White at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
[Morehouse is a] “refuge from the rest of the world where what race you are doesn’t really matter.”
–Steven Schukei, one of a small number of white almuni of this historically Black men’s college
While the media follows the struggles of majority white colleges and university systems to recruit and retain African American students, the success of HBCUs in retaining, welcoming, and supporting the number of white students who attend rarely makes the news.
That is why the May 29th AP article “White Students Being Recruited at Black Colleges” by Katrina Goggins is so refreshing. In it Goggins provides an overview of the current state of white recuritment, admissions, and enrollment at Black colleges. “In the 2005-06 school year, nearly 10 percent of [HBCU] students were white, according to her association’s data,” an impressive figure given the challenge of competing with nearly 30 times the number of majority-white colleges, many of whom have higher budgets and greater name recognition.
Part of Black colleges’ success in drawing more white students can be attributed to significant increases in their efforts to recruit non-Black undergrads, including scholarship and minority affairs offices aimed at addressing the needs of whites and other non-African Americans on campus.
Public HBCUs began actively recruiting white students in the 1980s and 1990s, a period when those public institutions with race- and gender-based missions originally crafted to serve the interests of marginalized groups (people of color and women) were forced to integrate (VMI, the Citadel, Texas Women’s University, and various HBCUs).
According to Goggins, ”White students say they’ve taken valuable experiences from their time at black colleges. Skin color, the students say, is much more of a factor away from the campuses than it is on them.” Michael Roberts, an white undergraduate at South Carolina’s Benedict College echoes this sentiment, explaining that ”[at Benedict] you should get to know people based on who they are,” Roberts said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
This capacity to see race, but to experience people as more than just their ethnicity is becoming an increasingly necessary skill for white students. Lezli Baskerville, the president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education believes that white students who choose to attend HBCUs are preparing themselves for
“[an] increasingly Brown and Black world. If you want to know how to live in one, you can’t grow up in an all-white neighborhood, go to a predominantly white school, white cultural and social events, go to a predominantly white university and then thrive in a world that is today more black, more brown than before.”
In the coming years I expect to see more white students attending HBCUs, as popular culture phenomena ranging from the televising of Black college football games to films like Drumline and Stomp the Yard to HBCU-based reality shows combine with increasing reports of the browning of America to make it increasingly clear that white students who have isolated themselves in all white schools located in all white communities are truly being left behind as the nation races ahead into a truly multicultural future.
Read Katrina A. Goggins’s AP report at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18914514/
Posted by Ajuan Mance