As my senior year of high school rolled around, I became more and more afraid of what was to come. I didn’t have parents pressuring me to apply to an HBCU and I also didn’t have any prohibiting me from that. The decision was entirely up to me and that scared me. I couldn’t blame anyone but myself if and when it all went wrong.

My unsureness about my identity was the main culprit.

I’ve never considered myself anything other than black and never doubted it until I started high school. Since middle school, my darker complexion was always the butt of everyone’s jokes but never had I questioned my blackness before.

It was in high school that I started hearing “you speak white,” “you listen to white people music” and “oreo” when used to refer to me. After being told by my own that I didn’t fit in with them in much harsher words than how I’ve put it, I started to believe it.

So, when it came time to apply to colleges, an HBCU didn’t even feel like an option for me. The image of HBCUs that we always expected was that of the students of Hillman College in “A Different World.” Though all the students had different personalities and majors, they were all still “black enough.”

The portrayal of black students at HBCUs in the media today show them as students that work hard and get 4.0s by day and still manage to party and get lit like no one else by night while handling their upcoming businesses on the side. This image is a lie and a harmful one at that. It damages how black HBCU students are viewed and is harmful to young black students (like me) trying to find where they fit.

There are students that struggle in college regardless of getting into one of the top, there are those who are not for the party life, there are those who listened to music other than old school and 90s r&b and trap all day despite popular belief.

There are students like me.

In fact, there are students like everyone. We are not all the same and the media has lumped us all together for so long that we actually started to believe we couldn’t be anything other than what they told us and everyone else we had to be.

Race is only one part of identity, and yet, it is the one that matters most to the media, and that cannot continue.