I Went to an HBCU to Experience Being a Minority

A white Howard student explains a choice of college that many dismissed as a joke and others wondered whether she could handle. 

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Alyssa Paddock and Howard classmates (family photo courtesy of Alyssa Paddock)

Writing at The Root DC, Alyssa Paddock explains why, despite being white, she chose to attend a historically black college. There's the obvious: She got a lacrosse scholarship. And then there's another reason: The self-imposed challenge of being a racial minority for the first time.

Plus, Paddock says, her view of race as a nonissue has evolved, and she now understands that "people have different life experiences and different views based on those experiences."

[My older sister] thought Howard would teach me important life lessons that I could never get at a predominantly white institution. Sally had spent time as the only non-Israeli and non-Jewish person in the Israeli Army during a year in Israel ...

In December 2010 I decided on Marymount University and committed to its lacrosse team. In January 2011 I got an unexpected call from the coach of Howard's lacrosse team. She had seen me play the previous spring at a statewide lacrosse tournament for Connecticut high school juniorsand invited me to come down for a visit. She was interested in recruiting me to play for Howard ...

Friends and family immediately questioned my decision. Some dismissed it as a joke. Black friends and acquaintances laughed at the prospect of my attending a mostly all black college. White friends and acquaintances were confused about why I would want to go. My parents, who'd always encouraged me to make my own decisions, worried about the prospect of my being a member of a minority group for four years and questioned whether I could handle it ...

As my second year at Howard comes to a close, I'm more grateful for every day I've spent here. I appreciate the experience, and the challenge, of being automatically viewed within a certain stereotype by some people and being able to challenge or change those views. It gets tiring and uncomfortable sometimes but it has taught me a lot and helped me grow. I have perspectives on American race relations, history, and the oppression of black people and that I never had growing up and would never have had I not come to Howard. 

Read Alyssa Paddock's entire piece at The Root DC.

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