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Thanks to Classism, Prejudice Exists at HBCUs Too

by Todd A. Smith

 

HBCU vs. PWI: Good and Bad in Everything

 

Good and bad exist everywhere and in every situation.


Recent allegations of racism at Texas A&M University in 2016 and University of Missouri in 2015 could possibly result in resurgence in popularity and attendance at Historically Black and Colleges and Universities (HBCU).


However, despite the fact that racism no doubt exists at predominantly White institutions (PWI), no one should think for a second that prejudice doesn’t exist at HBCUs.  It is just more likely to be Black vs. Black prejudice and discrimination based on socioeconomic status (classism).   And the culprits are not always those at the top of the Black economic ladder.


According to USA Today, “On Feb. 9, about 60 students from Uplift Hampton Preparatory—a charter school in southwest Dallas—were touring A&M when a White female college student approached the group and asked two Black students what they thought of her Confederate flag earrings, according to a Twitter post from Texas state Sen. Royce West.


“He wrote that students joined the taunt by telling them to ‘go back where you came from,’ and then used a racial slur.”


Texas A&M President Michael Young and Chancellor John Sharp have since apologized to the high school students affected.


Growing up in a predominately White neighborhood many decades ago, I was not immune to racism.


I attended predominately White schools until I entered high school, but never really faced hatred from people outside of my race.


Obviously there were run-ins with racist police officers that did not believe I belonged in the neighborhood.  Furthermore, I had suspicions that some of my grade school teachers might be racist.


But, I never felt the sting that the high school students felt while visiting A&M, thankfully.


As a son of parents who were two-time HBCU graduates (Southern University for undergrad and Texas Southern University for grad school), my parents wanted their children to attend Southern because being in a Black culture for higher education was a wonderful experience.


Never had I been anywhere where Black culture was celebrated and encouraged so much.


Despite the camaraderie and lack of racism at HBCUs, prejudice was still rampant and it often came from my own people.


Classism has always existed in the Black community and every socioeconomic class is to blame.


Some time the rich and elite look down on the poorer class.


And sometimes the lower class looks down on the rich and elite.


Often, the lower class is jealous of the upper class and upper middle class, and people who do not even pay attention to socioeconomic differences are discriminated against and ostracized for their success or the success of their parents.


To me, Black-on-Black prejudice/classism always stung more than racism from White folks because one would expect to not have to deal with discrimination from their own community.


According to the book “Between God and Gangsta Rap” by Michael Eric Dyson, “Class tensions continue to brew between middle income and poor Blacks.  As more Blacks become upwardly mobile and fan out into suburbia, the pattern of social life among Blacks has dramatically changed…These features have driven wedges into Black life at odd angles.


“The confusion and conflicts they have engendered—seen in the snobbishness of some middle-class Blacks towards less well-off Blacks, and in the resentment by some working-class members of the middle-class flight—are increasing daily.”


Many people go to PWIs because it is the best college for their career goals and there’s nothing wrong with that.


That doesn’t make them less Black than a graduate from an HBCU.


Hell, they might even be “blacker” than an HBCU grad because those infected with the crab in a bucket disease attend HBCUs too.


On the contrary, because of my matriculation at HBCUs, I was able to get jobs at those institutions immediately upon graduation because of the love that does exist at HBCUs.


It is possible, but that same love might not have existed for me at a PWI.


No one knows what is best for an individual but God and that individual.


Some of the biggest and brightest minds have come from both HBCUs and PWIs.


While HBCU students might not have to deal with racism, they most certainly will deal with classism on some level.


But both types of institutions are just a microcosm of life.  There will be some good and some bad.  As long as the good outweighs the bad, then the proper decision was probably made.

This article was published on Friday 04 March, 2016.
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