Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blacks & HBCUs (Pt. I: Decrying Our Own)

This past weekend I was out with some friends & the conversation turns to someone's boyfriend going to school. The comment was made that her mom "had a fit" when she found out that he originally planned to go to Jackson State. Noses were turned up, comments were made about it being "hood" and "ghetto." (Somehow, I was able to refrain from yelling "Who da f*kk you callin' GHETTO?!?! We're Mississippi's urban university BIIIIITCH!")

Although I basically tried to ignore the comments as ignorance posing as urbanity, I realized that I was somewhat bothered by these comments. No, not just because I happen to be a proud alumni (Go Tigers!!). But because 1) this was not the first time I've heard these particular associates make these comments, and 2) I've noticed quite a few Blacks putting down HBCUs and discouraging young people from attending them. Now, this blog is not to argue the current relevance of HBCUs (maybe another time), but rather to address some of the "reasons" I've heard for the criticism HBCUs.

LOCATION. Yes, many HBCUs are in the "hood." Why? Because they were originally placed in locations where they would be easily accessible to the people who they aimed at educating and assisting. As blacks began to prosper, they moved away, while those who struggled with poverty and the vices that go along with it were left behind. So yes, the neighborhood may be less than desirable. That doesn't make it a scary place. (I wasn't surprised when white coworkers asked me if I was afraid to walk around campus at night; I was surprised when I got the same question from folks who were there on campus whenever there was some big event.) That doesn't even make it a bad place. And if there was really concern about the neighborhood in which these schools are located, why not join in the efforts to revitalize our communities? Oh, it's not your community you say? Your community is gated, huh? Well please note, to some of your neighbors in your gated community, you are still just a nigga with money. Class still has yet to trump race in this country. But I digress.

QUALITY OF EDUCATION. I will admit that some HBCUs do not have the diverse course offerings as PWIs. Shoot, I just made mention of that yesterday when comparing the MBA programs of schools in the Metro Jackson area. However, there is nothing to definitively say that the quality of the classes offered is any better than the comparable classes offered at Black institutions. Where this grossly ignorant statement comes from is beyond me.

DROP OUT RATES. Although I do not have the statistics on this at the moment (but trust, Pt. II with that info is coming soon), I have heard this reason being given as to why students should not attend HBCUs. The whys and hows for this vary, from classes being too hard, to being too easy, to "too many distractions." I don't particularly put too much credence in statistics anyway (because really, you can find stats to support almost any claim you want to make), but I do have a startling statistic for you: 100% of people who don't apply themselves and let themselves get involved in distracting bs DON'T MAKE IT, regardless if the school is predominantly Black, White, Asian or inhabited by some superior alien intelligence. You don't have to be a statistic! What about the thousands of students who graduate from HBCUs each year?

My point is this: Are we so desperate for acceptance and assimilation that we are willing to tear down the very institutions that were established to help build Black people up? In the words of my pastor, "It's a mighty poor frog who can't praise his own pond."


1 comment:

Citizen Ojo said...

I don't kick it with that many black folks that didn't go to black schools and the ones that didn't know better than to talk greasy in front of me. Black Folks spend so much time running to other folks that we can't appreciate the beautiful things about ourselves. If I could do it all over I would still go to an HBCU for undergrad. I grew up around a large percentage of white folks and it's a big difference between fitting in and belonging....