I Went to an HBCU to Experience Being a Minority

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