Monthly Archives: September 2017

I Admit It: My PWI Experience Doesn’t Compare to an HBCU

A friend of mine shared the article, I went to a PWI and still had a black college experience. I read through the comments (on his post) and saw a lot of predominately white Institutions (PWI) graduates defending and affirming the author’s perspective. But I have a different one. Here’s the (slightly edited) comment  that I left:

As someone who attended PWIs, I had GREAT experiences and I LOVE my schools. However, I won’t compare my experience to that of an HBCU. Yes, at many PWIs, black people come together and make our own community within the greater university. But I acknowledge that that “black experience” is not comparable to an HBCU. To make the comparison that it is similar is to minimize the HBCU experience. Even this article does so by equating the HBCU experience to their “black experience” of social events with chicken, etc.

The HBCU experience (and I’m speaking more from my knowledge as a higher ed professional, not as an attendee) is much more than the social piece, but unfortunately, that’s often the only piece we discuss; the soul food and the swag surfing, and that’s not right.

HBCUs provide students with support and community that cannot be compared to PWIs. There is much value to being in a space that is full of black people…faculty, students, and staff. That type of environment doesn’t just make school “fun” but it impacts retention and academic success because it’s free of (anti-black) racial bias. And as people who attended PWIs (and just living in America), we can acknowledge that racial bias is very real at our schools and manifests in many ways: microagressions like people asking you bizarre questions about culture, people not wanting to work with you in groups, roommate issues, professors already counting you out, financial aid counselors not doing all they can to help you, being the only black person in a class/major, very few scholarship opportunities, poorly staffed “diversity” offices, a struggle to get funding and support for black initiatives and events, every institutional aspect being shaped from a white lens…I could go on and on. And while some of us made it through and graduated (shout out to us!), so many people didn’t, or never even had the chance to be admitted or attend because of these biases. So we HAVE to acknowledge and appreciate HBCUs for providing an opportunity and experience free from (anti-black) racism.

We need to ask ourselves why we feel the need to prove that we had “a black experience?” We went to white schools…its okay. We knew what we were getting into and we still found community with other black students. Great! But why do we feel we need to prove “a black experience?”

The root issue behind this article and repetitious conversation is the debate (among black people) on attending PWIs or HBCUs. As black people, we continue to argue about this and it needs to stop. PWI attendees feel like we have to defend and prove that we are still black and love blackness to HBCU attendees who condemn us for attending PWIs. And HBCU attendees feel like they have to defend their institutions as being “good enough” to PWI attendees that feel like their (white) schools are better. This is the real issue.

You can go to a PWI and still love your blackness. You can go to a an HBCU and still be successful.

The debate is nothing more than divisive because as with most things in life, there are pros and cons to both experiences. There’s no wrong or right answer. If we would just support all black people getting educated, regardless of the racial make up of the school, articles and conversations like this wouldn’t even be necessary.

I went to a PWI but I will be the first to support HBCUs and HBCU grads. And the opposite should be true for HBCU attendees. It’s possible for us to be proud of and support both.

Advertisements

#STLVerdict: Let’s Talk About Vandalism and “Peaceful Protests”

Three years after the murder of Mike Brown and the St. Louis region finds itself in a similar situation. Another police officer has walked free, a family is reliving the pain of their loved one’s murder while being denied justice, and the community has taken to the streets to show that we will not tolerate the continuous killings of black people by police, nor officers doing so without conviction.

What’s also the same is how elected government officials and the St. Louis Police Department (STLPD) are responding. Before to the verdict was released and prior to any protests occurring, the governor of Missouri activated the National Guard and the STLPD announced that they would be moving to 12-hour shifts. Then, as soon as the protests began, multiple transit buses of STLPD met protestors outside the courthouse dressed in riot gear with shields and batons, in broad daylight. The police showed up with the intention to antagonize, literally from the moment people arrived to protest…before ANYTHING had happened.

IMG_0689

Photo of STLPD officer, surrounded by rows of other officers in riot gear, on 9/15/17, about 3 hours after the verdict was released.

So knowing that, it’s by no surprise that the police and the media are pushing the same narrative from three years ago: the protestors are violent and vandalizing property. I really don’t want to spend a ton of time on this point because I really feel like the conversation has been exhausted. But I’ll say it one more time, briefly: we are not doing this. The people who come out and protest are not interested in nor do we condone vandalism. However, there are agitators who come to our spaces of protest and do these things. You all should notice that this typically happens after nightfall. If you all pay attention to our protests, we don’t begin at nightfall. We have literally been protesting all day for the past 48 hours. The large majority of the time, you hear and see no reports of anything being vandalized, because nothing is being vandalized. But when a window gets broken at 11 pm the police and the media use this as an opportunity to change the narrative and make it about violent “protestors” instead of focusing on how hundreds of people of all different backgrounds have continued to show community and take a stand against the continuous non-convicted murders of black people by police.

But again, I’m not surprised by this. The police are a part of the system and the system is guilty. So of course they’re going to try to turn this around and divert the attention from their corruption. But what I am so frustrated by and tired of is the people buying into this narrative. All the statuses and comments about how you don’t understand what breaking things is going to do only elevates this false narrative that the police and media are trying to create. You are helping them achieve exactly what they want because now we’re all talking about vandalism instead of the fact that this officer murdered a black person and walked free. The protestors are not the ones vandalizing property. It’s a small group of agitators. Understand that and stop mentioning it in association to the protests. Every time you do, you are assisting the police and media in smearing this movement.

martinlutherkingjr-030

IMG_0703

However, while we do not condone vandalism, we understand that people are hurting and hurt people hurt people. So try to be less judgmental and think more about what has happened that has caused people to resort to vandalism. A broken window matters less than a life taken by police brutality. So for every post or comment you’ve made about vandalism, I hope you have 50 times more posts and comments about black people being killed by officers, and the officers walking free.

And also, don’t believe that all of the vandalism is coming from the agitators. There’s video of police breaking the window of a local business in the Central West End on 9/15/2017.

Lastly, I want to request that everyone stop saying “peaceful protest.” Our goal is not to be peaceful. There is nothing peaceful about a protest– that would not be a protest. You can say non-violent protest, but not peaceful. As the familiar protest chant goes, “no justice, no peace.”

Simply put, Anthony Lamar Smith did not receive justice so St. Louis will not have peace. Traffic flow will be disrupted and people will not commute in peace. Neighborhoods will be disrupted and people will not lounge in peace. Malls will be disrupted and people will not shop in peace. Restaurant strips will be disrupted and people will not eat in peace. Business will be disrupted and profit will be lost. But that’s the exact point. The judicial system did not render justice so we will continue to disrupt and keep the attention on this unjust situation, impacting people and profits directly until we get justice. Because we know that, unfortunately, people often tolerate injustice until it impacts them directly. Once it impacts folks directly, they are then motivated to act and make decisions that render the justice we’ve been demanding all along.

Any disruption that people experience from our protests pales in comparison to the disruption of the lives of the families of victims of police brutality. We just want justice. The sooner we get it, the sooner there will be peace. Know justice, know peace.

%d bloggers like this: