(This was written for my political science class, and I just thought that I would share it)
In most of my classes I am the only black person, sometimes the only minority, and I have to say that it makes me feel intimidated. Because of the racial tensions that are prevalent today and generalized stereotypes of black people, I feel that my white peers have a Jeffersonian mindset, that blacks are naturally inferior. There is a certain anxiety that I have when operating with an all white classroom; I tend to not participate, in fear I may make affirmations of my stereotype. When walking in a classroom, I think people in their heads or to each other, are going to say, ‘how did she get in?’, ‘oooh what does she have to say about race?’, ‘she must not have anything intelligent to say or an opinion.’, or ‘she must have gotten in because of affirmative action or because they needed to reach the race quota.’. News flash, affirmative action has been banned in public institutions since 2006, so I got in passing with the same qualifications as them. Some people may say that if you feel this way, why not attend a historically black college, my response is that blacks did not go through terrors and struggles for the future generation, i.e. me, to be in my comfort zone, to be more separate from whites.
Black students at the University of Michigan started a national trend on twitter, #BBUM talking about what it feels like to be black at Michigan and the microaggressions, or “…slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”1, that they have experienced at the university. These microaggressions destroy a sense of belonging, which has influences on student’s experience at university.
Comparatively, Frederick Douglass’ stance and feeling in his The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro, is what is emulated when being black at the university. In that particular speech he states that he does not feel the same nationalism or pride as whites, because that freedom was not appropriated to blacks. He feels as though it is not his country, it is the whites’ country. Moreover, I have similar feelings as Douglass at the University of Michigan. I am a Michigan student, but I don’t feel as though I belong here. I don’t feel the same pride as my white counterparts about the school. The fact that four percent of the Michigan population of students are black compared to the fifty-six percent white, makes me feel like a fly in a milk saucer, which emphasizes belonging uncertainty.
In juxtaposition, a white student does not face the same racial microaggressions and belonging uncertainty, compared to blacks. White students don’t have to worry about being the minority or feel like they are judged based on their stereotype when entering the class. They are the majority on campus, not one day have they ever been four percent, unless they elect a class that is more ethnic by study. They feel a part of the campus, their ancestors had the right to education before mine did; they did not have to fight to belong, they were the ‘natural inhabitants’ of the campus.
Moreover, I should not have to feel this way and nor should belonging uncertainty be present in the black collegiate community. It is apparent that there is a lack of representation of minority groups, especially African-American, in the university. Before anyone can make any decisions on policy or solution, there must first be awareness of the problem in order to make systematic changes. This experience black students face is a problem and everyone should be aware of it, for it is a social inequality that greatly effects the black race’s experience in university. University is supposed to foster the growth of knowledge and be a non-judgmental haven for students to be in. Microaggressions and belonging uncertainty present on campus, deters from what university is supposed to be.