Defining Black Excellence: Why I Chose a PWI Over an HBCU
Renowned HBCU researcher and policy expert Marybeth Gasman recently interviewed one of her summer research assistants for her regular Huffington Post blog. The assistant, a high-achieving African-American female from Philadelphia, revealed that culture and social expectations were major factors in her choice to attend predominantly white UPenn over an HBCU.
Marybeth: Did wanting to prove that you could make it in a white world serve as one of the reasons you applied to Ivy League institutions?
Yvonne: It occurred to me that if wanted to be competitive with my white counterparts, I would have to speak their language. It was then that my dreams of basking in my blackness and escaping my lifelong role as the brown skin anomaly were put on hold. While many of my black family and friends celebrated my acceptance into such an institution with such a longstanding history and relevance to the black community, to the white world that I was a part of, the HBCU that I sought to attend the following fall was illegitimate.
This is a similar sentiment for many black high school students weighing diversity against legacy, opportunity against allegiance, and a comfortable assimilation against startling ethnic awareness.
Oh, how we wear the mask.