Things I learned while attending a PWI

A PWI is a “predominately White institution” or a school where White people count for over 50% of enrollment. Here are some things I’ve learned while attending my undergraduate institution.

  1. You will often have to play the face of the race.

I go to a school where a nice percentage of the students have never met or interacted in depth with Black people. Some of them will look to you as the standard for the entire race. This happens a lot in classes. When the topic of race is brought up everyone looks at you for confirmation on the opinion of the entire race. I learned how exhausting this could be when the publicity for police brutality and BLM was at its height. People were constantly asking me my opinions and feelings and getting upset when I choose not to talk about it. Not understand how exhausting it is to see your people brutally murdered on TV constantly and blamed for it.

I am in many leadership roles on campus and that is what really confirmed this thought for me. Whenever the perspective of a Black person is needed I am called on every time. There are Black people on this campus who are way more qualified to sit on some of the panels I am on but I’m the first call because I’m the only Black person many administrators have a relationship with.

2. White Privilege manifests itself in interesting ways

When attending my school I was ready for the sense of entitlement and the feeling that only their world view mattered. What I was not ready for was the inability for some of my White counterparts to be able to take responsibility for their action or approach me in really disrespectful ways. As a resident assistant, some of my residents will blame me for getting in trouble instead of taking responsibility for their actions, making me public enemy #1 for doing my job. I’ll also never forget my sophomore year when I was told to proceed with caution if a White boy seemed interested in me because a fraternity had a “Black History Month Quota”

3. You will be expected to teach people about our culture

“Why is your hair like that? Can I touch it? Do you like (insert artist’s name here)? I thought Black girls were loud but you’re not!”

The concept of ignorance usually has a negative connotation to it but that is not always the case. I entered into my journey as an extreme minority by telling myself it is not their fault that they were never education on aspects of our culture and social norms. Fast forward 4 years and I am TIRED. I no longer have the energy to explain why touching my hair is a micro-aggression and then have to explain what a micro-aggression is. Only to be followed by the person explaining how they aren’t racist instead of listening to what I said and changing their behavior next time.

3. Scandal was not kidding about working twice as hard to get half as much.

Every friend that I have has this same story: We’re working in a group project and doing most of the work. Our white group partners are so busy asking the professors to check our work and telling us what we should change that they don’t even focus on their work.

I have learned that you will encounter people who will refuse to believe you are just as smart, God forbid smarter than they are. You will be often put in situations will you feel like you have to prove yourself while also biting your tongue to not confirm the angry Black person trope.

All of these experience do not take away from the fact that I have enjoyed my 4 years here. I have made great friends and had life changing experiences but the mental impact that living in this reality can have on Black students is often ignored. It is important to me that students process the issues they deal with on a daily basis and find ways to cope. It is not your job to educate White people or worry about confirming stereotypes. Also, know that not all White people will fit into these categories. I have met amazing people who want to help and educate others. Use them for that support. Live your life, find your safe space and be unapologetically you.

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