BY AMY JONES
Hi. I’m Amy, and I’m a black university student.
Perhaps you are asking why I felt the need to introduce myself that way, as a Black student.There are a lot of questions out there. For instance:
Why does race play such an important role in universities?
Why are so few minorities getting Bachelor’s and beyond?
Why do minority students have such high mental stress level compared to white students?
I don’t think people will ever realize the full impact of being black in a white world.
Please understand that this blog is an expression of what I see in my life. My experiences are not every other minority’s. I don’t speak for the entire Black community, and certainly I don’t speak for every Black university student. We all have different roads to walk.
For instance, my dad is white and I come from a 2-parent, middle class family. I have lighter skin, and a certain amount of privileges came with that. Even the very fact that I am going to university means that I have more privilege than other minorities, so please please please – I AM NOT THE AUTHORITY ON ALL THINGS BLACK.
My parents even sent me to an all-girls private school, once upon a time. Thank goodness, that didn’t last.
But let’s explore where I’m at now. I am at a relatively small, relatively decent private university in the great white Northwest, after getting my Associate’s via the Running Start Program. I’m relatively proud of that, I pull decent enough grades (most of the time) and I’m relatively happy (unless it’s the morning) until, well, this year.
This year I stopped caring.
Let me explain: I can and do pull decent grades out of thin air, but I have never (despite what previous teachers/professors might think) not wanted to learn.
But this year?
I hated getting up, and while that’s fairly normal for me, it’s not normal that I would want to sleep rather than attend class – I’m a social person. My family is not all I need or want out of life. I like having friends.
This year, I’ve made all of maybe 2 friends, and one of those is someone I knew previously.
What is wrong with me?
I question my sanity in going to university.
I mean, honestly:
It’s very depressing being one of what feels like 4 black people on a predominantly white campus.
However, you still have the option of disappearing into your room, or being normal outside of your college bubble.
Outside of my university, I am a relatively normal, albeit colored, citizen of the universe. Nothing to write home about. People don’t stare at me unless I’m in a department store, and noone follows me unless they plan on mugging me.
At the University, I am that rare sighting: THE ACTUAL BLACK UNIVERSITY STUDENT. Now comes in light caramel color. May occasionally wear hair in “ethnic” styles. Feel free to touch hair.
I’m joking, but that is exactly what walking onto campus feels like sometimes. I get stares every time I wear my hair in it’s natural state, and they’re not always friendly. There is always an undercurrent of the “exotic” individual, an “othering” of my person.
And of course, my hair is an open petting zoo. Every non-ethnic friend of mine always asks, without fail, “Can I touch it?!”
Before I can give my permission, suddenly there’s hands everywhere, lifting, stroking, and tangling my hair.
I have to swallow my stifled rage before I scream that even not styling my hair intensively takes work.
I also have to make an effort to remember that they didn’t mean it offensively.
But on the other side of that argument, does ignorance excuse offensive behavior? The multitude of microaggressions in society is already overwhelming for any minority. Being a virtual nonentity in society does take its toll on individuals. Going to university, and being surrounded by perpetual indignities is even worse – most minority students don’t come back after the first year.
At what point is ignorance no longer excusable?
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my non-ethnic friends, and have fulfilling relationships with them most of the time. But every now and then, it gets draining dealing with all the microaggressions that come along with those relationships.
Here in the Northwest, there are not a lot of minorities.
Online, the world is a different place. People are able to hide behind their keyboards and show whether or not they actually care about minorities. It’s also a lot easier to ignore the issue entirely, or dismiss it as “social justice”.
It’s also easier to find friends undergoing the same issues. In the 3 years since I discovered tumblr, I’ve discovered a vibrant community of people struggling to graduate without becoming the stereotype everyone assumes them to be.
As a community, our bonds are quite strong. We learn through long paragraphs of text how we each deal with the unique challenge of dealing with people who are supposedly educated and sophisticated, yet manage to say things that indicate that you are not “normal”.
“Oh, I wish you wouldn’t focus on race issues so much. It’s kinda paranoid.”
All this despite statistics and news stories that indicate otherwise.
I’ll leave it at that.
These posts can also be found on Mimiatwork.tumblr.com.