There's been no shortage of words used to attempt to describe and encapsulate "Black Twitter," which has been defined as everything from "a cultural identity on the Twitter social network focused on issues of interest to the black community" by Wikipedia to (paraphrasing) "the digital version of what happens at the 24-hour Walmart in Huntsville, Alabama" by Panama on a panel at Harvard we were on earlier this year.
It also can be a virtual version of spare ribs and collard greens — where racial antagonism leads to the discovery of a product that proves to be savored, vital, and ultimately positive. We saw it when Ferguson and Baltimore happened and we used Twitter as both a fulcrum and a conduit for protest and activism. We saw it with the genesis of #BlackLivesMatter. And yesterday, as we witnessed the latest round of "America Aint Built For Black People" Bingo — this time, being played at the University of Missouri — the #BlackonCampus hashtag was born, allowing us to bond and connect over recollections of our experiences on college campuses.
Unfortunately, as day went on and the stories — some humorous; some harrowing — continued to be shared, another sub-conversation emerged, this one pitting Black people who attended HBCUs against Black people who attended PWIs (predominately White institutions). Now, spirited debates comparing the respective merits, benefits, and challenges of HBCUs and PWIs as they relate to Black students is healthy, welcome, and necessary. Especially for people — high school students, particularly — still deciding which institution they'd like to attend. The more they know about each, the more informed their choice will be.
But while those types of debates did occur, a nasty pissing contest between Black grads of HBCUs and Black grads of PWIs, where both sides managed to be both insulting towards the other and defensive, also happened. This was not the first — and it definitely won't be the last — time I've witnessed this strain of argument. It's presumably been happening for as long as Black people were able to attend PWIs, and I've seen it at happy hours, in email threads, at game nights, on Facebook, and even here at VSB.
And every time it happens, it's fucking stupid. In fact, the argument gets progressively stupider and makes exponentially less sense every time I hear it. Basically, this argument is Ben Carson.
Namely because there is no universal "right" path for any Black person, let alone any Black person with post-secondary aspirations. It goes without saying that HBCUs are considerably more likely to be sensitive to and accommodating of the needs of Black students, but that alone doesn't make the HBCU the right choice for every Black student. There are myriad factors that contribute to where someone decides to go to college. Some "Vital" with a capital "V" (degree programs, financial aid packages, scholarship money, proximity to family, family legacy, etc) and some "vital" to an 18-year-old (number of cute girls, proximity to bars, answers to questions like "Are the dorms close enough to campus for me to consistently attend class in pajamas?", etc). But all part of the labyrinth of details considered when making that decision. Sometimes it leads you to Morehouse. Sometimes to Missouri. But neither choice is inherently right or wrong. What only matters is if its right or wrong for you.
Also, while I'm usually not in the business of playing the "This is what Black people should and shouldn't do" game, I can't think of any dumber exercise than a group of Black people insulting, downplaying, dismissing, and discounting the college experiences of other Black people because of the university they chose to attend. And, as well as being dumb as fuck, it's racist. Yes, racist. By reflexively devaluing the merits of HBCUs you are no different from a White person who believes traditionally Black entities are inherently inferior. And by insulting Blacks who chose to attend PWIs, you are no different from the White person who believes that any Black person who chooses to deviate from their idea of what the "universal Black experience" should be is somehow less Black.
That said, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there's a very real and specifically American context to HBCU grads being defensive. Because it's the business of America to devalue both the contributions and the value of Black Americans, and this sickness is so pervasive that it has infected many of us (Black Americans) too. So, it's understandable when an HBCU grad defending this value and these contributions crosses that thin line separating "wagon circling" from active antagonism. But it being understandable doesn't make it right.
Anyway, lets all just stop doing this please, so we can focus our energies on more pressing matters. Like "When is Kyrie Irving coming back?" (soon, hopefully) and "Is WGDB the worst song of the year?" (Yes, probably.)