HBCU Rant…

4 05 2009

hu famu su

It’s amazing how in a matter of hours, you can find yourself in the same conversation with different people. This happened to me on Friday. [Full disclosure: for those who don’t know, I went to an HBCU for undergrad, a majority white institution for post grad, and for good measure, a majority white institution for high school.]

So Friday, the 1st conversation happened at work and was completely on accident. A co-worker was passing by my desk and somehow it came up in conversation that he went to Howard Law School. Now, being the extremely proud Bison that I am, I immediately became excited to hear such news. He didn’t share my enthusiasm, however.

So I asked why? His response was that “he needed more diversity in a learning environment.” “Really,” I asked, already completely annoyed and sensing that I should probably retreat from the conversation. “Yeah,” he replied.

Then I asked, “so everyone in your law school class was from the same background as you? They all grew up in a big city and went to the same high school as you?”

“No.”

“Well then, how can you say it wasn’t diverse?”

“Well, it was majority black people.”

“See, that’s the misconception that a lot of people have, that just because we’re all brown, means it’s not diverse.”

I proceeded to explain to him that I thought Howard was the most diverse learning environment I’ve ever been in. I also proceeded to inform him of the actual definition of diversity, which in a nutshell, by the way, has more to do with merging different experiences than different races.

Y’all when I tell you this conversation lasted an hour, I am sooo not exaggerating. And every minute that went by annoyed me so much, I couldn’t have been happier when he left. It would have been different if it were an intellectual conversation amongst people with different opinions, but this was the complete opposite. It was a guy not expecting me to be able to counter his arguments in an intellectual way without raising my voice or getting belligerent. And let me tell yall, the man could NOT handle my points of clarifications at all!

The thing that really got me was that he came back a couple hours later. I seriously had to pray at one point and ask God to remove him from my desk, because it was not going to be pretty. I’d already asked the man if he knew what the definition of ignorance was, since he certainly didn’t know the definition of diversity lol.

Anyway, here were some of the gems he dropped on me:

1. “Well, I’ve always been discriminated against by black people and told that I want to be white because I like things like classical music or I speak a certain way.”

Funny, because one of my BFFs plays classical piano and I don’t think she’s any less black because of it lol. I actually think it’s pretty cool and wish I could do it.

“Well, I think when black people get around each other, they feel too comfortable saying racist things.”

Hmmm, interesting because I started grad school literally 2 weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit and I cant begin to tell you the racist ish I heard come out of people’s mouths at that time– and this was at a so-called liberal school!

“Well, I’ve been told that I’m not black enough because I wouldn’t mind being in an interracial relationship.”

Please see my post on Something New, because I can’t even begin to tell you how I blasted him about this comment. I wasn’t the one to try to come at about interracial relationships. 1/2 of my family is the product of some type of racial mixing lolololol…

We continued like this for awhile and then I finished with these two things:

1. “You know, I think often when we go into situations with certain expectations, those expectations are fulfilled.” The man went to Howard thinking he would be treated a certain way, and it seems that expectation was realized. As I told him, I think that happens more as a result of the energy you put out there than the type of music you like. People are comfortable with you when you are comfortable with yourself.

2. “It’s so easy to find fault with other people. The mature person is able to look in the mirror and see what he needs to work on.

I kid yall not, 4 hours later, I was in Alero and got into a similar, but much less bout it conversation with this guy who went to University of Maryland because he wanted more diversity than Howard.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Howard certainly has its faults. And it’s not for everyone. But I just get so frustrated when we as a people down ourselves by assuming that the only way you can have diversity is to be around people of another race. You should have that experience, but you should also know that statistically there’s more diversity within one group of people than there is within multiple races. That goes for all races, not just Black people.

So you guys tell me, was I wrong in this situation? Should I have just ignored his comments and kept it moving? And for my HBCU alum and attendees, have you ever found yourself in a similar conversation before? What did you do?

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5 responses

4 05 2009
countryclubbarbie

Couple things . . . .
1. You’ve been ranting quite a bit these days (see: Big and Carrie, lol).
2. Hey shout out!
3. Totes agree with your points. One of the most annoying thing about people who aren’t familiar with Howard is that they think all people who go to Howard are the same. It’s even more annoying that someone who went there thinks that. I will not go any further because that will start a rant of my own (about corporate America, massa and the likes, lolololol).
4. Can your coworker use the argument of being discriminated against by black people as an argument for why he’s discriminating against black people? It’s like one big circular reference in Excel, it doesn’t work and I’m getting an error message.
5. I didn’t know classical music was only for white people. Somebody should have given my mom the memo when she bought me my first Beethoven tape at 9. And they should have told her not to waste her money on Mozart, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky. I suppose she could have saved hundreds of dollars on tickets to the ballet as well. I think only white people do that too.
6. Find five “black” people who are only black. Right, there aren’t any.
7. I suppose if I was white I would have said “a few things” not “couple things” because apparently, they’re the only people who know how to use proper grammar.

OK, so I had a rant of my own. Clearly, your coworker is an idiot. I’ve definitely found myself in those conversations and at the end of the day you have to agree to disagree. If not, you’ll just keep coming back to that same conversation. Which is annoying.

Oh – and slam your coworker’s foot in a door. Hard. Then, kick him in the shin for me. The opposite shin.

4 05 2009
dbaham

LOL you’re right, I did go on a rant about Big and Carrie and then this too. ah well, what can I say? LOL… sometimes a good rant never hurt anyone 🙂

And I’m so GLAD that you were just as perturbed as I was… ugh, seriously I dont know how I made it through that conversation with him lol. He’s definitely a quite confused young man… and please dont tempt me with the door. You know it was on my mind, especially when he came back! LMAO!

14 05 2009
Shopaholics Anonymous « Choices, Voices, and Sole

[…] even go to Howard anymore! And don’t go in a shoe store either.” “Okay, okay. But I’ll always be a Bison. I won’t get it though… […]

25 05 2009
sdt the magic negro

When I was at Howard, I felt like everybody was just like me. I mean, me and CountryClubBarbie…oops, I mean CountryClubBarbie and I (must be the negro side of me)…are practically the same person. It’s like we are twins separated at birth! It’s amazing!

Despite the fact that I’m a through and true southern gal (whoops! those negro genes just won’t stop!), my East Coast friends, West Coast friends, Mid-West friends, Jamaican friends, Trinidadian friends, Canadian friends, Nigerian friends, and Texan friends were ALL JUST ALIKE!! O.M.G.!

Please don’t get me started on my friends who grew up in the ‘hood-‘hood and lived hand-to-mouth while working their way through college. And I’m trying not to think about my friends who grew up in super wealthy neighborhoods and had Scotty beam them to their palatial high schools every morning. Nevertheless, all of these negroes seemed to bring the same life experiences to the table. This dark skin is some powerful shit! Wait…was that an ebonical phrase? Wait…is “ebonical” even a word?

Your co-worker needs some serious self-esteem pills. Any black person who thinks that all black people are alike isn’t quite comfortable in his/her skin. He’s the exact reason why institutions like Howard need to be preserved and supported by its alumni and friends.

-sdt the magic negro

25 10 2010
On Howard and other HBCUs « Choices, Voices, and Sole

[…] if you read my rant about HBCUs and misconceptions on diversity over a year ago, then you already know I’m pretty […]

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