“Wait, so your school was ALL BLACK?!”
“Wait!, so your school was ALL BLACK?!”
These are the words I have heard far too often since moving away from the South and coming to law school in the nation’s capital. I guess it should seem inevitable right? We, as black people, have no choice but to be immersed in the dominant culture of America. For good or for ill, this is a majority WHITE culture. Though the numbers of hispanics is ballooning and we currently have a black President, this is still a white country in terms of the societal norms and breadth of general knowledge one is supposed to have. That knowledge, it seems, does not extend to the “black schools.”
The better term for “black schools” is HBCU white people. That’s a Historically Black College or University. Notice the adverb there. HISTORICALLY. This just means that traditionally, these school were founded to educate freed slaves when even though the Constitution said we were now free, citizens, and entitled to equal protection of the laws . . . we still couldn’t learn with whites, live with whites, eat with whites, or generally enjoy any of the basic things whites did. These schools were our havens, places where we could get an education and hope to lift ourselves and our families out of the oppressive agrarian milieus of the South.
But alas, the HBCU among the majority culture is still misunderstood, mischaracterized, and sometimes derided as unnecessary in our “post-racial” world. As a matter of fact, one of the most prominent and revered HBCUs in the country is often confused for another school that aint quite the same.
White people, THESE ARE NOT THE SAME SCHOOL!
Let’s do some word association exercises to bring home the point:
Morehouse = All-male, historically black, Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Morehead = Coeducational, State School, Kentucky,
Now I know what you’re gonna say. You want to say that this is a simple mistake to make. You have a cousin or something who once went there. Or maybe it was your mother’s friend’s son, or daughter . . . or something. That’s not the point. The point is that there are some things that are generally known in a society’s subculture that are just go without notice by the majority. That’s the problem. This is as much advice for black people in white environments as it is for white people interacting with black people in decent numbers for the first time:
Get to know each other. Don’t make silly assumptions. You’ll look like an ass, and you’ll alienate the other person. Ask tactful questions so both of you can learn about each other.