As an African-American, I had always been indecisive as to if I wanted to attend a historically black college or university, or a predominantly white institution. I applied to both types and was amazed at how prestigious both types of institutions were. However, the only differences that I felt were most important were size and atmosphere. I wanted to attend a school with at least 20,000 students, and the HBCU's I applied to could not offer me that. Also, I felt that the high school that I attended was so diverse that I had not had enough experience with communicating and networking in an environment where everyone did not look like me. By "look like me", I mean an environment where there are not many people of color as there are Caucasian people. Now that I am a junior in college, I feel that I made the right decision to attend a PWI because now I am able to express my views on an issue that many people are not aware of.
In 2014, minorities have so many rights and opportunities at hand that they did not have 50-60+ years ago. This circumstance has directed others to believe that racism and prejudice is no longer an issue. I did not understand the difference between racism and prejudice until I started college. I realized that racism is someone calling me the N-word from their car while I am walking down the street with my friends. However, prejudice is someone who accepts me because I speak proper English and dress appropriately, but assuming that someone is "ghetto" or "ethnic" because they do not. I feel that since a lot of people believe that racism is solved, that they do not think what they are doing is racist. On the other hand, other people are raised to be racist. Either way, neither party knows better because they were not taught better.
So whose job is it to teach people? I believe it is going to take a little help from everyone. I feel that by writing this post I am making a small difference by going out on a limb and expressing my feelings. To further express the purpose of this post, I feel that it is necessary that I share some personal experiences as well. Hopefully by appealing emotionally, I can touch someone's heart.
When I Noticed The Issue
I remember the first time that I was called the N-word. I was heading to Taco Bell with my roommates and other friends after attending my first college party. As we were walking, a car zooms by and a guy sticks his head out of the window and screams at the top of his lungs, "NIGGERSSSSS!". I hate to use that type of language, but I can not mask the intensity of his tone. My friends and I were so caught off guard that we were not angry or upset. At that moment, we were just shocked that someone could be so ignorant. At a time where we felt like it was an honor and a privilege to be accepted into such a great university, we realized that an education does not cure idiocy.
I had the heart to give the man the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he was drunk since the incident happened in the middle of the night. However, I stopped giving the incidents the benefit of the doubt when I was leaving a birthday dinner for one of my friends. We were getting into our cars when we saw a group of girls drive by and one of the girls sticks her head out of the window and exclaims, "HEY NIGGERS!". On a Tuesday night, around 8 P.M., a Caucasian female was eager enough to call us the N-word. I told my friends, "She couldn't have been drunk. She knew what she was doing." Again, I was not angry or upset. I was proud. I was proud of my friends and I for not allowing someone's negative actions to ruin our great evening.
When The Issue Began To Hurt
My second semester of sophomore year I took a Biology class. In the lab, I was the only African-American. I was assigned to a lab group of three Caucasian women. Two of them were girls that I was really glad to have met. One of them was a girl that I will never forget. She treated me like I was an incompetent lowlife with no voice of my own. She never said "Thank you", "Excuse me", or "Please". The most ironic thing about this girl was that she would treat me this way, yet always ask for my assistance with the lab work. I "bit the bullet" and "grinned and beared it" until the second to last day of lab. We had a computer assignment to complete and she was rushing through the work so that she could be able to leave early. I do not like to rush, so I took it upon myself to complete my lab work at my own pace. She began to look over at my book to see if I was keeping up with her. In my opinion, I think it is rude to repeatedly look over someone's shoulder. "If you can't see, you need to stand up closer to the computer screen," she said. I replied, "No thank you, I can see." I thought being polite would get her to leave me alone. It did not. She continued, "You're moving slow. You must not understand what's going on." Still being polite, I said, "I am in no rush to leave, so I'm just going at my own pace so that my work can be neat and accurate." In that instant, she snatched the colored pencils that I was using for a diagram out of my hand and exclaimed, "Well since you're going so slow, you don't need these!" I did not say a word. I did not grin and bear it. I did not give her the benefit of the doubt. At that moment, I was angry. I was upset. I was so hurt. Tears filled my eyes and I just moved on with my work. I called my mother after class and explained to her that I did not think she was mistreating me because of my color, but because she just did not know better. That is what I want to believe. I do not want to be the one that thinks I have to accept being mistreated because I am a minority. However, I did not stand up to her because I had nothing nice to say at the moment. I did not want to be considered the "Angry Black Woman" stereotype. "Calm down, don't go all ghetto on me!" I was afraid of hearing that. If I had been called out of my name so many times while being at this school, who is to say that this person would not start calling me obscenities as well? As these thoughts ran through my mind, I had a revelation. If I am as proud to be African-American as I say that I am, it is time that I start speaking up for myself and my race. I had to tell myself that black women are not ghetto. We are not belligerent. We are not "going ghetto" on others, we are simply trying to express ourselves just like any other human being. I will not allow someone to steal my voice in that way again. My voice will be heard. That is why this post is being written today, and it will not be the last.
Minorities: In what way will people hear YOUR voice? Music? Work ethic? Art? Dance? Media? I encourage everyone to let their voices be heard, so that our feelings do not go unnoticed. So that our children will one day be able to actually know and believe that racism and prejudice IS in the past and it will STAY there.
Readers who don't identify themselves as minorities: If you see or hear someone being mistreated, please take regard to their emotions. If you have racist peers or know of someone being racist, educate them. Let them know that although they may not know any better, that their actions are inhumane and hurtful. Mold their minds.
Rome was not built in a day, so I am not implying that I myself, can change the world. However, you have to start somewhere. We will not get anywhere by not doing anything at all. Lastly, I would like to thank you for reading. Please comment and share to your Facebook and Twitter friends!