying to make it. We're all trying to come up on this bread. We're all trying to eat.— Panamanian Princess (@audacityofDOPE_) November 11, 2015
I want all black students to feel safe and free, PWI or HBCU. At the end of the day, we're all black. I love you, #Mizzou black students!— Terrell J. Starr (@Russian_Starr) November 11, 2015
Seeing what was tweeted out last week when the news broke about the Mizzou protests and Buzzfeed’s series on HBCU life, it appears that my reasons for going to an HBCU was different than most.
I just wanted to get out of Chicago. Any school nearby would seem like high school all over again. Once I went on a college tour and set foot on Hampton’s campus, I was sold.
I heard the knock on HBCU’s when people would say, “Everybody is black. That’s not the real world.”
My mom and dad were teachers and we traveled a lot during the summer. I spent a lot of time around people from different races and cultures. There was not culture shock for me. I wasn’t surprised that my school had its own unique set of discrimination. I soon found out discrimination wasn’t exclusive to PWI’s. HBCUs had their own demons.
At my alma mater, we had problems with misogyny, us against the locals who thought we represented a sick form of gentrification, rumors of unreported sexual assaults, violence, homophobia, New York kids fighting everybody, kids from the north vs. kids from the south, inner city kids vs. Jack and Jill-reared kids, and my favorite, light-skinned vs. dark skinned.
Having, said all of that, I still have the belief to this day that the environment at Hampton for anyone who wasn’t Baptist or Christian, was uncomfortable at best.
I ran into kids who went to Hampton because they grew up in areas smothered by racism, only to find that a Black college was just as divisive in some areas. That’s why I laughed when I saw HBCU alums reaction to the Mizzou protests online acting like their school was their own personal “Negroland” from a Key and Peele skit.
I loved my time at Hampton, but I won’t act like campus life was a Black utopia. Ask a Hampton alum about how the campus reacted when President George H.W. Bush was named commencement speaker? You may hear something about our school’s president’s boat being blown up.
Like any other Black kid who went to college, our experiences were unique, but we all had similar goals. We wanted those who sacrificed so much to see us walk across that stage to receive that degree.
Why create a divide when there is no need for one?? What would someone get out of it?
In the end, the people who created this fake beef look real dumb.
For HBCU alums to say that those kids at Mizzou, or any other PWI, wouldn’t have any problems if they went to a Hampton, Morehouse or a Grambling is wildly inaccurate.
Foolishness can happen on any campus. HBCU’s are not immune.