The Weight of Being Black At An Elite Northeast College
College has been one of the greatest chapters of my life. Not only have I met many life-long friends, but I have learned so much in and outside of the classroom about the world we live in, and the fundamental role that we as students and leaders of tomorrow have in it. For many undergraduates like myself, college has truly served as a gateway to my future.
But, just as college has been a preface for the things to come, it has also been a stark reminder of what is. Each time I step into a classroom or attend a school function, I am reminded just how much I am an outsider. While no one comes up to me and tell me I don’t belong, I sense it in other ways. At events, I am constantly asked to tell my story of growing up to a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood, as if telling it a few times allows my more privileged peers and scholarship donors with to understand what it was like for me growing up. Using my story to better the school's image and reputation reduces it to a commodity to be leveraged, desensitizing my peers to its meaning.
This happens on the micro level as well as on the institutional level. When I interact with my some of my peers, there is a clear sentiment that a black man in college remains an oddity. Countless times have my friends and I walked the streets near campus and seen our peers crossing the street or running ahead to avoid contact with us. Moreover, many of my friends have been accosted by city police for "congregating" at night, when we know deep down as we watch other groups of students "congregate" that we are perceived as a threat because of the color of our skin.
I give these examples not to create an “us vs. them” binary on my campus (or any other campus); many of my good friends are indeed from different races and different socio-economic backgrounds. Rather these examples aim to show that as a campus and as a country, we are not done talking about race. Nor are we done talking about gender and sexual orientation.
Many liberal Northeastern universities try to evade these tough conversations by hiding behind centers and offices of multiculturalism, equality, and access, just as many states and cities across our country do. The reality is that our campuses continue to deal with these tensions and taboos surrounding race, gender, and sexual orientation, and we are afraid to talk about them because to discuss them would be to acknowledge that they exist.
Colleges and universities, with their intimacy and general liberal sentiment, serve as a great place to discuss these issues, cry about these issues, and begin to resolve these issues. As young people and members of the millennial generation, it is not only in our favorbut our obligation to get to the crux of these social issues that have divided our country for far to long.
We must be daring enough, brave enough, and strong enough to do what previous generation could not. The preservation of our country truly depends on it. Our generation has done incredible things, from sparking the social media revolution to trailblazing new models of education. There is no reason why we cant make the solvency of social issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation another notch in our belt.