The other day, I was talking to a friend and he mentioned to me that he’d found himself accidentally engaged in a typical HBCU conversation. I laughed at first and then thought about it – wait, what’s sad is that I pretty much knew the range of conversations he could be talking about. And while I’m sure other colleges or groups of people may have other topics that typically come up in conversation, I do find it especially interesting that graduates of HBCU’s tend to engage in the same 5 to 10 conversations when they find themselves in a group of like-minded individuals.
Before I go any further, for those who are not aware of what I mean when I say HBCU – they are a group of colleges and universities “that were established before 1964 with the intention of serving the Black community” or better yet – Historically Black Colleges and Universities. You can click here if you want more background.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are the top 5 conversations I hear when I oops up on an all HBCU crowd.
This really could have been 5 topics on its own, because it can range from everyone wanting to find their own personal Barack and Michelle Obamas to how fly Michelle Obama is to what has or hasn’t Pres. Obama done for the black community in his first term, and everything in between. Needless to say though, if you’re amongst a group of people who graduated from a Black college and nothing about the Obamas come up – you should ask to see their transcript or some other proof that they did more than go to an HBCU Homecoming.
Rivalries between ALL of the schools
Now, I went to a majority white university for graduate school and they definitely had school rivalries – but they were mostly based on the basketball team. When you’re a sometime favorite in the Big East Conference, that can tend to happen. What they didn’t do is try to rival every school in the nation. HBCU graduates though? Oh we do! And it doesn’t even matter what the subject is – it could be the band, the football team, the academics, the number of post graduate degrees offered, the number of notable alumni – whatever it is, we will compete. And we will find that one subject we lead on to make the point every time…. unless you’re a Howard graduate – then the conversation is really easy since we lead in almost every category. (See what I did there? And I’m not even talking to all HBCU grads on this post. SMH)
The plight of the Black Woman/Black Man
Sometimes this can be a comparison conversation and you’ll hear things like, “Women don’t understand the things the Black Man has to go through just to be able to go to and graduate from a college. We should consider ourselves the cream of the crop when we accomplish that feat,” or “Men are spoiled into thinking that they can have anything they want just because they went to college. We all went to college too. Should we be punished for the fact that more Black women go to college these days than men?” Sometimes it’s not so much a comparison conversation, but a discussion about what it meant for the different groups while they were in school. Either way, it’s coming up – so if you don’t want to hear it, you should bow out right after the Obamas conversation (which will probably be first, unless two major rival schools are present).
The relevancy of HBCUs
No matter how high many of us hold our institutions of higher education, we also know that many people don’t understand the purpose of them anymore. Articles upon articles are written about whether or not HBCUs are relevant, so of course when a group of people that call these colleges Alma Mater get together, they’ll find a way to start discussing just how they relevant they are. This can sometimes accidentally flow into a rivalry conversation as people may try to one up each other on why they’re school makes the entire group that much more relevant. For example: Xavier University graduates might say something like, “Of course HBCUs are relevant, Xavier produces more Black doctors in the country than any other university.” But then someone from Howard might say, “You’re right, and Howard was just named the best place to attend for Black students who wanted to get business degrees last year.” And the next thing you know, it’s a competition that quickly.
At some point, as the conversation goes on – someone is bound to stop all the “intellectual discussions” and start talking about random traditions of their school or different pranks that were played or even what music was really popular back then. Those things don’t sound ignant by their generic categories, but when you think about how they can include things like “Booty Wall,” “freeze tag on the Yard at midnight,” and “Fatty Girl parties,” – you see how this can quickly go down hill.
All my HBCU readers, have I missed any important topics? And for those who didn’t attend an HBCU for undergrad, what are some of the topics that usually come up in conversation with people who went to your school?