By Justus Dashield
“Don’t worry high school is almost over, college will be so much better.” These words got me through high school. I could not wait until I graduated high school and went to college: freedom and acceptance, do anything you want and be whoever you want, the best four years of your life. As I entered the first semester of freshman year in a state of pure ecstasy—believing that I could finally live the life that I saw portrayed in countless college movies.
If you are Black and attend a PWI (predominantly White institution), forget what the movies promised you. I quickly noticed some warning signs … like parties where I listened to the same six songs while guys shot-gunned beers and smashed the cans on their foreheads. I began to think that maybe college isn’t for Black people.
When go on tours of PWIs, nobody tells you about the isolation that Black people encounter right from the start. High school forces you to be around your peers for eight hours a day, five days a week. In college, nobody forces you to attend class, making it harder to develop genuine friendships in college like the ones imposed on you in high school. Of course, people tend to gravitate towards people who look like themselves. What happens when you look around and see no one who looks like you?
Over time, as you become more familiar with your new environment, you find people who look like you in your school’s designated cultural center. You come to the realization that while hanging out in a place that makes you feel comfortable, you isolate yourself from your peers. In most cases, the cultural center sits in the most remote part of campus, a place you would not find unless you looked for it.
Every Black student at a PWI fights what I call the “not-that-Black-person” stereotype. They strive to prove their intellect and work ethic to peers and faculty members lest they be deemed to have been admitted to the institution simply on the basis of their Blackness. Many Black students refrain from seeking help in order to avoid looking less intelligent than their counterparts. Instead of focusing on the things that are important to us—like our education—we waste time trying to prove to others something that we know about ourselves. If you want to believe the college hype, save yourself some trouble and attend an HBCU.