What Black College Students Think about Sex, Money & Civil Rights; Student Editors Say New Generation Is Poised and Ready to Meet the Challenges

Article excerpt

STUDENTS at historically Black colleges are optimistic about the future and upbeat about their individual progress.

They are, in general, more materialistic than previous generations.

They are also, some say, more sexually expressive than previous generations or, as one Black college newspaper editor says, "more open about sexuality and issues that were previously pushed under the rug."

But most of the new generation of Black college students are committed to the service and struggle missions that characterized the great student generations of the Civil Rights Movement.

These are among the major findings of a round-robin interview with 12 Black college newspapers, eight women and four men. The editors, who were interviewed in June and July, responded to a uniform 18-question survey about issues such as political activism, rap music, sex and civil rights.

Five of the 12 editors said they believe the two major goals of this generation of Black college students are "personal fulfillment" and the "good life," defined roughly as a "good job, good car and good house." Three editors said the "good life" and "freedom" are the two major goals of this generation. Two editors said they believe "religious salvation" is a major goal, coupling it with "freedom" and the "good life."

Asked to respond to the widely reported proposition that this generation is more sexually expressive, six editors agreed with the proposition, two disagreed and four were uncertain. Eight editors said they believe society is more accepting of sexual expression today than it was 25 years ago, and five editors largely blamed the media and the dominant culture for the sexual expression of this generation.

Eight editors said they believed this generation of Black college students is more materialistic than previous generations. Three of the eight said there is, in general, a strong emphasis on the newest clothing and the latest cars. One editor, Bennett Banner's Carah Herring, said all generations are materialistic to a degree, but this generation is more conscious of brand names.

Seven of the 12 editors said they believe this new generation of Black college students is generally politically inactive or apathetic. A majority of the seven said they believe that most students are either engrossed in their worlds, uninterested or believe that political issues do not directly affect them.

Gabrielle Maple, editor of the Southern Digest, said students are active in campus politics, but shun local and national politics. "A lot of students don't think their voices can be heard or their voices make a difference," she says.

Three editors called for more activism.

"I don't think that Black people are as angry as they should be," says Misty Brown, editor of the Lincolnian. "We keep thinking everything is okay, but we still have the highest rates of new HIV cases and the highest incarceration rates, when we are a minority of the population."

Despite the problems, three editors pointed to recent affirmative action protests as evidence of this generation's political activism.

Jonty Leak, acting editor of the Stone, says students, administrators and the Livingstone College community rallied last spring to show their support for affirmative action. So did Howard University students, who marched from their Washington, D.C., campus to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, where they joined other protestors and students.

"People in our generation care," says Hilltop editor Josef Sawyer. "We just need a reason to care."

Are we gaining ground or losing ground in the struggle for racial equality?

Eight editors said Blacks are gaining ground, but that there are still miles to go. "When I see that there are people like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice in such prominent roles, I know that we are gaining ground as Black people," says Adafi editor Ruth Caine. …