The Great Debate: PWI vs HBCU by Rachel Nelson

I moved in with my dad for my senior year of high school in Pittsburgh, PA. I thought I wanted to go to Temple so I wanted to get in state tuition. I really hated living there after the first few weeks of school. It was the first time I’d really experienced racism and black people who had never grew up around a lot of black people. It was the first time I realized that most white people have their preconceived notions on black people and you can’t really do much to change their minds no matter how hard you try. That’s why I decided not to go to a PWI. My dad is white and his sister never wants him to take care of me. She never liked my mom and she never liked me. She was really mad that I decided to go to Howard University. She doesn’t like that he provides for me or that I can’t give him money when he needs it even though she knows I’m a college student. She didn’t even know how old I was until a couple weeks ago. That’s when I realized society doesn’t allow us, as black people, to be children. That’s why I decided not to go to a PWI. I knew that I could only succeed in a space that was designed for me to succeed, because I know America was not. I believe that America loves black culture and not black people. I believe America doesn’t know how to be held accountable for its actions. I believe at an HBCU, blacks will always succeed because they are surrounded by an empowering and uplifting community. A lot of my friends go to PWIs because they want to prove to white people that blacks aren’t a monolithic group, but I’m past that fight. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. People say an HBCU is not the real world, but it’s my world. I live in one of, if not the, richest area for blacks in this country. Every school I went to in my area was predominantly black. The problem isn’t that a predominantly black society isn’t the real world, it’s that there’s a history of making sure we “stay in our place” and don’t build too many productive black cities and states. I don’t have to go to school to learn how to work or live in a community with white people because life isn’t that complicated. I believe that an HBCU will prepare me for the real world because I’ll be a powerful person after I graduate. The real world isn’t white people being rewarded for mediocrity while we work ourselves to death to even be considered. I’m not saying that a PWI won’t teach you how to uplift the black community and be a better version of yourself, but it’s about being unapologetic about who you are and the things you cannot change. When I was in a predominantly white high school, I felt horrible about myself for simply existing. I won’t deny that PWIs can offer great opportunities and not all of them are 99% white, but I won’t sacrifice my mental health to debate with white classmates every day how slavery still effects our communities. I believe blacks would succeed more at an HBCU because it gives a different representation of blackness that the world tries to hide. Representation is a powerful thing because it changes how you look at yourself. We are a powerful community and there is power in numbers.