Why We Should End The HBCU vs. PWI Debate Once And For All


I don’t know how or why but 2019 has been the year of the HBCU vs. PWI debate. You can’t go a week without seeing HBCU and black PWI students from varying institutions going to bat over the cultural relevance of our historically black institutions and their insistence to call their black experience at their Predominantly White college an HBCU experience. What once seemed to be a vaillant display of love for our institutions in a debate that spans years is now a petty display of clout chasing that we as HBCU educated individuals fall for ever time. I’m not above this. Many times this year, I’ve fallen for this trap. However, it’s now time for us to ignore this debate and focus on what really matters: systemic attacks and senate bills that truly effect the sustainability and existence of our 101 HBCUs

This revelation comes after the emergence of a brand new hashtag started on Twitter by black UCAL Alumnus @PolitickinH called #HBCUCLA. According to him, the hashtag was started as a way to celebrate the black experience that black UCLA students have while also saying that he couldn’t afford to go to an HBCU while his UCLA education is free. Outside of the naming of the hashtag, his intent doesn’t seem wrong. Celebrating the black experience that you have at your institution is fine. However, invoking HBCUs to get the hashtag to travel further is clout chasing 101. That’s when you start to troll for likes/RTs.


There’s literally no substantive conversation stemming from the particular debate over this hashtag or the HBCU vs. PWI debate in general. It’s just tribal warfare at this point. We’re literally arguing with each other just to argue seemingly forgetting that, although our social experience differ,  we’re at our institutions for the same reason. Isn’t the point of why we’re attending these institutions to get a degree? Why argue over semantics and who has the authentic experience when we’re a monolith in that way? Besides, we at HBCUs have bigger fish to fry. The saying that we learned as children, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me,” applies to this specific topic. The “sticks and stones” in the aforementioned phrase are senate bills like SB 278, which threatens to consolidate Savannah State University, Fort Valley State University and Albany State University. Or systemic injustice against Maryland HBCUs and slick talk about HBCU mergers that continue to happen around the nation.

HBCU students have a responsibility that PWI students simply don’t have. When we enroll at our HBCUs, we’re drafted into a war where we must defend our HBCUs as attacks are lobbied against them in the goals of erasing them them from today’s collegiate landscape. We don’t have time to continue this debate and make these “My PWI is really my HBCU” topics and hashtags trend. Our priorities are different. Let the black students of UCLA and other predominately white institutions debate amongst themselves over why their black college experience mimics that of an HBCU. Meanwhile, we must be stakeholders in our own institutions and keep them alive and thriving. 




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