Collegiate Qualms: Dealing With Diversity on a Predominately White College Campus

9 Comments
November 21, 2011 ‐ By Bianca Clendenin

"diversity in need in college"

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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  • cutily

    I was raised in an all-white neighborhood and my mom sent us to really good school were I was the only black girl in the class (my sisters too). But As I had always been there white kids were never curious, but I remember when we met black kids from other schools they were curious. So I never felt apart or anything.

    Same thing in University. In France we go straight to grad school there’s no College so we don’t have event like the ones you said, people don’t really care about others, black, white, Arabs or whatever nobody cares.

    But your experience is interesting, I would feel bad and annoyed.

  • Girliusmaximus

    I think her problem was the fact that she was on a smaller campus. I
    went to U of I in Chicago… It’s not as large as the campus in
    Champaign, Illinois but it is diverse and groups with similar likes and
    majors tend to come together. It’s not that your school isn’t as diverse as you thought, it’s just that students who go there seem to all blend together in light of their differences and things have become mainstream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ash-Iman/663018948 Ash Iman

    I totally understand where the author is coming from. My answer to this was to join a BGLO (Black Greek Letter Organization) It gave me a home away from home. Yes, the black issues on my campus did not get the attention they deserved but my sorority gave me a platform to spread more awareness. Not to mention, the sisterhood with other black women that understood the struggle to be educated yet still “down”.

  • amantesuntamentes

    When I was applying to colleges I was very concerned about diversity. I ended up choosing a university that was very vocal about the diversity on the campus and was very disappointed upon starting my first semester to find that the school was not at all as diverse and accepting of POC and LGBT persons as they portrayed themselves to be. It was perhaps naive on my part to believe my university would live up to my expectations but having just graduated from highschool and grown up in one of the most diverse areas in the country, I really was not prepared to enter that setting nor could I have imagined the type of overt racism/prejudice and isolation I would experience as a black person at predominately white school. To make matters worse I entered a major that only accepts 25 students per year at my university and in my year I was one of three black people in the freshman class of my program which was predominately white and Asian. 

    Really I had no problem being a minority in my classes until people began to say comments that were highly inappropriate and offensive. That’s when I began to loathe my situation and wish I’d gone to an HBCU instead. Same goes for parties. As a freshman I didn’t care what kind of party I went to but after dealing with racism in white frat houses I now only stick to parties thrown by POC.

    Luckily, my school does have enough POC that we have formed organizations/groups to cater to our interests and there are a good number of POC faculty that are very supportive. However, I do feel that POC are often overlooked at my university. And also LGBT people. For example, I am a nursing major and a lot of generalization occurs during our lectures and very few times have we addressed the specific needs of POC and in my three and a half years of attending this school only one of my nursing professors has made reference to the LGBT community.

  • http://www.about.me/mrich2029 MRich2029

    This story is my life. I’ve never been “black enough”, I still go through this, and probably will until death. I’ve never understood the concept of “black enough”; I didn’t think I had to meet certain requirement to live up to my skin color. Yet, i still have to face all the stigma that comes with being a black man in america. It’s like I did EXACTLY what “they” tell you to do; get an education, stay out of trouble, just generally act like I have some sense. I catch hell from BOTH sides for it. Automatically stereotyped for just being black, yet not “black enough” to fit in with the same people I’m grouped with.

    • Girliusmaximus

      Yes… And home girl should have corrected the fools asking if she’d seen someone get shot and told them that doesn’t make you black….

  • Sugar/Spice

    I attended a Cal State & it was honestly majority brown & black. Now when I entered the work field it was a completely different story.  I am currently one of two black persons, or a minority for that matter where I work.  My co workers always come to me on everything black, ethnic, hip hop related like I’m a thesaurus for all ethic matters SMH, I guess it come with the territory.

    • guest

      CSUDH?

  • Prissy

    That is just LIFE. That is the real world. NOT everyone is going to be ALL Black or ALL this or ALL that. I attended and HBCU for undergrad and I will NEVER do it again. I LOVED the social aspect of it, but other than that, I could have gotten the same education at a PWI (Predominantly White Institution). For grad school I attend online a majority white school, it is amazing how efficient it is. I will be done in less than a month with another degree. It all depends on what you are looking for. Try different things if you are able to go. Can’t afford?? Seek out scholarships & grants. Education really is important, no matter how you get it.