The benefits that come with attending a “Predominantly White Institution” outweigh the costs or at least that is what I tell myself everyday when I wake up. However, sometimes it is hard to remember this when I am walking around campus or I am in class and I see very few people that look like me. It becomes exhausting when I have to hold in my emotions and I am not able to express my frustration when I feel like I have been disrespected or treated poorly. Whether it is something “small” like someone not saying excuse me when they need to get by or something bigger like people coming into a quiet study environment and being obnoxiously loud, I have to decide if it is worth reacting to or not because I fear that I will get labeled as the “angry Black woman” or my feelings will be invalidated. Instead, I quietly accept the disrespect and fade into the background. As crazy as it might sound, each time I accept the mistreatment and do not stand up for myself, I feel like I lose a piece of myself in the process. Which in a way, hurts even more than the fear of the label attached to me.
Being a Black female at a predominantly White college the last four years has been about survival. Most of the time I am too focused on surviving, that I barely even have time to concentrate on thriving. Black people are automatically born with a disadvantage simply because of the color of our skin and as unfair as that may be, it is just our reality. Survival requires us to deny parts of ourselves and our culture at times in order to succeed and make the dominant race more “comfortable.” We always have to be on guard in order to disprove the stereotypes surrounding our culture.
Malcolm X once said, “the most disrespected woman in America, is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the Black woman.” In today’s times it’s hard to deny this as anything less than true. The older I get the more I am aware of how often the Black woman gets mistreated. So often our voices are silenced, our truths are questioned and our pain is ignored. We have the weight of the world on our back, taking care of everyone else’s needs first and then maybe we can focus on ourselves. Society has brainwashed us into thinking that we are the problem. That we shouldn’t speak up when we’ve been wronged. Black women are constantly told that we are too emotional, difficult, and angry so we repress our feelings in fear that we’ll get negatively stereotyped. Well guess what? I am angry. I’m angry that society makes me question my self-worth, I’m angry that I am constantly compared to women of other races, I’m angry that we can stand up and fight for everyone else but no one is standing and fighting for us. No one is protecting us.
Racism has always been a sensitive topic for people of this generation, but it is real and it exists. If we act like it does not prevail, then we are contributing to the overall problem. However, in order to create real change we have to be willing to take risks, have those tough conversations, and be uncomfortable. Once we start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, that is when the real work will truly begin.