If you haven’t heard, a couple of weeks ago, some Black women at American University were pelted with bananas by some white men students. One Black woman was asleep in her dorm, when some white male students came into her room and pelted her with rotten bananas. The other Black woman had penises scribbled onto her white board, which hung outside her door.
Although I never had bananas pelted at me, I understand how the black women must be feeling.
I attended a predominately white, private school and later a predominately white college. My whole life, my skin color has made me into an “other.” Being an other means you must contend with stereotypes and isolation. Resultingly, most of my undergraduate years were spent, challenging stereotypes and enduring isolation.
What was it like?..
My experience as a college student at predominately white institution (PWI), was probably very similar to the experiences of many Black women.
I had very few friends, I never got invited to any parties, I never got asked to join study groups and I seldom had the emotional and social support that anyone would need to thrive. In addition, I was made to feel ugly and unwanted.
I remember during my sophomore year, I lived with two white, party girls. I didn’t particularly care for their personalities. They were not very considerate, they never spoke to me and they never cleaned up after themselves. The dishes would pile up for days on end, to the point that there was no room in the sink. The trash was seldom taken out. At first, I tried to ignore it and just wash my own dishes, but eventually it got to the point where the apartment was squalid.
I tried reminding them to clean up, but it was in vain. Thus, I was left with doing the dishes and trying to clean the floors, while they partied and laid out in their rooms.
I remember one night, one of the girls came home drunk and threw up in the kitchen sink. I had to clean the sink out with bleach and no one even said thank you. It was as if, I was the maid or mammy.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t stand up for myself. I’m embarrassed that I actually cleaned up after them and allowed myself to be treated that way. I partially blame myself. Knowing what I do now, I would have talked to them more sternly and come to some sort of compromise and if that didn’t work, I would have gone to the RA or whomever.
I just didn’t understand how two supposed to be adults could behave in such an inconsiderate way. In retrospect, I think it goes back to the mentality of expecting someone else to always take care of you. As Black women, we don’t have the luxury of expecting to be taken care of.
I am not going to generalize all white students because I know people are individuals, but living with those two girls was miserable. From that point on, I decided that I could not live with someone like that again.
In addition to being mammified, there were double standards on campus. My white female roommates frequently got the benefit of the doubt. It was okay for them to go out and get drunk and they would still be respected and valued by the wider society. Black women didn’t get that privilege. If we got drunk and slept around, there was a good chance that we’d be seen as hoes… or as Don Imus would say “nappy-headed hoes.”
This is not to say that white women don’t face problems on campus, there is a well-known problem with rape on campus, but there is an extra element that Black women have to deal with. We don’t just deal with sexism, but we deal with racism too.
Any way, it wasn’t usual for my white female roommates to bring white frat guys back to the dorm. All I wanted to do was sleep, but instead I had to listen to my roommates and their white male friends carousing and (in my opinion) making a fool of themselves. I remember one night, it was the week before finals, and my roommates decided to bring some frat boys back to the dorm. I could hear them outside my door drinking and partying.
I’d finally had enough, so I went to open my door to tell them to keep it down and out of the blue, a white male frat guy, busts open my door and gets in my face. He held onto the door, so I couldn’t close it.
There I was in my pajamas, with my night scarf on and this white frat guy was in my face. I didn’t know what to think. He stared at me for a moment, then he drunkenly muttered “you’re so cute,” and walked away. I did talk to my roommates the next day, but at that point, I’d had enough.
I moved out of the dorm as soon as I could.
It’s worth noting that racism wasn’t confined to dorms or apartments. The previous year, someone hung a noose from the cultural center.
It’s hard attending a PWI and I really sympathize with the Black women at American U. If I could go back, I would’ve attended an HBCU for my undergrad.
Being at a predominately white institution made me feel like…
1. I didn’t belong.
2. I was ugly.
3. I was undeserving of being there.
I know many Black people are pressured by parents and society to attend PWIs. The reason being that PWI are seen as “more prestigious.” We’re told that they will lead us to a better life. The reality is that years ago, many PWI’s turned their nose up at Black people and it was the HBCU’s that allowed Black people to attend.
Not saying HBCU’s are perfect, some HBCU’s have a known history of colorism. Yet, many HBCU’s allowed Black people of all colors to attend. Additionally, today, only 17% of Black college students attend HBCU’s, yet HBCU’s produce 42% of Black Science/ Math graduates. In HBCU’s Black people don’t have to deal with the stereotypes and we don’t have to feel like we don’t belong in our classes, so more Black people are willing to pursue the B.S degrees. So, if you want a B.S degree, go for an HBCU.
Any way, back to American U. Jada Bell, a black female student at American U. said the following:
“[ I’m] sick and tired of having to do this fight.”
Another Black female student, who was racially victimized said that “she won’t be run out [of school].”
My response to both of these young ladies is this, why continue to pay money, only to be abused? It’s not about being run out, it’s about being treated with decency and respect.
I think, as Black people, it’s time we wake up and realize that we cannot keep giving money to white institutions, just to be mistreated and miseducated.
We need to start investing in ourselves.