Noooooo. Noooooo. I know college is really about getting an education. But here you can get an education academically, as well as an education through life. Also, so much of it is that brotherhood component that I thought was… was rare.
And so when it came time to apply to schools did you apply anywhere else? No, Morehouse is the only school that I applied to. Walking down Brown Street and having people acknowledging you and affirming you. That’s something that they do here. And I love that part of the culture shock.
Southern hospitality is a beautiful thing. Students here, they’re extremely hardworking and creative. We produce more black attorneys. We produce the most black doctors. Everybody around you, they’re black students, they’re black artists. This place is sacred. I think this is a safe space for black students.
And this school was going to challenge me in ways that I probably would not have gotten at other institutions. And if we had white people just coming in here, I will feel… disrespected. Completely. Everything that I am is a result of this school. Do you feel like you really belong here?
I feel like I belong here, if I’m putting in the work. It’s that simple. [Minority Reports] [Historically Black Colleges] We’re on the campus of Morehouse College. Morehouse is an historically black, men’s college that was founded out of the necessity to give
A culturally safe space to black students, who were being excluded by predominantly white institutions. You will not replace us! In 2018, their existence feels necessary for a lot of the same reasons. In the past year alone, hate groups are openly marching on college campuses,
A white student admitted on Instagram to tampering with her black roommate’s personal belongings, another black student had the police called on her while sleeping on a couch in the common area of her dorm, and others are still victims of racially motivated attacks.
The thing is, Morehouse, like so many other HBCUs, is navigating one of the most difficult financial climates it’s seen since its establishment. And in order to keep their doors open, they’ve turned to the recruitment of non-black students. Don’t we want to come together?
For some of you, coming together means ignoring our experiences. And while shows like Dear White People have dramatized the tension around white students entering black spaces on college campuses, that tension is very real at places like Morehouse. So, we’re here to meet Tiago. He’s a non-traditional freshman at Morehouse,
And we’re going to find out what it’s like being a non-black student at an all-black school. -Tiago? -What’s going on? -What’s up, homey? -How you doing? -What’s your name, man? -Christopher. Chris, nice to meet you. So, I’ve got to actually put on my outfit before we start.
Do you mind if I sit on your bed? I don’t want to disrespect you. No, I got you, I got you. Always ask first, I appreciate it. I’m not trying to violate. So how’s freshman year been? It’s a little bit of a culture shock, having it be a new setting, a new city.
You know, when I first got here they told me people are going to always come up to you and ask you, “Why’d you come to Morehouse?” You know, people looking at me, like, “Oh wow, who is this person?” So, that’s something that was totally different. But, the cool thing is that it’s
Representative of Southern hospitality, which I really appreciate. So, my middle name is actually Jimi, because we share the same birthday. That’s cool. My dentist gave me this to me, that he’s been saving for decades. That’s awesome. You know, growing up in a predominantly black kindergarten and elementary school,
And then transitioning to a more white, affluent community in my high school, you get to see the two different levels. I think it just psychologically, you know, put me into this position where I’m naturally more gravitated towards the black community than the white community. What made you want to come to this school?
Why Morehouse? I think I just wanted something, you know, different. How did your friends and peers and your family, how did they respond to this decision? My family was cool with it, but I don’t think they really believed that, you know, it was going to end up happening.
And that’s no knock on them, I love my family. And then, you know, peers… they didn’t respond initially well to the idea of Morehouse. -So, kids they ridiculed you? -Yeah, definitely. At first, it was a hard process. This was my dream, right? And people were trashing it.
So, I had a ton of self-doubt and going through this… sort of identity crisis, kind of realizing, “Oh, what am I doing? Am I doing what’s right?” Because everybody’s saying it’s wrong. But every time I took a trip up here, at Morehouse,
People would tell me, “Oh man, they’re going to love you here.” I was like, “OK, why am I being treated better here at Morehouse, by strangers, than by people back home?” Morehouse, like many of the 101 HBCUs still operating in the United States,
Was founded in the late 1800s to educate freed slaves, who were refused access to predominantly white institutions. Over time they evolved into culturally safe spaces, where black students were encouraged to be freethinking and could escape the oppression that lived outside their campus gates.
These environments helped sculpt the great black minds of America. Morehouse in particular has produced alumni like Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson. But this legacy is put at risk with the recruitment of non-black students like we’ve seen at West Virginia State or Bluefield State,
Both HBCUs with black student populations of less than ten percent. So I spoke with Damon Phillips from the school’s Communications Office to find out why. I mean, ultimately, it’s about finances. Ultimately, we need to find ways to… fund our institutions differently than we have in the past.
