There’s nothing like being the odd one out. You feel on edge 24/7 always so keenly aware of what makes you different and how people are interpreting your differences. Sometimes you feel as though you’ve done something wrong even though you haven’t, like a criminal in your own body. Though there are some differences that can easily be avoided for example, if you’re attending a Luau themed party and you dress up like a cowboy expect to be looked at strangely, you put yourself in such a position because you knew prior to the party that you had to dress in hawaiian attire. Your discomfort and anxiety is easily avoided. We run into a problem when the differences that cause our suffocating anxiety and continuous discomfort are not things we can control. Specifically our race and ethnicity. It is so important to acknowledge the people of color on our college campuses and the struggles they endure on the daily. If you are a person of color on a predominantly white campus you more than likely can relate to these feelings of discomfort and exclusion; here are 6 things you need to know to help you withstand the culture shock. (If you are not a person of color still read this maybe you’ll learn something new)
You are not invisible
Although at times it may feel like you are invisible due to the simple fact that people of color are rarely acknowledged in predominantly white settings know that you are not. If you speak and no one responds to you repeat yourself louder, if there is a conversation that occurs and you believe that your say in it could go a long way speak up. Assert yourself, know that your voice, your experiences and your knowledge is just as important and influential as anything your white peers have to say sometimes even more in certain discussions. Find a way to include yourself in various on campus activities clubs and etc. so whether they like it or not your voice will be heard and you will be seen.
You are not scary
Despite the next to terrified glances you get when you are walking to class, or exiting an elevator there is nothing scary about you or your appearance. Understand that a lot of the people that attend your institutions are from places where POC are a myth. All they know of us are the stereotypes that American Media portrays and that of which are passed on through the beliefs of their family friends and associates. They cannot see you at first as a person, what they see at first are stereotypes and those stereotypes are scary as hell. People of color may come off as intimidating to those who have not been in very diverse settings, keep in your mind that you know who you are and though receiving those looks can be extremely frustrating, disheartening, and straight up unfair you now have the opportunity to educate them about their ignorance and prove to them that you are not simply a stereotype you are a human being.
Hookup Culture is a mess
There are many many problems with hookup culture, but the main one I will focus on here is the fact that it is generally a hot mess when it comes to people of color. As a person of color at a predominantly white institution you need to be able to understand what hookup culture is and how it affects the mental health of you and your peers. People of color participating in white hookup culture (especially women of color) are very often fetishized and objectified without even knowing it. White men will specifically hookup with certain women of color because of certain fetishes or because of stereotypes they’ve seen in porn. In essence hooking up with them for all the wrong reasons. So instead of having an enjoyable encounter that one can look back on and be pleased with, people of color often leave hookups feeling worse about themselves without even knowing why. As a person of color, if you decide to participate in white hookup culture you need to understand these things and do your best to avoid fetishization and work around it. For an enjoyable experience for you and your partner.
You do not owe your professors your life
College professors are awesome, they are smart and successful and some of them are just great people. But they are not god nor do you owe them your life. Don’t let your professors walk all over you especially as a person of color. If you see discrimination or feel as though you are being discriminated against SPEAK UP. don’t feel shy because it’s you professor and they decide your grade, there are always ways to report discrimination without being penalized for speaking the truth. Make sure you and your classmates are being respected because after all you are all adults and deserve to be treated as such.
Do not let anyone mispronounce your name
When you start off in college as a person of color specifically with a culture heavy name you may feel uncomfortable introducing yourself among the Sarah’s, and Robert’s but know that your name is significant. It says a lot about you and your rich culture and you should be proud of it. Do not allow anyone, not professors, not floor-mates, not your RA’s, not your adviser, not the dean to mispronounce your name. Correct them, and if they get it wrong again put them to shame here we are in an institution of higher learning and you can’t even get some syllables right? Get it together.
Take care of yourself
College is not easy, especially for people of color, make sure you are showing yourself love, drinking water, eating as healthy as possible and surrounding yourself with good vibes. The good thing about PWI’s is that there are always opportunities to engage and stay productive I find that helps me keep my mind together and stay on track.