When I heard about 16-year old Ralph Jones Jr. choosing Florida A&M University over Harvard, I didn’t even flinch. In fact, the words “woopty doo” came to mind. Those words were not chosen because I didn’t appreciate the enormity of Jones’ achievements, but rather, it was because most of us already know that many HBCUs are better than schools like Harvard and Yale. They are certainly better for African American students in almost every context.
The imaginary mystique of schools like Harvard and Yale effectively exists because these schools got a huge head start on HBCUs as it relates to access to resources and the establishment of legacies. In fact, many of these institutions were founded at a time when it was illegal for slaves to learn how to read. So today, Ivy League universities have endowments in the billions, while many HBCUs can barely pay the light bill.
But fortunately, you don’t need lots of money to inspire and educate. You can learn more from perusing the Internet than from sitting in the class of some stodgy, old professor. Additionally, your intellectual development is largely a function of the degree to which you are impacted by those who teach you. HBCUs provide fuel for success, while many majority universities only provide unnecessary social hurdles.
Black students have a greater likelihood of having an uplifting and confidence-building experience at a place like Morehouse or Spelman than they would at Harvard or Yale. Rather than feeling as though they are guests in someone else’s home, they get the sensation of being right at home when they are at an HBCU. Many schools like Harvard and Yale have a horribly embarrassing track record when it comes to hiring black professors. Their consistent rejection of black scholars signals that as a collective, they consider black intellectuals to be inferior to white ones. Do you really want your child being taught by someone who believes that they are inferior?
So, when it comes to the decision being made by Ralph Jones Jr., I applaud him. He reminds me of the enormous potential of black men, and what we are capable of when we put our best foot forward. Every parent should demand that their child be as hard working, proficient and focused in the classroom as they are on the basketball court. In fact, it’s easier to excel academically than in sports. I also think that many of us should consider sending our kids to HBCUs instead of buying into a power structure that tells us that almost everything black is somehow inferior. Black athletes earn a billion dollars per year for majority institutions, when that same billion dollars could change the world for HBCUs.