Being Black at a PWI
Growing up I was always in a predominately white space, no matter if it was my school district or neighborhood. But, for some black college students that is not the case. Some black college students grew up in a diverse or predominately black community. So, when they arrive here at Iowa State University, they realize that events, language, culture, and traditions are not aligned with their background.
With homecoming approaching, let’s use it as an example. For homecoming, the target audience is white students due to white alums and students making up the majority. The target audience should not be focused on one identity, it should incorporate a broader target audience – the student body as a whole. This could be accomplished by creating a concert with multiple performers (for example three performers from three different genres – country, pop, and hip-hop/R&B). They don’t have to be mainstream artists, but they can be artists that are up and coming – artists students know about. I truly believe that this is something that could possibly work.
I remember walking through campus during homecoming my freshman year and not even realizing it was homecoming. I just remember half-naked painted students running through campus screaming. Which I later learned was a Greek tradition called Yell Like Hell. I honestly didn’t imagine that’s what homecoming would look like. For the past two years, homecoming week hasn’t consisted of activities that engage the black community besides the parade.
For black students to feel that they were a part of homecoming last year, black organizations collaborated with one another to make their own homecoming week. We as black students shouldn’t have to do that, but we do it because we want to share our school spirit too.
Many of the events or social gatherings that focus on black folk come from black student organizations. The Black Student Alliance, the black Greek letter organizations, African Student Association, National Society on Black Engineers, and many more all host their own events for their community to feel like they belong on campus. Many times on the weekends we, as black college students, find it hard to find things to do. We don’t have spaces to host social gatherings unless it’s at an apartment or the Memorial Union…which is way too small or way too large for the amount of people that come.
Other things that occur are people being micro aggressive towards you. As a black college student you will receive questions about your hair, background, food you eat, the way you talk, walk, and more. But, this isn’t much different from what we face as black folks just walking through the city. But, that doesn’t discourage us. I have grown to love Iowa State University. It has provided me with opportunities to develop leadership skills and meet outstanding individuals that work at this institution that I know have mine and the black community’s back.
As history shows, black folks are leaders, innovators, and people that persevere through anything. I can say I have had a great time at college even though it hasn’t been the ideal experience. We are used to making ourselves feel like we belong or have something to do. But that doesn’t mean that we have to. We are college students just like everyone else and there are improvements happening to make events more inclusive. Just like our parents told us, “We have to work twice as hard to get half as far as our white counterparts.”