When Whites Attend HBCUs, Is That Progress?

Two white women recently spoke out about their experiences as students at Howard, but Stephen Crockett Jr. wonders how this historic move will be remembered in the future. 

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Alyssa Paddock poses with friends at Howard University. (Courtesy of Alyssa Paddock)

Racial integration has long been a symbol of American progress, but Stephen Crockett Jr. wonders at the Washington Post whether white students attending predominantly black educational institutions will be remembered as a step forward or an odd joke.

In the last few weeks, two white women have come out about their experiences as Howard University students; the first, Alyssa Paddock. in an essay published in The Washington Post; the second, Jillian Parker, in a music video about her love for a black football player called “Mr. Football.”

Both the essay and video brought the public to their virtual soapboxes, a.k.a. Facebook and Twitter, to voice either their support or displeasure. Some commenters argued that Howard is hollowed ground, and that the presence of white students feels like an infringement on cultural space. Others shrugged it all off as a natural next step to a completely desegregated America.

Which brings me to a set of questions: is the white student presence on these campuses a racial move forward, or is it all a joke or a conversational topic to be raised over brunch years from now? Will the stories of being a white student at a majority-Black college be sandwiched between summers in the Hamptons and post-grad backpacking through Europe? Is attending an HBCU for white students the equivalent of spending a summer in Ghana? Is a white person who sets out, decides, applies and then attends an all-black-university the equivalent of a Darwinesque social experiment? And, does practicing a minority get anyone closer to understanding the daily struggle of being a minority? Let’s face it; the white student who would even consider attending an HBCU is not the student who is need of a strong dose of black cultural awareness because they already have it.

Read Stephen Crockett Jr.'s entire article at the Washington Post.

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