Black Youth, White Spaces: Why HBCUs Matter

Imagine a young black child boarding a bus and to their surprise, there is no one who resembles them. Imagine the night spent with their mother as she applies a relaxer because they loathed the kinks that grew from their head because all of the other children had strands like silk, and the cornrows which she had spent so much time on could not suffice. Imagine them roaming the hallway only to see white faces. Imagine a conversation about slavery, and the entire classroom turns to look at that child- to look at that black child in this white room. Imagine college after college coming to visit, but never an HBCU-never a school like them. Never a principal like them. Never, maybe once, a neighbor like them. Imagine that child having to play as a spokesperson for their entire race. Imagine growing up as a black youth in a white space. This was my reality, and unfortunately, it is the reality for many black children throughout the nation because integration forced African Americans to assimilate into a society which dismissed their presence. (This is not to negate integration as a whole, before some of you decide to “cancel” me, but rather to stress the importance of including black children’s mental health in your educational agenda) But,  for many young African Americans, growing up in White Suburbia is the epitome of “working twice as hard for half as much” and the actuality of having few teachers and people of color in positions of authority  is pernicious to development of black children’s psyche.  Across the United States, black children are struggling with confidence, mental illness, and other issues due to a lack of representation in not only the media, but the spaces in which they are growing older.  Like Parris Page stated in a 2016 article for the Odyssey, “We all like to feel that we can relate to something or someone. We like to know that we are not alone..”, and young African Americans around the nation are missing out on that opportunity, which is why historically black colleges and universities are becoming increasingly important to the development of the black community. In other words, HBCUs matter.

To be “black, young, and gifted” is to have your intelligence challenged by your white counterparts as your teacher gazes in your direction as if to concur-as if to ask you why you believed that you belonged.  According to the Atlantic, an online commentator, “Black and Latino students make up 37 percent of high school students but only 27 percent of students taking an AP class and 18 percent of students passing AP exams…” and “We are not sending a message to those students that we expect them to succeed, that we are ready to educate them, that we will prepare them for their futures,” Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the Education Department.” remarked. ( ) With percentages like this, it becomes apparent that this “lack of diversity causes differences in the atmosphere” of classrooms, hallways, and schools as a whole. (  That difference in atmosphere: the discomfort of black students. So where do HBCUs come in? They provide that comfort. They provide an asylum. For me,  choosing my HBCU meant being provided a place where I am able to love and flaunt my blackness WHILE going through schooling. HBCUS allow culture to play an integral role in education versus being a hindrance to it. Historically black colleges and universities are one of the ways in which black youth are able to prosper and to do so in black spaces, and for that reason, they are important. They are necessary, and they play a vital role in developing the psyche of many black youth. In fact, according to UNCF ( the United Negro College Fund), “HBCUs outperform non-HBCU institutions in retaining and graduating first-generation, low-income African American students.” Not only that, but for many black students coming from white areas, Historically Black Colleges/Universities have played a key role in developing their self esteem: “A 2015 Gallup-Purdue poll report[ed] that African American graduates of HBCUs are more likely to have felt supported while in college and to be thriving afterward than their black peers who graduated from primarily white institutions (PWIs).”  HBCUs are also part of the reason that terms such as “#Blackexcellence” have been coined with “40 percent of black U.S. Congress members, 80 percent of black judges, 50 percent of black lawyers and 40 percent of the nation’s black engineers [being] products of HBCUs.” according to the Washington Post. In Layman’s terms, HBCUS matter. Black Schools Matter. Black Students Matter. So if you’re considering an Hbcu-GO. 



Why HBCUs Still Matter

“I feel a little bit like an outsider”: Race in AP and honors classes


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