I wasn’t the minority growing up. I wasn’t the only black girl in my class, I wasn’t the only student who asked for a permission slip in Portuguese, I wasn’t the only one. I’m now a third-year college student who is almost always the only one. I’m constantly reminded that I am the only one and I cannot stand it. I believe that I should have the freedom to speak on my feelings and experiences without being labeled as the angry black woman or the overdramatic Millenial. I feel like I have to put this disclaimer in this post because people may call this a rant or a complaint. At this point, I can care less.
For the past three years I’ve felt frustrated, confused, in denial, betrayed, and annoyed. I expected college to be a new start to life, a place where I can finally share my enthusiasm for education and learning with others. A few weeks into my freshmen year, I realized that wasn’t the case. I had created this fantasy world in my head of what college would be like. Do you want to know what this fantasy world looked like? A bunch of people who wanted to go to class, watch movies (or SVU marathons) and have a good time. People wouldn’t just go to class to show face, they would actively participate in class discussions, bring outside experiences to the classroom. Making friends that would challenge you intellectually, but I didn’t really find that until a few months ago. I thought I’d find people who wanted to get to know what was inside my head, understand my motives and goals. I thought an introduction or the “getting to know you” phase would be simple. What I found my first year of college was people making assumptions about me off of my ethnic background, race, and college entrance process. I seriously thought something was wrong with my personality. I kept pushing myself to be more “outgoing” and have an open mind that would somehow allow for my sense of humor to expand and accept these comments that for some reason didn’t sit well with me. I had never felt like an outcast before. I was lucky enough to have friends from high school with me and when we’d get together, we’d realize we were going through the same thing. This comfort of relating to girls who looked like me turned to dependence. I shut out so many people out of anger, frustration, and annoyance. I was tired of having to explain to people where Cape Verde was and that yes, there is electricity and running water in Cape Verde and yes, my parents can speak criuolo AND english. I no longer wanted to be the representative for black people in class. I expected everyone to automatically understand where I was coming from.
I am now a third-year college student and I’m still the only one in class. At least when I was a freshmen, I was ignorant to the ignorance. Coming into college, I had never heard the terms “women of color” or “minority”. I didn’t know if I was experiencing a microagression and that it was okay to feel the emotions I was feeling. I honestly believed that I had to suck it up and move on. I rarely questioned people’s comments and I didn’t challenge others. It was inevitable that things would change, I would eventually have to speak up. The comments people made about my hair (“how do you wash it? how did it get like that? Now, how long did that take”), my hometown, and my ancestors bothered me. It feels as if there’s a limit to how much I can discuss my feelings and experiences of oppression. I felt that as a freshmen and I still feel that now. People tell me to get over it, stop being so dramatic, that it was way worse back then. First of all, “back then” was not that long ago and second of all, I’m experiencing racism right now. It’s covert racism in the 21st century and it’s okay because Obama is president and Oprah owns a network. It’s worse to hear the subtle comments and its because someone believes that I am stupid enough to not challenge their statements. I find it hard to sit in a class without huffing and puffing in the front after someone makes a comment. It’s another thing if you genuinely do not know or are unaware, but to just spit out nonsense and not be concerned that you might have shared false information and can care less about the consequences of your misleading information kills me. There’s no happy ending to this particular post or big lesson learned because I’m still learning and experiencing. I know I should be patient and look at the bright side of things but what about how I feel. These are my emotions and I own that. I own my feelings of frustration.