Collegiate Qualms: Dealing With Diversity on a Predominately White College Campus
Four years ago when I was trying to decide where I was going to college, there were many things I had to consider: how much will it cost? Do I want to go out of state? How big is the school? Do they have my major? Is the school diverse?
College was not an option–it was something I had to do. There was no way my mom was going to allow me not to go get my degree. So as young as 10 I was trying to figure out which Ivy League I would attend. Brown University was the front runner at one point.
In high school I moved to a predominately white and rural area in New York. At first it was a culture shock because growing up I went to school in the inner city. Everyone for the most part was black or brown. I didn’t have to answer ignorant questions like if I had ever seen someone get shot or how was I so smart to get in an upper level math class as a freshman. These incidents of ignorance gave me a sort of identity crisis. My white peers, as well as some of my black peers, didn’t find me black enough to meet their expectations, so I thought maybe going to a historically black college might help.
Though my experiences have helped shaped me as the person as I am today, in the end, it definitely pushed me to look for a diverse college to attend. But what does diversity truly mean to you? Does it mean an all black college? Or does it mean 75 percent white and a sprinkle of “color” that at the most reaches 25 percent?
At the end of day I applied to schools I could afford to go to. As we all know college is getting more and more expensive, so instead of going to my dream schools such as NYU or Brown, I applied to the next best thing: a small liberal arts college. For one, the one I chose was a public college and “for two,” it’s in a perfect location–45 minutes away from New York City and only a hour and half away from home.
When I went to visit my future school almost three years ago, I was drawn by how everyone was so carefree. Everyone had green hair, piercings and paint on their jeans. It just seemed like this very hippie, artistic, and carefree environment. My mother knew as soon as we went to visit that it was the right fit for me. My Denise Huxtable bohemian sensibilities craved this setting. Sorry, but football and frat parties wasn’t the college experience I was looking for.
Now that I’ve been at the same college for three years now, I realized my school is not as diverse as I thought it was. Sure, if you’re white and/or an individual from the LGBT community, you’re more likely to fit in and agree our school is a home for diversity. “Think Wide Open” is our slogan.
I’m not always the only other black student in a class like I was in high school, but I find myself as the token black girl in many situations. But when my school does have pockets of racially inspired events, like a discussion on the N-word or a hip-hop cypher (freestyle rapping for those who don’t know), it doesn’t get the turnouts like bigger events on campus do. I wonder why…
So what is a girl to do when you want more events on campus that deal with the black experience, yet feel the only ones that get the green light are these almost stereotypical attempts at diversity? Hip-hop shows or the hottest parties shouldn’t be the only things black students contribute to on campus. We might not have the majority, but we still have a voice, and we can do a lot better than that.
How do you deal with a lack of diversity on a college campus or at work?
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