I distinctly remember several conversations I had my twelfth grade year in high school, regarding my choice to attend the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a Historically Black College/University. My math teacher, Ms. K, asked me why black people choose to segregate themselves by attending all black colleges, especially when predominately white colleges are giving all of the scholarship money to us anyway. God knows I wish, at 17, I had the vocabulary and experience with racist comments that I have now because maybe then I would have responded. But, I said nothing. It was that type of racist conversation that I was hoping to flee from by attending an all-black institution of higher learning.
I have continued to have some strange experiences over the years engaging people in conversations about attending and graduating from an HBCU. Some of those people happened to be friends who I trusted with my feelings and thoughts, but they did not hesitate to articulate how they thought my degree was inferior to theirs, which was obtained from a traditionally white institution (TWIs). One in particular has offered her opposition to HBCUs every time an opportunity has presented itself, oftentimes at random moments when it was not even a topic of conversation.
Racism, I believe, has succeeded when black people internalize racist definitions of “blackness” that deem us as intellectually inferior and incapable of producing institutions where black people graduate and become productive citizens of this country. When someone cannot conceive of all-black institutions as being able to produce students who can compete academically with white students, then perhaps they do not consider any black student capable of competing with any white student.
The truth about my experience: I attended one of the least funded institutions in the University of Maryland System. Despite the fact that we did not have some of the resources that the TWIs had in the same system, we had great teachers and an administration that was committed to our success. Furthermore, what I gained was a family who continues to support each other in ways that never ceases to amaze me. This blog alone is a testament to my experience, as the majority of my supporters are UMES Hawks. We have students who have gone on to graduate with Masters, and PhDs, and some of those degrees came from Ivy League institutions. The occupations of my fellow Hawks rival the graduates from any institution. Most of all, UMES educated many of the fabulous teachers throughout the Washington, DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas and beyond.
This post is not about The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, but all of the HBCU graduates who face the elitist intellectualism of others who find the HBCU education inferior. You see, I never thought I was better than anyone because I attended an HBCU, but I am, indeed, a better me for having done so.
Hawk Pride . . . Catch it!
Note: The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, along with three other HBCUs in the state of Maryland (Morgan State University, Coppin State University, and Bowie State University) have made recent news when a Maryland Federal judge ruled that the state had not done enough to help the four institutions mentioned above overcome segregation-era policies, according to The Baltimore Sun. The lawsuit indicated that TWIs in the state unnecessarily duplicated the programs at HBCUs.
For more information, read the following articles:
- Maryland in Violation of Duplicating HBCU Programs at White Institutions, Diverse Issues in higher Education
- A Win for Public Black Colleges, Inside Higher Ed
- Maryland Universities Unnecessarily Duplicated the Programs of Black Colleges, Court Rules, The Baltimore Sun
- 4 Other States Could Be Affected by Desegregation Ruling in Maryland, The Chronicle of Higher Education