Last week, while visiting a liberal arts college in Oakland, I sat on a small couch and listened to the only white male on a panel boast at least three times that he’s “never been qualified for any of the jobs” he’s had. He laughed and chuckled at his dumb luck. The white woman beside him bragged, “I haven’t interviewed for a job in twenty years.” After the third comment, I exchanged glances with friends, reflecting our shared concern over the repeated statements. The white man slouched in his chair as he spoke to a room of women writers—some of color, of varied shades, and some who shared his complexion. This white man, the owner of a publishing house, wore his ignorance in his smile, while we burned in our seats.
I was destined to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU) once my parents met at Delaware State decades ago. Fate resulted in a childhood characterized by religious viewings of A Different World. Aside from sending me on an early quest for my real-life Denise Huxtable, the Cosby Show spinoff helped frame the black college experience that my parents and their friends had long told me about. This made the decision to attend an HBCU simple, especially after dealing with the "too black, not black enough" paradox of growing up in an all-black neighborhood, attending a predominantly white high school, and not fitting perfectly into either environment.