The Black And Brown Value of a Higher Education
According to a recent survey, more Black and Hispanic parents cite a college education as being a requirement for success than do White parents (see story next page).Though the assessment made headlines across the country, somehow, its findings just aren’t surprising to me. Parents of every hue dream the world for their children. But for the Black and Brown communities that have for so long been under-served by America’s higher education system, a college degree means, well, everything. What the survey’s findings didn’t say was that Blacks and Hispanics place a higher value on a college education. But I’ll dare to say that may be true as well.What others can afford to take for granted we must cherish.We continue to be under-represented at America’s colleges and universities, not for a lack of interest, but due to racism, pecuniary circumstances and other social ills that once made the thought of a college education a silly notion for preposterous Black and Hispanic fantasists.That’s why the generations that came before mine, more deprived and derided, built and have indefatigably fought to sustain Black- and Hispanic-serving institutions. And still today, Black and Hispanic parents raise theirs kids knowing the slights the world has in store. Achieving a higher education is just one of many situations where the odds are against people of color.Case in point? At a time when the college enrollment numbers for Black and Hispanic students is at an unprecedented high, there are still more young Black and Hispanic males in prison than there are in college.It’s no wonder Black folks hoot and holler at commencement ceremonies. Their kid beat the odds.My own mother worked tirelessly for an institution of higher education for more than 20 years, partly so that I could receive remission of tuition there. And indeed, I felt my graduation was more for my mother, my grandmother and my deceased grandfather who did so much — financially and in other immeasurable ways — to get me through those years.And I suspect that for many of the parents who already have or will in the coming weeks watch their Black or Brown children walk across the stage, the event is slightly more meaningful — more hard-earned and sacrificed.So yeah, I’ll go there. Black and Hispanic parents must certainly place a higher value on a college education. Because for us, it means not only overcoming tough assignments, relentless professors and critical self-disciplining: It also means overcoming history and the odds.
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