“I am a person of color and a first-generation college student.”
This piece is written from all of the conversations I’ve had on campus and speaking for some others who may not have the energy to speak up. As people of color on campus, we feel isolated and alone most of the time. We are an accessory to the white student’s experience, to supplement their education and provide the perspective of color on different issues. We are persecuted in the classroom for our dress and our tone and must adapt our behavior to that of the white standard. We must become “white” in every way but our skin in order to survive. We are never allowed to be our authentic self if we want to succeed here. However, this overwhelming feeling of exclusion is not only caused by the institution’s policies and the culture the students create but also its professors. Educated professors at a liberal arts school still make jokes about a student of color wearing a hijab so much so that the student stopped doing so just to protect themselves. In the classroom, we are held to a different standard and must put in twice or three times the work as our white counterparts in order to earn the same grade. And while we are dealing with all of these feelings the counseling center is understaffed, there is no Chief Diversity officer yet, and there is a lack of faculty of color who could offer us advice, understanding, or friendship to help us through these times. So we internalize these feelings and continue to work hard. Then we have the white students who think they can save us, who think that somehow they know what our concern and needs are and are trying to have meetings to “help” us. We are already so tried and then we go to a meeting where nothing is done, no change is made and we don’t go again. So these students blame us for not wanting to change. We are tired, we are working jobs to pay off our loans and tuition, we are studying to get our degrees, and we are just trying to survive. Ask any student of color if they would want to stay at HWS for another year and the answer you will get 97% of the time is NO, I just want to be done. The institution does a great job of providing students of color with opportunity. The only reason I am here is that I was given aide and earned scholarships. The issue lies in the culture that this institution has allowed continuing. For example, certain individuals spray-painted politically charged quotes on the side of the bookstore and on walkway there. Whatever your politics are it is a crime to vandalize school property. Yet the institution has yet to do anything, they did not even issue a statement as of the time I am writing this. Even if nothing can be done and the people responsible cannot be found, HWS has a responsibility to acknowledge that these acts have taken place and they will not be tolerated. I am tired of half-assed passive responses to issues that make students feel uncomfortable and unsafe. There is nothing that I or other students of color can do to change HWS alone. We need allies and we need an institution that is willing to leave behind archaic traits and step into the 21st century where society will not allow these kinds of behaviors to continue.
Someone looking for help