The good folks at stuffeducatedblackpeoplelike.com sparked one of the site's most provocative debates yet with a March 21 post on Howard University. The blog item took a lighthearted poke at HU, which has long been considered one of the top historically black colleges, along with Spelman and Morehouse. My husband's parents met at Howard's law school back in the day, so I thought the post was pretty funny. Plus, I went to a well-known HBCU in the South that used to have a bit of a complex about Howard.
But as so often happens, some of the comments that followed took an ugly, personal tone. There was the expected braying (some in all caps) from HU graduates about how it's the best school ever, etc. Which elicited this pointed (and frankly hilarious) response: "And that's precisely the arrogance and lack of humility that makes motherfuckas laugh at you and not take you seriously."
But then! Several people claiming to have graduated from ivies and other predominately white institutions said real educated black people go to schools like Brown, Harvard and Cornell, and that HBCUs are third-string: "As a freshmen (sic) at top university my Black friends and I would sit in the cafeteria and thank God we didnt (sic) attend an HBCU. "
This discussion is rife with the kind of intraracial class issues that I suspect would surprise many outsiders. We're not talking about the middle class vs. the poor here. Rather, it's a lot of solidly middle-class-to-wealthy types arguing about who's REALLY educated. Which is so stupid it makes my head hurt. — especially when you consider that only 11 percent of black Americans have a four-year college degree to begin with (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education). And the median income gap between blacks with a high school degree and those with at least a bachelor's degree is huge.
Look, I have black friends who went to HBCUs and others who went to top-ranked, predominately white universities. I don't remember us ever having a conversation about who was more likely to succeed, because that would have been lame as hell. None of us grew up wealthy, and we all had a sense that we were fortunate to have a shot at higher education, period.
But hey, if you enjoy an old-fashioned house-field squabble, be my guest. It's only 2008.