Editor’s note: This was originally published to The Root on Oct. 1, 2015.
It’s Howard University homecoming this weekend, right?
I think so.
You’re not sure?
No. I didn’t go to Howard and I don’t live in Washington, D.C., so I don’t have the Howard homecoming dates tattooed on my chest.
But you do think it’s happening this weekend. Why?
Well, I do have multiple friends and followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And many of these friends and followers apparently went to Howard. And their activity online and offline has led me to believe that Howard is having a homecoming this weekend.
They’ve told you?
Let me just say this: Every conversation I’ve had with a Howard grad in the past two weeks—including my dear cousin—has gone the exact-same way.
Me: So how’s the new baby? Is she walking yet?
Them: When I go to the HU homecoming next weekend, should I rock the HU hoodie at the football game or just go with an HU bucket cap and a HU T-shirt? I’m thinking the bucket cap and the T-shirt, ’cause I’ll want to rock the hoodie at the postgame tailgate day party.
Me: It’s supposed to get warm tomorrow. The weather guy said it might crack 80.
Them: Man, did I tell you about the time at the HU homecoming in 1999 when Diddy showed up and brought 112 and Total and even pulled Craig Mack off of his shift at GameStop and brought him, too? Yo! That was almost as live as 2003, when Beyoncé came through on a spaceship and …
So I take it these Howard grads are very excited about attending homecoming?
Well, that’s the thing. Howard is one of the biggest and most prestigious HBCUs, so if you happen to live in Pittsburgh and happen to know a ton of black people with degrees—which I do—there’s a 15 to 27.2 percent chance they went to Howard. Basically, I’m always half a degree of separation from a Howard grad, so I’m always hearing about their damn homecoming when it’s homecoming time.
But this feeling isn’t unique to Howard. The Morehouse grads act the same way. As do the Spelman grads. And the Hampton grads. And the Florida A&M grads. And the North Carolina A&T grads. And the Jackson State grads. And the Morgan State grads. And, well, you get my point.
They all become the same insufferable and annoying assholes whenever it’s time for their homecoming.
That kinda sounds like you’re hating.
Well, I’m glad it kinda sounds like that because that’s definitely what I’m doing, and I wouldn’t want you to think otherwise. I am, unquestionably and undoubtedly, being a hater. As I type this, I’m totally getting Haterade pumped intravenously right now, and it burns. There is no shame whatsoever to my hating game. If Big Sean is the charter school gym class of rap music, I’m the charter-school gym class of HBCU homecoming hating.
That Big Sean line didn’t make any sense.
I know. But I’m sure you get my point.
I did. I guess the next question is why? Why are you hating on these homecomings? What did these homecomings ever do to you?
Well, it’s not really about them. You see, I didn’t go to an HBCU. I went to a medium-sized PWI (predominantly white institution) in upstate New York. And while I had a great time in college, I’ve never really felt much of a connection to that place. It’s just the place I happened to graduate from. I’ve never gone back for homecoming. Or any reunions. And I don’t plan to. When I get stuff in the mail from them asking for money, I use that paper to line my dog’s cage. Because it’s really high-quality paper.
So when I see my friends and family who graduated from HBCUs with these deep connections to and loves for their colleges and universities—and not just the schools themselves, but the histories, the alums, the traditions, the customs—I feel a bit of envy. I wish I had that type of relationship with the place embroidered on my bachelor’s degree.
It’s like being in a decent relationship with a significant other—a relationship you feel pretty good about. You like spending time with each other, you don’t argue much and you even have the same feelings about obscure black cinema. (You both really, really liked Dancing in September.) But then you have a dinner date with a couple that is sickeningly head over heels in love with each other. These two aren’t just soulmates. It’s like they share the same damn molecules. And it makes you wonder if the “decent” relationship you’re in is a waste of time. If you should just reset your Wi-Fi passwords and go your separate ways.
That’s how I feel every year when it’s HBCU homecoming time. Like my college experience was a Netflix-and-chill relationship.
So how do you handle that?
Well, I’m always going to hate. That will never change. It’s not really about me, though.
I’ve noticed a growing conversation about the current relevance of HBCUs. There are many people (including many black people) who believe they’re outdated and will eventually be obsolete because attending one doesn’t really prepare black people for 21st-century America.
There are dozens of reasons that’s a bullshit belief; most I won’t even attempt to articulate today. But one of those reasons is that there just isn’t another institution that cultivates, nurtures and celebrates black people and black culture the way an HBCU can. And the love so many of the alums have for their alma maters is a reflection of that. It’s beautiful.
So beautiful that even I, a person who didn’t attend one, can recognize it.
By “recognize it” you mean “hate on it,” right?
Of course! I’ve even changed my grade of Haterade from unleaded to premium. I’m prepared to make it through this round of hating HBCU homecoming season fully hydrated.