Being a Coco Puff in a Bowl of Milk: A mini memoir of my time at a PWI

I attend the University of San Diego. If my readers are members of the USD community, you already know about the diversity issue we have (or you’re blissfully ignorant). For those of you who don’t know about our diversity issue… it’s bad. I mean it’s snowing hard over here at USD. It’s like a blizzard in 70 degree weather. I had to put on some boots, a ski jacket, gloves, beanie, goggles, long johns, and a scarf to adjust to the social climate.

Don’t get me wrong, USD has its great attributes. The class sizes are small so your professor gets to know you, which in result, holds you accountable for actually attending class. The education is rigorous, and you’re learning from some of the best in their field. And the food’s not all that bad either. But I didn’t come to college just to sit in a classroom, eat some food, then dip out. I came to college to experience college.

I’ve been going to predominantly white schools my entire life. Race has always been an issue for me. (I was just in denial about it for pretty much 17 years of my life because I thought that by ignoring it I would fit in.) It wasn’t until I attended USD that I realized how black I was because folks kept reminding me of it in all the worst possible ways, and I felt so isolated.

I don’t find the racism at USD to be explicit. I mean there have been significant instances where people’s true colors surrounding race, gender and sexuality shine brighter than a diamond in the sky, but it’s nothing like Mizzou. The racism, overall, is done on a micro level (which is not to say that black students and other students of color don’t have it bad). In my three years at the University of San Diego, I have heard all the following directed toward me and other black students:

  1. I’ve never been with a girl your color before.
  2. *touches hair without permission* Wow, your hair; it’s so oily.
  3. I told him that you’re my black friend.
  4. Why do you always have to bring up race?
  5. You’re not ghetto like other black girls.
  6. You speak so well.
  7. *Sitting with other black students in the cafeteria* Oh is this a Black Student Union meeting?
  8. I’d never date a black girl.
  9. She’s too dark.
  10. He’s my mulatto friend.

Trust me. This isn’t where the list ends. There’s more, and I am not the only one who has heard these things. People  even outside the black community have heard similar things. On a surface level, these microagressions may not seem bad, but I hear this rhetoric on a consistence basis, and it’s representative of a greater issue at USD. It constantly reminds me that I am the other. And that’s how I have felt my entire time at USD.

I am not afforded the opportunity to mess up in the way that white students are. I am not included in the same social circles as white students are. I am not able to express all of my identities in the way that white students are. The system at USD is not actively working against black students. It’s just overly working for white students.

There have been many times that I have considered leaving my school, and transferring elsewhere. The only thing stopping me now is that I’m three years deep into a $60,000 per year school. I might as well flush 100 dollar bills down a toilet if I think about leaving. But I want a good education. I want to be proud to call this place my alma mater and rep the blue and white proud.

I have found my spaces, and I have made significant efforts in finding my community on campus. My time at USD cannot be summed up in one blog post, but one thing I can say for certain is that there needs to be change. And I’m not talking about Hug-a-black-guy-to show-that-you’re-not-a-racist Day. I mean actively going against racism and fighting it in its tracks.

Let’s create spaces other than the Multicultural Center to build gaps between people of color and non people of color. A student of color should feel comfortable in every part of campus in which white students feel comfortable. Let’s have a greater dialogue with folks who are never in the conversation. Let’s give people a reason to never want to leave USD. Let’s fix things here so we can create social change in other parts of our country, of our world. Hey, let’s just fix things because we want to give the students what they paid for, and that’s a well-rounded education.