For decades, many members of my family have attended the historically black Tuskegee University, so it is not surprising that my cousins and I also expected to follow in this tradition. While many of my cousins did attend historically black colleges and universities, I did not.

When I began the college application process a year ago, I knew from the beginning that I would not be applying to any HBCUs. I also knew that it was unlikely that I would be studying in my home state of Alabama.

When I told my father this, he asked if it was because I was uncomfortable around black people. This question seemed ridiculous to me — of course I don’t feel uncomortable. Half of my friends are black. I’m black, and I am definitely not uncomfortable with myself or other members of my race. I had just never been able to picture myself attending a majority black school.

The main reason I chose not to attend an HBCU is because I felt that I wouldn’t fit in. Since I was little, I have been perceived by fellow African-Americans as “talking white.” In elementary school, a black boy told me I was cute, but said that he couldn’t date me because of my speech. Once while I was in middle school, I went to a doctor’s office where the majority of the employees and patients were black. The nurse heard me speak once, and decided that I must’ve been raised “sheltered.”

Such comments have sometimes made me feel like an outcast in the African-American community. It’s ironic that as a race that often has to fight so hard against preconceptions and stereotypes, we limit our acceptance of individuality. The notion that race is someone’s only defining characteristic is absolutely ludicrous. However, this does not mean that I am not observant of black culture. It exists. It affects our society, and it is important to us as a people. However, it in no way determines everything about a person.

I think one of the biggest issues in the black community is the issue of identity and black experience. For some reason, we’ve begun to put ourselves into boxes, and we’ve decided that only if we’ve grown up in a certain place with a certain type of people doing certain types of things can we truly be classified as “black.”

While I appreciate the family-like aspect of the black community and the feeling that we all need to look out for each other, we still must recognize that every individual’s experience is exclusive to themselves and not to their respective race identity. Making assumptions about each other based on what we perceive to be “black” is obstructive to the battle we’ve tried for the last 60 years to win.

This in no way is meant to say that only people who attend HBCUs are those who have these kinds of ideals. I am only saying that the acceptance of these ideals and the experiences that I’ve had have contributed to my lack of desire to go to a majority black institution. I feel that many African-Americans, though not all, will judge me because I do not fit into the mold of a “typical” black woman.

Last year during my senior year of high school, I had a very similar discussion with a fellow African-American student about HBCUs. I told her I didn’t think I was “black enough” to attend one. She laughed after I said that, but it was clear that she understood what I meant, and that in itself says something.

Perhaps it is not entirely our fault. For centuries we have been told who we are and how to act. I guess eventually, when you’re taught to believe something for so long, it becomes difficult to deny it.

However, it is our fault if we continue to let such ideas be sold as truth. As a generation, we cannot complete this journey that our elders embarked on decades ago without first adjusting our mindsets. How can we as a people ever truly attain equality if we ourselves don’t actually believe we deserve it?

 Jasmine White is a freshman in the College. ’BAMA ROGUE appears every other Friday.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *