This summer I participated in a pre-college program called STOV where I created relations with people from different backgrounds.
I developed friendships with Asian, Hispanic and Caucasian kids. One thing we talked about was that when the school year started we knew that our dynamic would not be the same, because we naturally self-segregate. As I assumed correctly, the shift happened, but we made it our mission to hang out and to talk when we see each other.
So a few weeks ago during fall break, I visited my KIPP High school, where I had a conversation with my old teacher. I spoke to her about having to adjust being at a PWI and learning to interact with white students. She told me that a part of white privilege is that you do not have to necessarily adjust.
For example, most white students are coming from a predominantly white high school, making going to a white college not much of a difference.
The truth of the matter is that they can go their whole college career not having to interact with people outside their race. But unfortunately, in order to prosper at this school, I have to infiltrate and assimilate into their system. Whether that is to interact with my white professors, RA, public safety or classmates. It's an adjustment for me.
So when in class, I no longer just have the barrier of not knowing my classmates, but now also the barrier of being an “outsider” to them. I see them self-segregate, which to me, is fine in social settings because to some extent I do the same. But it becomes difficult for me when I am the only person of color in the classroom and everyone gravitates to who and what they already know.
I no longer have the luxury of clinging to my norm. In high school, my teammates were black and my study groups were minorities and people that I have known for years. I am now surrounded by people we are intimidated by me so they hesitant in approaching me. I have become the person who smiles and says hi; some have responded and others choose to ignore me.
I have been thrust out into reality, and to some extent, I feel that I am the only one willing or making an effort to connect. But maybe that is just my life as a black student at a PWI.