Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I attended Norfolk State University or Hampton University. Yes, the class sizes would be much larger, as would the campus. But what I really wonder about is the culture, seeing as how both of the schools mentioned are historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).
As Black History Month approached, I took in everything around campus from staff to professors to our campus culture to rumors of changes to rules that would affect a specific subset of people. I have come to realize that our school is a PWI (primarily white institution). Now, I knew Wesleyan was when I came here, but have never felt this until now.
I have noticed that as far as professors, there is a lack of diversity as it pertains to race. I like looking around and seeing people that I can relate to that have achieved a goal of higher status. I think it’s important to see that, especially at this stage of our lives. As kids we look around at the media and see so much diversity in so many different fields, but then we go to school and that same notion doesn’t seem to be reciprocated in reality. Granted, some schools at the secondary education level have improved. But it seems as though the higher we go with our education the less diversity among educators.
It also seems that, when it comes to forms of expression, there is often backlash if it goes against the unspoken campus culture. I have seen and been on the receiving end of it numerous times since last year. I have sat and kneeled when the anthem is played, only to receive public reprimand, jeering, or insults from peers. This has not only been directed at myself, but also at my fellow peers who share similar ideology. Here’s my question: why does someone who believes in a different stance than someone else deserve to be insulted or verbally assaulted? Is it really hurting you when others don’t stand for the anthem because they silently voice a different opinion? I encourage those who don’t understand to ask questions, because that is the only way to grow as a society.
When it comes to Greek life, I can’t speak on much. I am not a part of that subset of culture, but I have friends who are. I have seen how some people react to the activities or behaviors that come from the three historically black fraternities and sororities we have on campus. I find the strolling interesting to watch and I love to see my friends who are part of this part of Greek life showcase their passion for their sorority or fraternity. Too many times though I have seen people post on social media and have even heard of them being described as “hooligans” or “disruptive.” I feel as though everything they do is a refreshing departure from the usual ho-hum college atmosphere, but to name call? It makes for an environment that doesn’t seem at all conducive to being accepting of a different culture than one’s own. It should, in fact, be celebrated. It should be a culture in which we try to learn more from and be proud of rather than the behavior I see directed toward it now. It’s an uplifting and unique thing to witness, their culture.
Being black in today’s America, it’s scary. I still fear when I see a police car behind or next to me when I’ve done nothing wrong. The first time I got pulled over last year, the officer immediately asked me if the car I was driving was stolen or registered to me. He wouldn’t tell me what I was being pulled over for until I had asked twice. This was also after he asked me if I had been drinking because when he started tailgating me I had swerved. His reason for pulling me over: he thought my bright lights were on. I have been followed around malls and stores more times than I can count. I have been called the n-word so much since Nov. 8, 2016. I have seen so many posts on social media of people trying to discredit black people and what they have accomplished or accusations of the “black agenda” being aggressive and a “hindrance to society.”
So let me tell you what being black means to me. To me, being black means having to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously as anyone else. It means always being asked, “What are you mixed with?” because just being black isn’t good enough. It means being looked over, even if you’re the best for the job. It means always having to explain your motives, your work, your thoughts because there will always be questions. It means being judged before you even open your mouth. It means always looking over your shoulder because that’s how a lot of people look at us. It means having to be strong all the time even when everything is telling us to slow down. But we are strong. Being black also means we are resilient, motivated, and beautifully smart. I am proud of the color of my skin. We may not all know where we came from, but we know where we’re headed, and that is for greatness.