Being a Minority

I never understood what it meant to be a minority. My neighborhood has always been 85% black people and all of the schools I’ve attended from pre-school to high school was 95% black. Despite attending nearly all-black schools, teachers warned us from elementary school to high school that we are a minority and that puts us at a disadvantage. I didn’t pay them any mind; I thought they were too paranoid for their own good. That is until I started my first semester at New York University last fall.

What attracted me to NYU was its diversity. They always boasted about its astounding number of students who are of different races, cultures, ethnicities, and share different religious views. I was drawn to this because I wanted to meet people from different countries and get a nice kick out of being in a school that didn’t have a 95% black student population. I didn’t realize how much I took my former situation for granted.

Fun Fact: When I applied to NYU, I researched the course and programs more than I did their diversity rates. What I learned from this? Absolutely nothing, it was a big mistake. I assumed that NYU would have a fair amount of black people, or at least enough for me to not feel like the only one for miles. I can’t deny, though, they do have a decent amount of us. However, it’s still not enough. At one of the NYU freshman orientation events, Andrew Hamilton, the President of NYU, said, “We have accepted the highest number of black students in history,” (Something along these lines; don’t quote me). But NYU is guilty of something, something that universities [not HBCUs] so all over the country and possibly the world – black insurance. I’ll give you a few examples:

Look in the middle.
https://chinachange.org/2015/02/05/new-york-university-shanghai-what-is-the-deal/
Look in the middle. (This is not an NYU picture)
https://icahn.mssm.edu/education/medical/events/white-coat

Look in the … you get what I mean.
http://www.stern.nyu.edu/experience-stern/about/departments-centers-initiatives/interdisciplinary-initiatives/entertainment-media-and-technology-program/academic-programs/undergraduate

This is a common mechanism that universities with a majority white student population apply. We see it in the brochures sent to students starting as early as their sophomore year in high school and even after they’re accepted to feel more included in their college communities. Of course, a white majority is expected since the US population still holds a white majority, however, I do believe that all colleges need to prepare minorities for what they’ll face.

It was hard adjusting to NYU. I was expecting to see a lot more white people, but it was overwhelming to see so many of them in one place. It was hard adjusting to being the only black person in class and it was even harder finding people I could relate to on a social and cultural level. Any time I see a fellow black student, we looked each other in the eyes as if acknowledging each other’s presence, then looked away and went about our days. By October, I missed high school and being able to relate to my friends and use Brooklyn lingo.

The Turn Around

On the second day of school, I had my first writing class and an Asian girl I’ll call Miley came in late. She had these fake eyelashes on and she looked very posh. I didn’t think I’d like her. I mean, I didn’t think I’d like anyone because they weren’t black. By the second day of class, Miley and I stayed behind and started talking. Next thing I knew, we were out walking in Washington Square talking about what a struggle it was being from New York City. She asked me “Are you from Trinidad?”

I was shocked, “How’d you know?” I asked her.

“My friend is Trinidadian,” she said. “You have the face of one. I don’t know, I can’t explain it.”

We laughed at this and half an hour later she went back to her dorm and I headed to my second class. I felt relieved that I had found someone to speak to and laugh with. I have always been shy and paranoid. It’s the worst combination of traits to have, and it has also made it a challenge to make friends since I’m so afraid to approach people. But Miley taught me something that day: Despite my minority-status, I will still make it. I will still be great. I will still meet people who will change my life whether Asian, White, Native-American, Black, Latino, etc.

I am in my second semester at NYU, and in each of my classes, there are now 1 or 2 black students, but we don’t speak. This made me learn something else: even though I am a minority, that doesn’t mean that every black student I meet will be friends with me. Blackness doesn’t solidify friendship or common understanding of the world because we all have different views of the world and skin color is only one part of shaping our unique perspectives.

NYU and colleges all over the world must work on diversity and improving the percentage of students of color that they open their doors (gates) to. Many people of color are disadvantaged from birth in the education system and as a result, colleges lose out on brilliant minds and the world loses out on a person that could’ve saved the world whether through politics, science, technology, etc. Colleges also need to work on honesty and integrity. I understand that college is not just a port for education, it’s a business as well, but students need to know what they’re getting themselves into. Two students have committed suicide at NYU since fall semester till now, and minority issues may have nothing to do with that, but student safety needs to be put first before any business matters. At the end of the day, an education is what gives us power in this world, especially as a minority and colleges need to play their part in making that happen.

Signed,

BGA

P.S. Find below an article about a recent racial issue going on in the NYU community. This is not to bash NYU as it is a wonderful university that is trying to break a barrier for people of color. However, I want to raise awareness to get people to understand a perspective that is ignored or not well understood by the majority: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/02/15/nyu-social-work-school-admits-institutional-racism-wake-student-email

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

An Older-Middle Sister Epiphany

I have a very complicated family tree. On my mother’s side, I have 2 older sisters and an older brother. On my father’s side, I have one older brother. I never met my two older sisters because my mom had them really young (a story for another time), but I do know my two older brothers.

My older brother on my mom’s side left the house for Boston when I was around nine years old, so I was the oldest in the house for half of my life. When people ask “Are you the oldest, middle, youngest, or only child?” I don’t know how to answer. To me I am the oldest, but to the world, I am the middle child.

I have three younger brothers. I live with two of them while the youngest one lives with my dad. The complicated family tree also extends to aunts, uncles, and cousins but we’re not going there on this blog post.

Today I want to talk about the stress I endure by being the middle-oldest sister in the house. I’m still enjoying the very long break that college gifts me with after three months of solid torture and hair-pulling stress. I woke up at a ghastly hour (12PM; please don’t judge me). My youngest brother pulled at my arm to remind me that he has a basketball game, and he has to get to school at 1PM. My phone reads: 12:24, and I was still half asleep. He said that our mother wanted me to go with him, but that wasn’t not about to happen.