And so a lot of schools are now recruiting what we consider non-traditional HBC students: white students, Asian students, Hispanic students. There’s a big push. Has that been met with any criticism from alumni or current students? A lot of people have issue with it. You know, you guys are current Morehouse students,
How does that make you feel when you think about the idea that there can be a growing number of white students on this campus? I’m on the fence about it, because I feel like, you know… I should still accept people for who they are.
However, at one point in time we weren’t allowed in schools because of the color of our skin. Now, I’m not saying because of the color of their skin they’re not welcome here, no. But I am saying… Here at Morehouse College, they’re known for producing black men.
What’s taught here is not only how we fight for it, for where we are. But how we fight for who we are outside of these gates. If you grew up in an environment where you were mistreated and abused and just, you know, belittled by white people,
You really don’t want to see them when you come to a black space. That bothers me because… we have to provide a safe haven for our children. So, there’s a frame of thought that’s based in fear. That if you let one person in then, before you know it, everyone will come in.
And there are schools that we’ve seen historically that have had that. Where you’ve got Kentucky States and Tennessee States and West Virginia States, which is 95 percent white, but still a HBCU. So, people are afraid of that type of thing happening. You’d be more a kind of tipping point.
If you have ten black students, ten white students at Morehouse, that’s not going to affect the culture. But a hundred may. If they made the decision to come to an HBCU, you have to expect that there is a level that they are at.
You know, you have to assume that they’re at a base level if they decide to come to an HBCU. The white student that conceivably would come here, wouldn’t necessarily have the same commitment, because they don’t understand the struggle. If they’re not coming in with a base level of knowledge…
You know, this is the knowledge that you need to have. Have you ever gotten a “How to Navigate White America” handbook? I missed my copy. I’m very comfortable with things not necessary being integrated. Do you feel like your presence here, you’re infringing upon what’s
Supposed to be a culturally safe space for people that don’t look like you? I see how people would think of it from that perspective. I know that I come here as a white person, white male. In this country, we do have privilege.
Now, how can we use our privilege for the betterment of society? Fire it up Fire it up Just know that you cannot hate If you’re not from a POC We are the oldest and the coldest So you already know Break it down
How do you feel like this experience is changing you, thus far? The most fundamental change, right, out of everything, is… turning me away from a self-absorbed experience. Ice cold Decentralizing the attitude of whiteness, right? The attitude that I’m smarter, that I deserve this opportunity more than you, the attitude of supremacy.
Understanding that, had I not come across Morehouse, I probably would have never delved deep into learning about, you know, the true history of this country. All the things that the US government has done to keep people down. I wouldn’t think it’s fair for someone to characterize you
As a person that is seeking a black experience. But, how do you respond to people who think you’re here because you want to be black? Just recognizing that that’s just not my truth. No, I don’t want to change, you know, the color of my skin,
Or act like they stereotype black people in society. But there are elements to black culture, like the hospitality… I couldn’t find stereotype black label society– -Woah. -LOL. -The Feds. -Yeah, they’re listening. -The CIA is monitoring you right now. -Oh, man. I know they are. “We’re losing one.” Textbook.
The grilled chicken, yellow rice dish. You said the grilled chicken, healthy rice? Yellow rice, yeah. I’m sure all of you had, sort of like an idea of what Morehouse was going to be by the time that you got here. Did you guys think that you were going to have a white friend
When you got to Morehouse? No. Of all people like… -Yeah, that’s funny. -No, not at all. He stays in the dorm next to me too, so when I saw him on move in day, I was very kind of boggled like, “Oh.” “What are you doing here?” I didn’t expect to meet Tiago,
And even after I did meet Tiago, I didn’t expect to talk to Tiago after. Well at first I didn’t know his intentions. So I didn’t trust Tiago too much. Everyone was a little bit skeptical of a white person in this black space
Just because, in America, we kind of do have a history of white people coming into black spaces and doing not such great things. -Right. -But Tiago is a great dude. He’s not doing this to be in some experiment. He’s doing this for the same reason I’m here, the same reason Brandon’s here.
And when he explains to me why he wants to go to Morehouse, it’s like, “Wow.” That’s mind blowing, you know? He kind of has the same vision that a Morehouse man should have. So the only reason that I’m able to be cool with everybody, is because of these sort of interactions,
That guys like Khalil, guys like Brandon, Jonathan Jackson, Kip, men of Morehouse, and Morehouse men, throughout my life, that have helped me develop as a person. So really, I’m just another person here, ultimately. After speaking to Tiago for the first time,
I knew the wrong thing to do was to make him feel like he’s not welcome, because then you can’t change him. So in order for me to change his mindset, I needed to be cool. What is the thing that you love the most about Morehouse?
