Category Archives: Higher Ed

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.

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3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions without Giving Away Our Culture

Aleidra’s piece is featured on watchtheyard.com.

Should Black Greek-Letter Organizations (BGLOs) teach white, non-BGLO people how to step? This is an ongoing question and debate within the BGLO community, and honestly, I understand all the various perspectives.

With that, I understand that teaching stepping and strolling to non-BGLO members has become a popular collegiate norm. So for our members that are partaking in this new college tradition, here’s my piece,  3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions without Giving Away Our Culture, to help you do so in a meaningful way.

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 3- Mary Jane Patterson

MJPToday, many Black women make the decision
to continue their education at institutions
of higher learning. Whether attending a historically black college or university (HBCU) or a predominately white institution (PWI), countless black women are succeeding, and sprinkling #BlackGirlMagic all around campus. But who did this first?

Mary Jane Patterson was the first Black women to receive a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. She received her degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1862.

While it is not certain, it is believed that Mary Jane Patterson was born into slavery in Raleigh, NC in 1840, moving to Oberlin as a teenager. She completed college preparatory courses at Oberlin College in 1857. But when it was time for her to attend college, Mary Jane Patterson chose not to enroll in the college’s two-year program for women and enrolled in the “gentlemen’s course,” which was a four-year program. She graduated with her B.A. degree with high honors in 1862.

At the age of 22, Mary Jane Patterson moved to Philadelphia, PA. There, she was a teacher at the Institute for Colored Youth for five years. In 1869, she moved to Washington, D.C. and taught at the new Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first public high school in Washington D.C.

In 1871, Mary Jane Patterson became the principal of the school until she resigned in 1884. Under her leadership, the school developed a prestigious reputation.

Mary Jane Patterson was also active in women’s rights and assisted in founding the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C.

Today, we remember Mary Jane Patterson for paving the way for black women (and people) in higher education, even in a time when slavery still existed and women were extremely marginalized. We thank her for being an early demonstration of black girl magic.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

NOT My Birthday Suit: An Open Letter to Sally Hansen® on Racist Nail Color Name

Dear Sally Hansen®:

FullSizeRender (5)I was in a wedding and in need of a neutral nail polish. I came across your Miracle Gel color, Birthday Suit. I was initially drawn to it because it was just what I was looking for, but when I read the name of the color, I was taken aback. I thought it was interesting that someone would choose this name, even though everyone’s “birthday suit” is not that color. Birthday Suit is not the color of my “birthday suit.”

I am a program coordinator for multicultural education at a university. As we teach our students about diversity and inclusion, and strive to develop their multicultural competence, we often talk about microaggressions. Naming this polish Birthday Suit is a microaggression.

Psychologist and Columbia professor, Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., defines microaggressions as “everyday slights, indignities, put downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations, or those who are marginalized experience in their day to day interactions with people.” Microaggressions are often perpetrated by members of dominant groups and done so unconsciously, without negative intention or ill will. Microaggressions can (amongst multiple effects) make the dominate group seem “normal” while making anyone outside of that seem abnormal or as the “other.” Well, that is how I felt when I read the name Birthday Suit. I thought to myself, surely, they know this is NOT the color of all of their consumer’s birthday suits. It was frustrating and disappointing, but not shocking, because unfortunately, I have been dealing with this type of subtle racism my entire life.

The cosmetic and fashion industries are infamous for using “nude” to describe colors similar to Birthday Suit; so much so that some people think of “nude” as a color, without actually realizing that it is the nude color of a dominant group, white people. For decades, despite its discriminatory nature, brands and companies continue to use “nude” to describe their products (shout out to Nubian Skin for countering this and providing women of color with “a different kind of nude”). It is even more disturbing to know that until just two months ago (thanks to the Nude Awakening Campaign), Merriam-Webster defined the word nude as, “having the color of a white person’s skin.” So you see, there is already an issue here.  That is why it is so disappointing and frustrating to see a color named Birthday Suit in 2015. Instead of fixing this issue that has long existed, Birthday Suit reinforces the problem AND diminishes another commonly used term (as done with nude), that everyone could once relate to, to now only describe the color of white people’s skin.

I understand that your company may not have intended to make me feel excluded or offended. That is often the case with microaggressions. However, I do not want this to be an instance where you explain how this was not your intention and we move on. Why? Because this is not just about nail polish; it is about addressing a type of bias that happens every single day that many are unaware of or ignore. It is important that we as a society start acknowledging the reality of microaggressions and their effects, and do something about it. This is a chance to do something; our chance to do something.

While we do not experience as much broad, overt racism as we once did, there is still subtle racism (often in the form of microaggressions) that can do just as much (if not more) harm. In today’s day and age, most people consider themselves to be “good people” who are well intended, fair, and do not discriminate. However, this situation is a prime example of how good people can be unaware of their bias, act in a discriminatory manner, and hurt people of color. People think we ended racism when we stopped overt racism (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) but that was only a part of the battle. We will not see race relations improve again until we become aware of and acknowledge the subtle biases possessed within our hearts and minds; the subtle biases that still cause discrimination.

I ask that you use this as a teachable moment and educate your organization on microaggressions through diversity trainings. I also ask that you change the name of the Birthday Suit color. And finally, I ask that your organization launch a campaign going against the idea of “nude” or “birthday suit” being one skin tone and leading the way for change in the cosmetic and fashion industries. I am more than willing to continue this conversation and be a part of these solutions. Please let me know how I can help. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time.FullSizeRender (5)

Sincerely,

Aleidra R. Allen, M.A.

 

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