An ode to historical black colleges and universities

Well, the world isn’t 78% white, 3% Asian, 8% Black, 4% Hispanic, 3% International, 3% Bi-racial and 1% unknown either, but the University of Missouri is. 

Tatum Shore-Fitzgerald

Well, the world isn’t 78% white, 3% Asian, 8% Black, 4% Hispanic, 3% International, 3% Bi-racial and 1% unknown either, but the University of Missouri is. 

*Disclaimer: TKC understands the potentially offensive use of the word choice in this article. After staff discussions and legal advice from the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), we decided to support the writer’s decision. Please email us at [email protected] with any questions or concerns. 

During a Black Student Union (BSU) meeting my freshman year, I remember a conversation held about why or why not each member would attend a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Surprisingly, the general consensus was that they wouldn’t attend one. Their reasoning? The world isn’t all black and going to an HBCU would be unrealistic. Well, the world isn’t 78% white, 3% Asian, 8% Black, 4% Hispanic, 3% International, 3% Bi-racial and 1% unknown either, but the University of Missouri is. 

Now, this isn’t a diss to predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Or that I want to be separated when I pledge my allegiance to an HBCU; I’m just saying that safe haven created through HBCUs is the safe space I so desperately need. So when I hear about inequitable funding, I worry. 

According to the American Council of Education, both private and public HBCUs suffered a heavy decline in federal funding between 2003 and 2015. Private HBCUs saw a 42% decline. Along with this alarming fact, HBCUs are behind PWIs in endowments by 70%. 

In December the Trump Administration signed the Future Act which permanently provides $250 million a year to HBCUs. However, it’s important to note that money was already there, and it just was made permanent as this bill only restored the $255 million lost earlier. But the Trump administration high fives themselves for this. University of Missouri alone gets around $660 million. 

Every year we’ve heard about inequitable funding and it’s not because HBCUs aren’t doing well enough, it’s because they’re doing too well. Hear me out. 

HBCUs have provided a safe space for academic and social growth amongst the black community by offering support to children of low-income settings and first-generation college students. Whenever I’ve stepped on HBCU campuses like Harris Stowe State University, Alabama State or Jackson State University, I’ve felt the energy of a supportive community. 

They are able to transform students by nurturing and supporting them because they can relate. According to a report by the Department of Education, over 20% of black college grads get their degrees from an HBCU and they are responsible for a large proportion of STEM degrees by black students. There isn’t enough funding to support those students. 

I want to be able to relate to my staff and my fellow students. I want a general understanding that seems to be lacking within predominantly white spaces when it comes to black kids. A general understanding that I’m fighting for. 

I have to explain why I can’t hang out because I have to spend the day washing and rewiring my hair. I have to explain why I’m not rushing in college because there is a drastic difference between the culture of white sororities and black ones. I have to hear people in the hall using black slang and African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) incorrectly, in an attempt to sound “hip.” Acting like what TikTok has coined as a “Hot Cheeto girl,” a loud and ghetto girl, but that’s just another cover-up for the ghetto black girl stereotype. I have to explain why that Instagram post was racist because contrary to popular belief, being racist isn’t an opinion. 

Saying it’s a free country doesn’t mean exemption from consequences. I felt the stress from seeing the word “Nigger” written in “Fences,” during AP Literature and Composition, as I held my breath praying no one says it. I’d love to say I’d be strong and exchange a few words, but in reality, I’d really just cry. The stress of hearing a song come on during Homecoming and pausing when the rapper says “Nigga,” but hearing all the non-black voices saying it boldly under the flash of a Snapchat camera. Having to repress my anger because if I got angry all the time, I’d stress myself out. If I got angry all the time I’d be the angry black girl. Or rather, the token black girl, the only black girl, the go-to black girl, the “Kiden, am I woke enough?” black girl. I need that space to just be Kiden.  

Again, this isn’t a diss, I just need a space where I’m competing against my fellow students and not the achievement gap, knowing that my other peers actually know how I feel. So, again, when I hear about inequitable funding, I worry about my future. I worry that the space I prayed for will be gone before I’m able to cross the finish line in 2024.