This Hour: stop questioning Black students considering HBCUs

Nacala Williams and Jamiliah Springer

College applications are on the minds of most seniors and many are considering Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As a Black student who wants to go to an HBCU, it is exhausting when people question that choice, saying things like, “you can do better than those schools” or “why would you go there?” This affects students’ mindset about the HBCUs they choose, adds anxiety to their senior year, and fosters a sense of shame in a decision they should take pride in.

Questioning students’ college choices can create a negative mindset and doesn’t help them on their college journey. Suggestions, recommendations, and opinions are helpful, but hate, discouragement, and negative remarks are not. As young adults, it is our decision to choose where to go and it’s our choice to find where we fit best. It is our decision because, simply put, we are the ones who will be on that campus for four years, not you. 

When white students are asked about their college choices, they name schools like the University of Maryland or Virginia Tech, which are predominantly white institutions (PWIs). No one questions that choice because our society sees anything white as better and superior.

It’s not unusual for white students to want to be with other white students. People are naturally more comfortable with people that look like and can relate to them. This is one reason Black students consider going to HBCUs, in addition to their track record of producing many successful Black graduates.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise when Black students say they want to attend a HBCU when there are countless instances in which Black students have been made uncomfortable at predominantly white campuses. 

In early September, Black students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst were sent a blatantly racist email from their white peers that included derogatory and racist language. African American students were described as “clearly stupid,” “lacking intelligence,” and “hood rats.” The message stated that the only reason Black students were accepted was because they got an “easy pass.” It proceeded to add that non-Black students look down upon Black students because they use “ghetto talk,” are from “third world sewers in America,” and have afrocentric features. Emails like this are a prime reason why Black students consider choosing HBCUs over PWIs.

Black students on HBCU campuses feel a sense of community. The history, students, and faculty members provide a home away from home where black students can be who they are. They don’t have to put on the act that many of us perform to survive in white environments.

 Being a Black student and having an HBCU on your college list should not make you any less of a person compared to a white student having an PWI on their list. Let us choose our own futures. •