There Will Always Be A Few

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Whenever I meet someone short-sighted, I always think, “There cannot be anyone worse than this.” Then usually a little later I meet someone who snatches the crown.

Rarely do I come across people who question me about attending an HBCU. Why? Well they are happy enough for me being in college, not the least bit concerned with the institution’s demographics. And that’s the difference between me and others. Yes, my friends, class differences are real and more and more are they apparent to me.

I have a friend who usually rants about snobby black college students who act as if the world should bow to them because they are surrounded by a sea of black intellectuals. I come across similar students every single day at Howard, so in that instance I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But, when it comes to special programs geared towards students attending black institutions of higher learning, back off and stop cock-blocking.

Not everyone has the luxury of attending colleges that cost over $40,000. When I graduate from Howard, I’m likely to cap my debt off upwards of at least $50,000. I spent my entire senior year applying for various scholarships and was fortunate enough to win 17…and I’m still in massive debt. I know of people from my high school that left for NYU and other popular majority universities on partial scholarships but ultimately had to return home because they could not keep up with the tuition. I myself almost left Howard because I was worried about my mounting debt, but after a short trip home I realized that I’d much rather dive into debt at least trying to better myself than to be stuck in some nihilistic hole back home. How’s that for options?

I didn’t go to Howard for the “black experience.” My K-12 education could not have been any blacker. If anything, my experience thus far can be described as “Class Matters 101.” I have met people at Howard from my hometown (well the surrounding areas anyway) who have literally looked at me as a charity case once I reveal the name of my high school and the area I’m from. After revealing that tidbit of information to a fellow Houstonian, she responded, “Oh and you still made here? Good for you.” I think being judged solely by my background prepares me enough for the “real world.”

Besides, K-12 explained to me long ago that the world isn’t just black folk when they detail our history: We were slaves. Lincoln “freed” us. We are segregated. Martin Luther King had a dream, ended racism, and now we’re coasting.

Normally when people ask me why I went to Howard, I usually respond, “Hell I don’t know. It’s not home, so it’s all good.” However, looking back, I can understand how I ended up here a little better. One of the very few teachers who actually taught me something in high school was Mr. Caldwell, a Howard alum. He was one of the few black male teachers at my predominately black high school and one of… oh I don’t know 3 who actually bothered to teach me anything. Then there was Ms. Addison, a recruiter from Howard, who visited my high school that to this day still looks out for me. Even when I wasn’t particularly fond of Howard, Ms. Addison promised to help me find a school that would make me happy….this is when I was a freshman in college, mind you.

And while I never like to give anyone from the Institute credit, it was a Hampton recruiter that convinced me and many others that we could leave Houston for college. It was Howard, Hampton, Morehouse, and the military that came to Madison’s college fair. I’m guessing USC, Harvard, Columbia, and the like were over at Bellaire. For my standardized-test lushing friends, my high school’s SAT average was in the 600s. We were basically forced to attend Saturday tutorials to pass the state-administered test, then tossed to the side when we inquired about anything else.

For the few of us that did leave the state for college, everyone with the exception of maybe two are at HBCUs. The other two were athletes. I do have friends at state schools and their experiences are mixed. Not all majority schools are full of racists but for those that are, I can be called a nigger for free.

Sometimes I do wonder should I have attended a white school, but I made my decision and I’m fine with it. I do think my school has room for improvement, but I don’t feel disadvantaged; however, for students at other schools, I can see why they may feel that way. I, on the other hand, don’t think it’s fair to chastise them. Not everyone at Prairie View and Texas Southern can go to UT Austin or Texas A&M. Same applies to students at Southern and Grambling looking at LSU from afar.

There are a couple of other misconceptions that also need to be addressed. There is no measuring stick for “blackness.” If anything, attending an HBCU will show you that we are not the monolithic group we are portrayed to be. I’ve met people from HBCUs who are just as oblivious to the problems that exist in the black community as whites. My “experience” has been that, for the most part, I’m surrounded by other black students, both international and domestic, from different walks of life who each share the same goal of bettering themselves and contributing to Howard’s legacy. If by “blackness,” you mean being taught outside of the Eurocentric spectrum, exactly what’s wrong with going against the status quo? But, if you’re under the impression that people actually think you are “blacker” for going to an HBCU, I suggest you turn off ‘A Different World” and get a fucking clue. That is a reflection of your own ignorance and sheltered life, not mine.

I like to think we are in this together, despite our differences in choices for institutions of higher learning. I will never understand why people that have been fortunate all of their lives complain about the smallest of things….and I’m tired of trying to.

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