Yesterday I came across a really disturbing video of a brawl that was caught on tape in the cafeteria of Alabama State University, a Historically Black college. It was horrifying. Fists were flying, chairs became weapons and people were scattering in every direction. Complete chaos. This is the second incident in the past few weeks, in which violence on an HBCU campus sparked national attention. With that attention, of course comes questions of the relevance and validity of historically black institutions as a body.
Comments on the aforementioned video echoed similar sentiments; that this type of event would never have taken place on the campus of a predominantly White institution, or that the entire concept of HBCU’s is racist. One commenter in particular went on to suggest that if there were Historically White Colleges and Universities, black people would be calling foul. The only problem with that statement is: the majority of this country’s institutions of higher learning are, in fact, historically white. The key word being “historically,” meaning that it is not necessarily that way now.
As a recent graduate of a historically black university, I can firmly say that not a day goes by, that I do not thank God for the opportunity to study at Hampton University. Could I have been challenged more academically at an Ivy League school? Maybe. Could I have been a part of a wider network of alumni as a graduate of a non-HBCU state funded institution? Yes. But it’s the intangibles of attending college at Hampton that I will always be grateful for. Never, for the rest of my life, will I ever find myself in a place so highly concentrated with people that look like me, with similar drive and ambition as I have.
Contrary to popular belief, although the majority of the students maybe of one race, the cultures of different regions, states and even countries make HBCU’s diverse breeding grounds for young scholarly minds. Though some may look the same on the surface, everyone’s experience is different. Of course nothing is perfect. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have consistently carried a reputation for less than stellar business practices ( a phenomenon we at Hampton affectionately call “the runaround”,) but even learning to navigate through issues like those teaches students how to be resilient, learn protocol, and enforces the value of maintaining relationships through networking and positive communication.
If there is one thing I know, it’s that attending a HBCU does not make me less than any person who chose to attend a predominately white institution. Unfortunately, many people believe otherwise. With funding down, and the performance levels of some HBCU’s not being up to par, the prestige behind an HBCU degree is diminishing rapidly. Here’s the question that I pose to you today…How do you feel about historically black colleges and universities? Do you think they’re racist or separatist? How did your college experience shape your opinion on this matter?
Talk to me.
- David Leonhardt: The Declining Payoff From Black Colleges (theroot.com)
- Should Your Child Consider A Historically Black College? (education.com)