When my granddaughter made the conscious decision to attend a PWI, I was petrified! I asked, “Why are you even considering a decision like that? Why not an HBCU?” She placed her hands over her hips in a typical millennial’s stance! “GMomma, you don’t understand! Those schools don’t have the proper resources for me to get a quality education. Anyway, she said with a smirk, the professors at HBCUs don’t care about the students! You won’t ever graduate! They just hold you back!”
We had several discussions on this subject. I told her that I’d done research on HBCU’s and I didn’t feel that her remarks were necessarily true. I told her that I thought HBCUs had a lot to offer Black students, that Even though I had attended a PWI for my own master’s program, I had a lot of confidence in HBCUs.
I informed her that I was not intolerant to the subject, that I would allow her make her own decision, after we have had a discussion about the pros and cons. As she walked away, I heard her say very softly, “I’m going to a PWI, naming her school of choice. I knew then she had preconceived ideas and had already made up her mind. However, I was not going to let her go without convincing myself that I had made her aware of the choices. I felt that she needed to be enlightened on this topic and that the topic needed to be more than just about black people at HBCUs and black people at PWIs.
Our discussion came up again. I asked my granddaughter if she still wanted to attend a PWI, she answered, “yes.” So, we began anew. I stated the fact that up until 1963, which is when Clemson University in South Carolina was finally integrated, black students weren’t allowed to attend PWIs. HBCUs were created in the 1800s. They were created as a way for the Black community to have chance at a higher education, and that’s what they have successfully done and continue to do. That there are now over 100 thriving HBCUs in the United States, producing some of the most qualified professionals in all fields and of all races. Believe it or not, there are white people at HBCUs who are proud and thriving. She listened, looking strangely, as if to say, ‘I already know these things’.
I went on to say, that attending an HBCU is one of the most enlightening opportunities that she could ever have as a Black student (or anyone else, for that matter); it’s a cultural experience, and it’s everything that she could ever experience. HBCU students are proud of the experience and the opportunity to show how life-changing and great it can be to attend an HBCU.
She responded by saying, ” But I want more diversity” and anyway, GMomma, you told me that you did not experience an integrated classroom in your youth and how you think you would have loved to have had that experience. She continued, I can get a better job graduating from a PWI.” Even saying, “A 4.0 GPA from a PWI is completely different from a 4.0 at an HBCU”. She feels as though; all students have different reasons for the choices they make and that there is still a lot of good that a Black person can do at a PWI. She did not relinquish her preconceived ideas or her decision to enroll in a PWI.
On August 12, 2016, my granddaughter enrolled in a popular PWI in the State of Alabama. She has almost successfully completed her first semester and is adjusting very well. So, as you may see, we finally agreed that there are many misconceptions about either type of school, that all students, both Black and White, should have common goals because they all face the same college struggles – exams, professors, balancing school, the turn up, and just generally, trying to figure life out.
They’re all in it together and no matter where you go to school, be it HBCU or PWI, nobody knows what lies ahead; after college. The right to judge someone else’s journey to success and prosperity should not be an option. At the end of the day, it’s not about where you get your degree – it’s about what you do it with it and how hard you’re willing to work to make your dreams a reality.
~by Ron’s Mom