Being Black in a PWI is synonymous to being a Unicorn in a grocery store. Yes – it’s that real. I never would have thought that my blackness would be so “mesmerizing” to white kids. Of course I expected things to be different, but not like this. I came from a super pro black northern suburban community to a whitewashed country bumpkin city, and things got intense.
Within my first two weeks of school I had six different roommates, only one of which had sense enough to respect me as a Black woman and that was probably because she was Puerto Rican. For some strange reason they were all either terrified of me, obsessed with my blackness, or both. Between the sly remarks of white boys in passing and coming home to white girls who always thought I was “overreacting” because “it’s not like this is slavery or something, gosh!” … I was through!
Tell me, how do you hear those words leave a white girl’s mouth without smacking the piss out of her? I was speechless. People always say what they would have done if they were in a situation like that, but as an 18 year old freshman who never heard a racist remark outside of a Black Studies lecture, I was stunned. I could not believe that there were white kids my age who would sit across from me in a dining hall and say something like that.
I wanted to transfer to the Blackest school that I could think of. But, there was something inside of me that wanted to fight, I couldn’t allow a few white kids my age to have enough power to make me transfer. What does that fix? My ancestors fought too hard for this! (… and my parents had already paid the bill.)
It’s so hard to make it out of situations like these without smacking somebody, but when you’re surrounded by white kids in a white institution you think twice because you know that the ball is more than likely in their court…
To some, my situation may seem extreme. To others, my situation may seem minute. To me this was situation brought forth depression. Regardless of where I was, someone had to point out my blackness through an unnecessary joke that wasn’t funny or a remark that should have remained a thought. I could be walking, at home, or even in class, no matter where I was there was no space for me to be Black.
If you are currently going through your own personal struggle at PWI here’s some helpful advice:
1.Seek out a Black Cultural Center
Many PWI’s have Cultural centers for students of color that offer programs that are developed especially for us. Go to them and tell them what you’re going through. It’s literally their job to make sure that you feel as though your institution is a place where you can prosper.
2.Schedule a meeting with Administration
Go to your university’s higher-ups, they will more than likely have a division that works with campus Inclusion, Diversity efforts, or Social Justice.
If they don’t have an official effort to help mend the racial and social climate on campus, then schedule a meeting with your University President. Tell him what you’re going through and what you would like to see in the future. Offer some ideas as to how the University can become more Inclusive for students like you and be sure to follow up.
Join a Black Student Union (BSU), Colligate NAACP chapter, or any other support group/club. That way you will be able to develop a network of like-minded individuals who are probably going through the same thing that you’re going through on campus – or at least they’ll sympathize.
4.Don’t be so Quick to Quit
At the end of the day, these racist kids will one day be racist adults. These are the people that you will have to work with in the future and you will be extremely equipped if you learn them while they’re young and too dumb to filter themselves.
Instead of running from the problem (Transferring), work towards fixing it.
5.Racism is everywhere
Yes, you could transfer and avoid it for a few years but, does that make it disappear? Your presence alone in a PWI makes a difference. Now, I’m not telling you to be miserable, If your heart is set on transferring to a HBCU or a more diverse school then please by any means do so. But, you can always go to an HBCU for Grad School or for your PhD. If you only plan on doing Undergraduate education, then ain’t nobody mad if you choose to transfer because you can never get those four years back.
I can say from personal experience that staying and working towards change brings forth benefits. I went from being a devastated freshman to being a BSU President, University Diversity Ambassador, and the President of my beloved Black Greek Letter Organization. I used my negative experiences to impact my campus so that no one else will have to go through what I did – and you could do the same.