Learning To Listen As A White Guy At A Black University

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Photo courtesy of Joshua Packwood.

By Jared Cline. Stereotypes about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) abound. Perhaps the most prominent among them is that they’re only for black students.
The truth is much different.
“We have never discriminated against anyone who wanted to come and get an education,” says Dr. Harry Lee Williams, president of HBCU Delaware State University, which is 67% black.
Joshua Packwood is a perfect example. The first white valedictorian to graduate from Morehouse College, Packwood now manages a hedge fund in Manhattan. He says his experience at the iconic HBCU was pivotal to his personal and professional development.
“In order to achieve success, you have to bring a different perspective,” he says. “It's very difficult to bring a different perspective if you have not had different perspectives from those around you.”
The environment at Morehouse would prove to be a “key differentiator” for Packwood, who was also offered a full financial aid package from Columbia University. There, his privilege would have grown in leaps and bounds, but Packwood knew that perspective would ultimately prove to be more valuable.
As one of the few white students at Morehouse, he learned a valuable lesson: “It forced me to be more of a listener,” he says. And that’s key. As a married, high-earning, father of two, Packwood’s experience as a minority at Morehouse informs his current understanding of his own privilege.
We might not all get the chance to attend an HBCU in our lives. But we what we can do, as Dr. Frederick Coye Heard, Assistant Professor of American Literature at the Virginia Military Institute, points out, is:
“ASK people of color (POC) about their life experiences, and don’t assume that your experiences are universal. LISTEN to what POC have to say, which requires shutting up long enough to listen. BELIEVE what POC tell you, even if it initially seems to contradict your sense of the world.”
Will you pledge to be a better asker (and listener and believer)?

Start with this video linked below. Hear Packwood and other white students describe their experience at HBCUs.

f3c223e56ea53d74eb3dd4cda12dcbfb-huge-weJared Cline is the Community Manager at MARC (Men Advocating Real Change). He has worked as Web and Associate Editor at Time Out Beijing magazine, where he covered local and expatriate culture in China's capital city. He can be reached at jcline@catalyst.org.
Posted by Jared Cline on May 3, 2016 11:51 AM America/New_York

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