What do you value the most about this place? What I pretty much love the most is the mission of Morehouse. That unique mission of having men become leaders, that just changed the world, practically. And that’s something that I wanted to be a part of.
Have you taken any leadership positions since you’ve arrived here? So, I am the president of this dorm, which is deemed as a big deal, right? Because of, you know, the obvious. -Really, what’s the obvious? -The obvious being a white student in probably the most famous dorm here on campus,
Being the president of that. That’s… very ironical, right? Is that the right word? So your being the president of Graves rubs some people the wrong way? Oh, definitely. How did you become president? I ran an election. And I remember I wanted to run for vice president or treasurer,
Because I didn’t think president was possible. I didn’t have that courage, but people in this hall encouraged me and then I ran. What somebody taught me was that it’s never about somebody voting for you, it’s always about the message. Have you had to confront your minority status here, at this institution?
Yeah. A student earlier this semester stopped me and asked me why I’m here. In like a… condescending undertone, right? Anywhere, you know, people are not going to like you. I was a little bit anxious and whatnot. Not scared, but anxious. You know, “I hope people accept me.”
People might say something or look at me in a certain way. It’s fine. It’s not personal. Especially because most of the people, they don’t know me. But it’s OK. The history of this country, right, and all the oppression, has led people to feel this way.
I would say 99 percent of my experiences here have been extremely amazing. That one percent, I don’t take it personally. What’s up, bro? -Alright. -My man. At the end of the day, everybody has their own individual judgment. I judge, you know, you judge. We all judge.
But when people get to know me, I think people will have their own perspectives. We’re going to go talk to Professor Robin Marcus, an HBCU alumni and former professor, to get her perspective on why historically black colleges and universities are so important.
When you’re walking across a campus and you’re reminded of who also walked on that lawn, right? Who sat in those rooms. The legacy is palpable. To be able to step into that space, know that it was carved out for you, when the rest of your life
Says something very different about your value, your intelligence, your potential. At least for four years you’re not going to have to think about racism. And so, when a white student says, “I wanted to try something different.” Or, you know, “I felt this calling to the mission of the school.”
What do you hear? Well that’s nice. But you can’t… You don’t understand what it meant for this grass to be… this side to be here. You don’t know it. What does that mean though? That means that the shared… the body, the full weight of history
What that institution has stood for, what it has meant for us. Us, black people. Is it reverse racism to have schools that are only for black students? OK, so I don’t even understand that word, that term. For real. And I get that it’s an argument, it’s a specious one, it’s a dumb one.
Racism has to do with structures, with systems, with legislation, all of that. Not, “It’s not fair because you’re black and you can do it, and I’m white and I should be able to do it.” That ain’t… If that’s what you’re calling reverse racism,
I ain’t trying to have a conversation with you. Do you guys feel like it is problematic that we’ve come here to showcase the experience of a non-black student at an all-black school? I mean I genuinely want to… -I would like to hear an answer. -Problematic? No. Controversial? Yes.
Why do you say controversial? Because, of course society frowned upon that. How come “they” can get into where we want to be, but we can’t get into where they can be. This is a space where people that have been consistently marginalized for the last 400 years have come to change that narrative.
Yet, when we get here, when the national media comes to have a conversation with us, who do they want to speak with? The only perspective that’s relevant is the perspective of a young person that doesn’t look like us.
I do like the fact you’re here to allow us to drive our own narrative. But at the same time, there is nothing that a young, non-traditional student can bring to the culture of Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark. It’s us culturing him. So when you ask about this question of bringing,
I’m going to just be blatant, bringing a lot more white students into a predominantly black space. We’re at Morehouse right now, I’m slightly uncomfortable with that. Only because so many students came to Morehouse specifically to feel human. To not be dehumanized.
To be the most human that they could possibly be in a society like this. Do you guys take issue with the fact that there are a certain number of recruitment dollars that are reserved to attract a non-black student to Morehouse, or Spelman, or Clark?
-Is that a fact? -I didn’t even know that. -I didn’t even know that. -I didn’t know that either. That is problematic. Do you think they could integrate? This place is sacred. Our ideas, who we are as people, we feel safe here.
