Monday, August 01, 2011

How One College Student Received A Lesson On Race

Photo Credit: howzey
It is nearly twenty years to the day that I first stepped onto campus as a university freshman. I remember experiencing a mixture of emotions marked by excitement, fear, anticipation and nervousness. One of the feelings that I didn't have, though, was wondering if I would see anyone that looked like me. On a campus that was overwhelmingly white, nearly all my classmates and almost all my professors looked like me.

In four and a half years of college, I never once had a class where I wasn't in the majority. For many students of color, however, their experience is anything but similar to mine. Alana Mohamed, a current college student, writes of her experience on what it was like for her to attend a predominately white, northeastern school as an ethnic minority. Here are some of her thoughts
"Maybe I’m na├»ve, but when I stepped on the campus of my New England public university, I was dumbstruck by the whiteness of it all. I was literally the only person of color in a sea of white people. This had never happened to me before. I grew up in New York City and had never been to a school that was predominantly white. As such, I was partial to the color-blind politics of the day. This is not to say that I never experienced racism, but I was lucky enough to discount the few times I had encountered racism as the statistical outliers of my life. However, I was surprised to learn that my peers at university had rarely come in contact with people of color and often times lacked any sort of tact when dealing with people of color.

...The scariest sort of situation was dealing with hostile, purposeful racism. At the beginning of the year, when people didn’t know I had a Muslim last name, or that my father was Muslim, I heard a student loudly decry, “F****** Muslim scum, f****** ruining our country. Motherf******,” at a party further down my hall. I also heard cheers, egging him on. I was in my room at the time and couldn’t see who had said it. And quite frankly, I was too terrified to go see. When it comes to direct confrontations, I draw the line at putting myself in dangerous situations. I wish I would have told my RA [Resident Hall Assistant], but I was too scared of stirring up trouble so early in the year. As a consequence, I often felt unsafe and alienated from many of the kids on my floor."
Not only can the college campus seem intimidating to many ethnic minority students who are just venturing into a mostly white context for the first time in their lives but it can be downright scary. Unfortunately, Alana's experiences are all too common as I've had numerous students share with me similar encounters they had while adjusting to this very new environment.

This is just one reason why it is so important that there is spiritual assistance available for each and every student no matter what their background or how they define themselves culturally. Each person is created in the image of God and is worthy of love, respect and acceptance. I'm grateful that I'm part of a community of caring individuals that is actively reaching out to the over 7,000,000 American ethnic minority and international students currently studying on college campuses across the U.S. To learn more about some of the ministries that Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) offers on campuses throughout the country, please click here.

To read the rest of Alana's story on the Racialicious blog please click here. (WARNING: There is some strong language found at this link.)

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