Growing up in the Beaverton school district, (85% white/ 12 % hispanic)) I noticed being the only black student in class, since kindergarten. This is generally the same routine, you end up talking “preppier”, and laughing “squeakier” on accident, but every year around the time we talk about history, and slavery, and prejudice, and you undergo the same discomfort. I remember keeping my head mostly down, not commenting, waiting for someone to say something dumb or inconsiderate, “Actually, only like 15 people got lynched,” or “my best friend is black, and we say the n-word together all the time,” or “they really do look like monkeys.” Honestly, I was never plagued by it until recently. In a philosophy class I was taking we were considering the power of language, and discussing racial slurs. The same comments represented themselves, which I was prepared for. We generally argue in this class, and often play devil’s advocate just to explore the other sides of issues; but when discussing the “effect” of these words, we discussed the effect, of confederate flags, nooses, and one student even presented a skinhead rally website in front of the class. As if it wasn’t enough, the next day, in history no less, we watched the life of Emmitt Till. I was needless to say in tears, and awe over the violence I’d just seen. But when the movie was over, the lights were on, and the image of Emmitt’s 14 year-old bloodied, disfigured body flashed through my mind like a nightmare, all one person could muster was “well why would he whistle at a white woman anyway, didn‘t he know better?”
It is obvious as to why I value historically black colleges and universities. I can speak my mind, I can be articulate, and work hard without being a “smart black girl.” The white students don’t say “good job” to each other for good grades, or scores, but when they see mine, they immediately say “wow!” or “atta -girl!” I shake my head to myself at these remarks, and allow them not too much depth. But more than what I take in from these HBCU’s is the depth of impact they should have on America, and it is not recent at all.
Alex Haley who published Roots a beyond epic story, that showed the destitute, horror and pain of slavery and forced Americans to own it, went to Alcorn. He enlightened the world to show the true colors of Malcolm X, as not a radical and monster that the White Media would have portrayed, but as an intelligent, bold, Black man who refused to be the victim of socio-economic circumstance.
W.E.B. Du Bois was the most prominent intellectual leader and political activist on behalf of African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century; Along with attending Fisk University he fathered Black Confidence by re-affirming our African heritage, and labeling it as worthy, competent, and strong. How quickly we forget the leaders, we have turned out through the support and guidance of HBCU’s.
Even today, we have great role models in innovators like Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson, both award-winning cultural icons who exemplify what a positive message it is to be black. Jackson’s has won several academy awards but is known by many as the main who helped fuel the black power movement. Alongside Stokely Carmichael and others. Spike Lee is so much a role model because he fears no controversy or opposition when it comes to race relations; he will identify and denounce moral wrongs wherever he sees them occur, and through his love of film, helps us to be aware of these atrocities when we see them.
The intention of a Historically black College, may have been to education of Black Americans. In all, HBCU’S have bred the architects of American History, and made it live-able; The forefathers of the United States ran a genocide, a slave ship, and called them all “manifest destiny”; our Martin Luther King’s and other real leaders received their education from HBCU’s and with it tool the character, discipline and morals they acquired to remodel the bleak system that was created.
Surely we need one more world changer to make up for every gang member that wears our skin.
And our scholars, are demonstrators, our activists are who whites and all American’s should look at when defining or pigeon-holing any race. They uphold an image that I would be so proud for all of our youth to strive for.