In high school, you couldn't tell me nothing! I was going to Howard University, major in radio, or television, pledge Delta Sigma Theta, and be the campus darling from NY. I envisioned myself surrounded by beautiful Black kings and queens of all shades from all over the country, scratch that - ALL OVER THE WORLD. My best friend was gonna go to Hampton University, only a few short hours away from me, and we were going to alternate between who visits who each month. It was a solid dream.
Then reality kicked, and once I received my financial aid package, along with discouragement from my former best friend from investing such a extensive amount of loaned money to attend a school "just for a name", I decided to give up the dream and come to the North Country, to a State University of New York college in Plattsburgh, NY.
At first, I was fairly excited! College is college after all, and I'd be spending it with my (former) best friend! I came to the school during the summer open house, where I'd be spending the night in a freshman dormitory with other people from the New York City area. It was here at the open house that I realized just what I'd be getting myself into - a predominately white institution.
I thought "damn, this is going to be awkward", but being optimistic and trying to find the silver lining of the situation, I figured to ignore my insecurities of fitting in with people who are radically different from me, and give it a go.
I felt like a total outsider though. They were having random conversations, about random things; never discussing a topic for an extensive period of time, about anything particularly relevant. It was like the fucking Twilight Zone. If I'm going to be here for four years though, I might as well get into the groove of talking to people I didn't know. I joined a group of girls in their conversation, only to have each of them stare at me like I was a freak.
What was I going to use to relate to these people? My passion for hip-hop music? Sure there were some white guys who knew and loved Kendrick Lamar, and worshipped J.Cole, but the ladies don't like that shit. I mean, for the whole open house, they just played pop music, and stupid soft ass Elie Goulding. And while there's nothing wrong with Elie Goulding, I'm just not crazy about that type of music.
Fast forward to present day me in college.
I had planned to transfer to Howard University before my sophomore year at Plattsburgh, but then credit transfer became an issue. I'd basically be a freshman again should I choose to transfer to the HBCU. I said fuck it.
Recently, Plattsburgh's school newspaper, Cardinal Points, published an cover article with the depiction of a African American male graduate in the slums.
"Attending a predominately white institution is exhausting," said Dinai Tortuga, a student of the Gender Women Studies Department at SUNY Plattsburgh. She continues, "Of course it can have its ups, where I make connections and I meet great people.. [but] It is exhausting to convince white people that I, a black woman, am good enough to be here, that I am working hard - not only just as hard - but harder to be recognized."
She makes a valid point. Just the other day in my TV-Video Productions class, I made the comment that the few minority students (8 Black, 3 Hispanic, and 2 Asians) have to work "twice as hard" to receive half of the recognition the majority receives.
Producer of the show, "The Weekly Burghy" on Plattsburgh State Television, Taj Ellis commented, "The school tries it's best to blend us but they hide behind the word "Diversity" or "Multi-cultural" in reference to minorities. To me you might as well be saying colored people."
"There are time where I'm at a social event and I want to hear music from my culture and if it does come on its either for a short period of time, or its transposed into a version that pleases the well... Majority" (I.E. listening to the white washed version of "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley)
So where does that leave the marginalized group? The Black students on campus who were embroidered in that Cardinal Points front cover photo? Or Black students who can't afford to attend a HBCU, no matter how empowering it is?