I went to a PWI and still had a black college experience
I went to a predominantly white university. In fact, I went to one of the whitest universities in the country. It’s a huge, beautiful campus in the middle of Illinois that is known nationwide for its party culture, playing host to the largest college greek system in the world and its Big Ten football team. It’s the kind of school those college bro comedies are based on. With black people only making up about 5 percent of the population, our culture was not the foundation of the educational or social makeup. But that doesn’t mean we were just lost souls trapped in a world of Ugg boots and North Face windbreakers
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I certainly wish I didn’t have to deal with the racist macro- and micro-aggressions my peers and I experienced at our institution of higher learning: Nooses hung in front of our cultural house, fraternities and sororities throwing parties with racist themes and guests in blackface, our events being over-policed, our intelligence questioned, and my peers not understanding why I wore a bonnet as I checked the mailbox. But those experiences did not destroy black culture at the university.
Even at a school that was the pinnacle of whiteness, I still had a black college experience.
First, consider the logistics. I mentioned the school I went to was only 5 percent black. But the total population of the university was 46,000. With more than 2,300 black folks, there were more of us at my PWI than some HBCUs entire populations - including Morehouse, Spelman, Dillard and Fisk. These demographics are not uncommon for many black students who attend public, in-state universities that are predominantly white. Many of us transitioned into those colleges from all-black high schools and communities. And as the saying goes: You can take us out the hood but you can’t take the hood out of us.
Chicken and spades parties were official events held by members of registered student organizations. The entrance steps and patio of the student union, which sat at the head of the main quad, was unofficially called “The Stoop.” And in true black neighborhood fashion, it was the place where we all congregated during the day to discuss racial politics, spill tea, shoot dice or just chill between classes. We held double dutch tournaments. Instead of bake sales we opened temporary candy stores where students could their childhood favorites like Flamin’ Hots with cheese and Frooties
I know the HBCU debate is serious business for some folks, so let me state for the record that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I see both the pros and the cons of attending an HBCU over a PWI.