We have spent years on the HBCU vs PWI debate, going head to head via social media about which road to graduation African American students should take. PWI supporters and HBCU enthusiasts have battled it out with points of view on why one is better than the other, specifically regarding the African American educational experience.
University of Missouri is the face of the news this week as students have been protesting against the racism that Black students face on campus. A series of racially prejudiced incidents have taken place at the university, including the drawing of a swastika on one of the university dormitories. As a result, there have been several faculty and student walkouts and the resignation of the University President. In the brunt of the Missouri controversy the HBCU versus PWI debate has risen and yet again. While the debate has no place in this matter, we cannot ignore that it is rearing its head once again. Twitter has been hit with a chain of tweets on the subject, even some commentators; Black students and excessive HBCU enthusiasts who say that attending a PWI as a black student is justification on the unfair treatment they re faced with. The question “Did you make the right choice?” has been posed, but is it fair?
While I am an extreme supporter of HBCUs, I am also a firm believer in education,no matter where it comes from. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experiences, but I chose an HBCU for a number of reasons. Initially, I wanted to be apart of the family oriented close knit environment that I had heard HBCU’s prided themselves on. I’d already been extremely sheltered and figured that if a place where I am equally challenged and loved on couldn’t break me out of my shell, nothing would.
As much as I’d like to say race didn’t play an issue for my college decision, it did. I attended a high school of mixed race, however I never felt like being black in my school was appreciated or accepted. A majority of my teachers were white and more often times than not, I found myself in situations where I had to explain that being black was not funny. No Mr. 9th grade English teacher, it is not cool to try to appeal to your black students by making jokes about joining gangs. No Mr. Science teacher, it’s not ok for you to let one of your students tell me I have pretty hair for a black girl. Yes Ms. 12th grade English teacher, I did get accepted into college, you don’t have to act so surprised. I knew that an HBCU would be a place where I would feel respected in my blackness, and not have to feel ashamed about it. That doesn’t mean that my black classmates who chose PWIs instead, weren’t looking for the same thing. It definitely doesn’t mean if someone else chooses otherwise, that unfair treatment amongst their campus is warranted. I am not alone in my personal sentiments, as many other students choose HBCUs to not face social injustices or racism when pursuing their degree. While again this is not everyone’s experience, we have to accept that it is reality for some.
I’m 100 percent positive that choosing a PWI doesn’t mean that Black students are asking for racial injustice, and to beat them over the head with our own choices of picking HBCUs is biased and skewed. Choice of college or university is not an open invitation for criticism , no matter what your twitter followers tell you.
“Did you make the right Choice? ”
Is a sure fire way to keep the HBCU vs PWI debate going, but is it necessary? Should we be worried so much about the choice of school for Black students , or the quality of education they receive?