Column: Being black at a predominately white institution
When I got accepted into Michigan State, I knew it was going to be new scenery since I came from an inner-city high school where a majority of the students looked like me.
The culture shock began at orientation back in June. Being a black woman at a Predominately White Institution, or PWI, has problems that are constantly ignored. It’s a struggle. And I know everybody has their own struggles, but as I grow as a black woman who is a journalist, and am presented with opportunities where I can bring awareness and express my concerns, I will.
Social media plays a part in my journey, because there are debates on my timeline discussing who has the better school. Black students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities like to argue that students who attend PWIs are “less black." Being called anti-black definitely makes me feel angered because, who are you to define my blackness? I attended my PWI not to feel less black, but to get scholarships and to be in a journalism program that is highly accredited. I didn’t know my college choice revoked my black card.
By the first week of classes, either everybody was still friends with people from high school, or quickly made new friends. It made me feel like there was no reason to be social and open, considering the fact I would be the outsider.
Eventually, I found some people to hang around. They’re fun, and I like hanging out with them, but if I hang out with my non-black friends, my black friends may slightly judge me or don't feel comfortable around me. If I only hang out with my black friends, I feel like I'm not opening my horizons, or letting my blackness get in the way of becoming friends with new people. It’s a dilemma, because now I have to battle with having to make time for both groups, when it could be avoided if we could just hang together as a whole. That makes perfect sense in my mind, but many simply cannot acknowledge that it’s okay to open up and be friends with others who don’t look like you.
Finding the perfect organization to join is difficult as well. I want to join black organizations, but when you join black organizations you deal with the fear of being judged or not fitting in. You can’t even go to non-black parties, because my black friends may judge me, or if I go there, I have the fear of being racially profiled because, surprise, I am basically the only black girl. It makes me question myself as to why I am even here. Where do I fit in?
It gets worst in class, or on the bus. The mean glares I receive scream, “don’t sit next to me." Nobody wants to be bothered by the black girl with the natural hair, who is not a size 6 and wears vintage mom jeans. Being the only black girl in situations is not fun. It’s annoying, and one of the most annoying things about being at my PWI. I find that my black community does not support a lot of events and other activities I attend on campus, which leads me to be the only black girl present.
As I continue my journey, I know I will get over the small things and look at the bigger picture. I am here for one reason, and one reason only — to get my education. Ignoring the obstacles that I may face attending a PWI will take time, everything is a learning experience for me. But as I learn and grow, I become better.
Chandra Fleming is the campus features reporter for The State News.