What it's Like to be a Black Girl at a PWI

I literally grew up surrounded by Black excellence. My aunts, uncles and grandparents all graduated from prestigious historically Black colleges. Every time the family got together, the topic of conversation somehow always shifted to where Erica was going to college. I would watch as the HBCU alumni of my family argued back and forth about which one of their colleges I’d be attending in the future. I wanted nothing more than to make them proud. I wanted nothing more than to be just like them. Even today, I am still astounded by the amount of success between them. However, I eventually came to the conclusion that I just wasn’t going to be able to please everyone, no matter how badly I wanted to.

Years went by and my list of major, college and career choices became slimmer and slimmer. I visited beautiful HBCU campuses, did my research and even reached out to students at various historically Black colleges. However, this was all before I visited VCU. There’s something special about a place that feels like home before you’ve even stepped foot inside of it. To this day, I still don’t think I’m even able come up with a solid answer as to why I’m so in love with my school without mentioning diversity, urban feels or anything artsy. It’s so much deeper than that. I just haven’t figured out how to express it and even though I knew my family had their mind set on dropping me off at an HBCU in August 2014, I had to do what I felt was best for me.

Not once have I felt as though I was being discriminated against based on the presence of melanin in my skin here at VCU. Not once have I felt like an ant in a bowl full of milk and not once have I regretted my decision. I may hear a problematic comment or two here and there, but I can't expect perfection and please don’t get me wrong, racism is still very alive and well, but it has not been a factor in any of my experiences at VCU thus far and I am confident in the fact that I will not face this problem in the future. I am able to say this because even though I am only a second-semester freshman, I still feel as though I made the right college decision.

I’ve always been the girl to support Black excellence. I’ve always been the girl to go on rants about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I’ve always been the girl to appreciate and recognize accomplishments and achievements made within the Black community, but I’ve never been against inclusion. To put all of this into simpler terms, I am pro-Black, but I will never be anti-White and that sometimes confuses people. Within the Black community, the “PWI vs HBCU” debate still exists and it drives me insane. I’ve been asked why I would attend a university that wouldn’t have admitted me in the past. I’ve been asked why I don’t support my own people. I’ve even been asked why I hate myself. I am not content with the fact that racial segregation existed at all. However, I am much more content with the fact that my people are getting an education, finding great jobs and excelling in their career fields, HBCU alum or not.

There is no correlation between Black success and the type of college you attend. Whether you succeed or not is based completely on your drive and determination and for that reason, I will never entertain that pointless debate. I have an amazing support system, great professors and awesome grades here at VCU. So, what is it like to be a Black girl at a PWI, you ask? It’s absolutely wonderful.