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Choices: College Multicultural Centers Unnecessary at HBCUs

by Todd A. Smith

 

Multicultural Means Multicultural, Not One Culture


Back in the early 20th century, African-Americans attending predominantly White colleges like Indiana University never got to live that true college experience.


Sure, they could enroll in predominantly White institutions (PWI), but real integration at schools such as Indiana University did not exist around 1900 to 1911.


African-Americans often had to find lodging off campus in the homes of local African-American residents because on-campus housing for African-Americans did not exist.


Furthermore, many African-American students at White colleges could not even sit in the classroom.


Many African-American students had to stand outside of the classroom and listen to the lecture while taking notes.


Meanwhile, their White classmates had desks and seats to utilize while listening to the lecture.


Therefore, African-American males at schools like Indiana University founded fraternities like the now-defunct Alpha Kappa Nu in 1903 and Kappa Alpha Nu (now Kappa Alpha Psi) in 1911.


Predominantly African-American fraternities hosted house parties and other events in the African-American community, and near campus, so that the African-American student body could have camaraderie and get that true college experience.


However, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. always boasted about the fact that though racism led to its founding, the fraternity took pride and never limiting membership to men of just one race.


Therefore, if African-American men in 1911 had the open-mindedness to not allow discrimination and bigotry into their organization, one would assume that in 2020 organizations aimed at providing a safe haven for people of color, and other minority groups, would not discriminate either.


However, multicultural centers at PWIs have received justified scrutiny by conservative groups after an African-American student at University of Virginia (UVA) went viral for saying, “If y’all didn’t know, this is an MSC (multicultural student center) and frankly there are just too many White people in here.”


The young lady continued, “This is a space for people of color. So just be really cognizant of the space you’re taking up because it does make some of us POCs feel uncomfortable when we see too many White people in here.”


To the student’s credit, she never said that the White students could not visit the multicultural center.


However, that does not mean that her statement did not define bigotry.


But to be fair, let’s just say the roles were reversed and a White person said that to a Black person.


All hell would break loose and rightfully so.


But if your reaction would not be the same in both cases, you have a serious problem.


While racism is a real problem everywhere, separating races does not solve the problem.


It only intensifies the problem.


The reason why racism remains so prevalent is that people often do not understand people from other races or cultures.


That’s why colleges and the workforce often do a great job of bringing people together because you learn by exposure, not isolation.


Furthermore, college is supposed to prepare a person for the real world, not just academically but also socially.


When the young lady enters the workforce, does she honestly think she’ll only work around Black people?


If she does not get used to working with people from other backgrounds, she is in serious trouble the day she walks across that graduation stage.


Does she think that no White person will ever move into her neighborhood?


While I did not attend a PWI for college or graduate school, going instead to two Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs (Southern University and Texas Southern University), I can honestly say I grew more as a person from attending diverse grade schools than I did at HBCUs.


Having both experiences (being in a predominantly African-American environment and being in environments in which I was a minority) helped me in ways that one cannot even begin to imagine.


And while I did grow up in a predominantly White environment as a child, I thankfully did not experience much racism and actually none from my peers.


But I am sympathetic to the many African-American students at PWIs who battle ignorance and racism everyday from their White and other non-Black classmates.


My experience with race growing up is not everyone else’s story so I understand where the young lady is coming from.


When one constantly has to deal with racism, a much-needed respite from ignorance is always a beautiful thing.


But two wrongs do not make a right.


If you truly want to diminish racism, you have to invite other races into your space, not discriminate more.


If you truly want to diminish racism, you have to educate people from other races and let them educate you too.

 

Frankly, there are some African-Americans that are just as ignorant and bigoted as the most hateful and racist White people.


So we as a community have a lot to learn also when it comes to race, diversity and inclusion.


Furthermore, I can understand why the young lady chose to go to a school like University of Virginia knowing that she would be a minority and probably deal with some racism.


After all, University of Virginia is one of the preeminent universities in this country.


Who would pass up on that type of experience?


Furthermore, some large flagship universities have more majors to choose from than smaller schools.


So her school choice could have been affected by that reality.


But if racism is something that African-American students cannot bear for four years, then there is an answer to that dilemma.


The answer is Howard University, Virginia Union University and Hampton University or any other HBCU in that area.


While UVA provides a superb academic experience, do not sleep on the type of experience and education one could receive at a school like Howard University.


At an HBCU, people of color do not have to worry about the ignorance and hatred that might come their way at a PWI.


Our forefathers did not have as many choices as we do because of distance and/or discrimination.


We do have that choice.


Choose wisely!

 

This article was published on Friday 21 February, 2020.
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