And if we had white people just coming in here and taking over, and 40 percent of the population, I will feel disrespected. I would love if a white person with the right intents, came here and learned about us as black people.
We have a lot to offer, and I think it’s just a shame that we want to keep that to ourselves. Because that’s all we’ve got. You can look at it… a little bit more of your opinion. Come see what black people can do. Like, I don’t want to do that.
You can learn my history, like, in an African-American diaspora class. We come here to escape all that. I’m in pain because… you all don’t see the bigger picture. You see what’s in front of you. We just see the bigger picture. Here’s the bigger picture.
Morehouse and Spelman recruit the best and the brightest girls and put them next to the best and the brightest boys. There has always been white students here. Always. When I was a student here, we called him White Mike. That was his name.
Any student that comes to the school, regardless of their intent, they’re going to be influenced by you all. They have no choice. The reason why we don’t have everything is about money. It’s about money. It’s not about anything else but money. But look what we do, what we have. -Speak. -Yeah.
Look at what we have. I think that students have a right to be concerned. These schools have, for a long time, been the only place where you can get an education. But, more importantly, been a place you can get an experience, because a lot of
Our students are coming from environments where they’ve never seen a black instructor. That fear of, “Oh my God, they’re going to take this from me too,” is rooted in a really personal place for a lot of students. And I understand that. It’s a good thing to expand the
Applicant pool that you’re looking for. People that criticize that have to understand that the school is trying to figure out a way to bring in more dollars. Couldn’t the introduction of the non-traditional or non-black student to the HBCU campus usher in the gentrification of the HBCU?
Either we change and we adapt to what’s around us, or we’re going to struggle, a lot, and some schools are going to close because they didn’t want to embrace what’s coming. What is your response to someone that says you’re only here because you’re white?
Essentially that you are an affirmative action admittance. In my case, you know, it’s not true. Like, I genuinely care about this school and this mission. So I’ll just pass these around. Is that part of the reason why you felt it so important to become a student ambassador?
That’s definitely the main reason behind it. So, this is probably not you what you were expecting, right? A white student at a HBCU giving you the tour, right? When I was a freshman in high school we had a Morehouse man. And he really embodied that spirit of a leader.
And regardless of the racial dynamics of this campus, I saw that potential in myself. But I would like to know a little bit more about you, so can anybody tell me where they’re from today? -From Indiana. -Indiana, cool. -Philadelphia. -Philadelphia. -How about you all? -We’re from Philadelphia as well. OK, OK.
Are you guys happy about the Super Bowl and whatnot? -Absolutely. -Oh, yeah? And then the 76ers, they just won last night. -Right. -I’m a Celtics fan, just to put that out there, sorry. Boooooooo. Ah, man! A lot of those first individuals to gentrify a cultural space of some kind,
Recognize the value or an opportunity that exists. And I’m curious what the difference between you and that person is? I guess, the way I try to look at it is how can I contribute to the campus, how can I get involved, how can I be engaged?
How can I make Morehouse a better place in the truest sense? So we’re about to enter King’s Chapel. This is kind of a sacred space at Morehouse. I think this is a safe space for black students and other students. And I think it should remain that way.
I don’t want this to spark a lot of white students coming here. I don’t… that’s not what I want. Yes? What percentage of the students do think are non-black or… that attend Morehouse? I don’t know those numbers. I do know that there might be three white students in the entire school.
Me, somebody that’s in the ROTC Program, and a Japanese exchange… Coming here, meeting Tiago, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a white male as a minority. Why you would want to immerse yourself in a completely black space, I think throws a lot of people off in the beginning, but meeting Tiago
And hearing his very honest desire to initiate change and acknowledge the privilege that he was born with, I think it’s a good thing. You look this way, right. This is Century Campus. Every year, in May, we graduate I think the most African-American men in the entire world, all in one place.
This used to be a Civil War site. Think about that from a spiritual standpoint. The most graduating African-American men are on top of the remains of fallen Confederate soldiers. Yeah. If you are going to diversify, it’s students like Tiago that you want to recruit here,
Not people that want to come here and take something away, and feel no calling to give something back. How’s it going, bro? You good? -How you doing? -I’m good, bro. Chillin’. How’s it going, yo? But it’s important to keep in mind that there are only so many beds
And so many desks, and when you give one away to even the most well-intentioned non-traditional student, you could be taking that opportunity from a young black student that may have needed it more. So do you have any feeling of regret or guilt that you took a position
Away at this school from a young black man that needed it. I will. I would be. And I would be if I don’t earn it.