I know. It was completely terrible of me to let my 11 year old brother go out alone into the big-bad streets of Brooklyn for school while I lie down in the comforts of my bed. But, I literally wasn’t going. My mind, my heart, my soul said no. When everything in me says no, my feet are not touching concrete. So I strictly told him to text me everything: when he got on and off the bus, when he got in the school, when the game starts and ends, and when he’s heading back home. I thought it was an impeccable system, and I was quite happy with myself for being such a responsible older sister.

As I was enjoying my time alone in the house, making delicious scrambled eggs with green tea, I hear the door click. It was my mom. I started to panic, but I couldn’t put the egg carton away on time, so I just stood there as the door swung open. It wasn’t her. It was my 16 year old brother towering behind the doorway. I didn’t know I was holding my breathe until I saw his face.

Again, everything was right with the world. That is until I heard another click at the door, and I knew it was my mother coming home from work. Fear gripped my throat so tightly. I jumped on my bed and pretended that I was asleep. It’s something I always do when she comes home as a joke of sorts, she always knows I’m not asleep, but it’s still funny to do. This time she wasn’t laughing because she saw that I wasn’t at the game with my little brother.

The game was a test of sorts to see if she could have a job, but also trust me to take more responsibilities over my siblings. I felt terribly, and I tried to call my brother to see if he was okay, but there was no answer. I called many times and the phone was silent. I started to imagine all the bad things that could’ve happened to him: him getting kidnapped, him getting jumped, him getting robbed. The images jumped at me faster than I could push them away.

And what if any of that happened because I was a selfish sister?

My mom came into my room calmer than before and she asked me to call my little brother. Of course, I tried to change the subject and talk about something else because she would only get mad and worried if I told her he wasn’t answering the phone. She didn’t forget, and as she left my room, she asked if I could call him.

I panicked and panicked and panicked. I called and called and called. I texted and texted and texted. Radio silence. What if something really did happen to him, and I wasn’t there to protect him? He’s only 11. A kid. How could I be so reckless and thoughtless? I vowed then and there to put him first because he’s my little brother and one of the most important people in my world. I should always be there for him. Right? Right.

My mother came in my room again and asked if he answered the phone, I said no, and she left with a distraught face. I knew I’d get a good slap if my brother didn’t call within the hour. I stared at my phone for the next half and hour, waiting and hoping to see his name appear on the screen. Hoping he wasn’t kidnapped or jumped or robbed. That no one touched his sweet face.

Then I saw his name appear on my screen, and I immediately answered: CALL ME NOW. NOW. NOOOOWWW. He called me and I asked him if he was okay and why he didn’t pick up. He explained everything calmly having no idea that on the other side of Brooklyn, I was grieving his loss and he wasn’t even lost. I told him that our mom was upset because I didn’t go and I asked him again if he wanted me to go to the game. He said “yeah I wanted you to go, but since you didn’t, I didn’t want to force you.”

I felt like the worst person in the world. Family is there for each other even if they don’t want to be there. Even if they’d rather get pinched 1000 times, they always show up. The real families do anyway. I told him that he should have been honest about whether he wanted me to come or not, but that didn’t matter, because I should have went. I gave the phone to my mom so she could hear his voice and not get worried about him, and he said he was heading home with a friend and his mom. I felt bad that he didn’t have anyone there like the other kids, but next time, I’ll be there too.

“We lost,” my little brother said over the phone. “Terribly.” I laughed. I was happy that he was joking around. When you think that something happened to someone you love, you begin to think of everything: your last words, your favorite memories, what you’d want to say to them if you could see them again. It’s morbid, but it reminds you of what you need to be grateful for – the now. It’s all we get, it’s all the universe gifts us with. Hold on to the now, and hold on tight, because it always disappears until it’s nothing but warm memories and old thoughts.

Origin

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting down in front of a group of 8th graders from my old middle school; giving them advice on what to do in their first week of high school. With a small cup of bitter hot chocolate in my hand watching them giggle and talk amongst themselves, I felt old. I am a freshman at New York University, and by many standards, I am the youngest I will ever be. But for some reason, I was having a life crisis. It’s not the life crisis that people get when they’re between 35 and 55, but it’s a life crisis of 18 … a mid-mid life crisis – a life crisis before the BIG life crisis.

It was just five years ago when I was them: waiting for my high school acceptance letter, getting excited for graduation, and still wondering if my crush liked me. It was a carefree time when I didn’t have to worry about tuition costs, how I’d pay for my next meal, or what time to get up to catch the train to school. I took it for granted, and now I feel old. There’s a void within me that I feel like I haven’t done enough before – a guilt inside of me that I could’ve done more with my time. The people in my old high school had so much more fun than I did, and while I did my homework and suffered in silence, they were going out and getting into relationships and having sex. It was lonely at times. Even my parents said that I had ‘no life’ yet according to them, in order to be successful in life, I had to work hard. Now I’m 18, and I have no stories to tell for when I am successful in life. The irony.

This is why I started a blog. I always held my tongue in middle school and high school because people would get annoyed or ignore me. I felt invisible. And that feeling of voicelessness and invisibility ends today. I identify as anonymous because my opinions and perspective in life is more important than my name. Young people are often ignored, and when we aren’t ignored we’re labeled as lazy, entitled, and materialistic. We are generalized rather than recognized, and I’d like for that idea to get squashed into the dust. As a young woman, I want my voice to be heard. It’s about time I’m seen as powerful mouthpiece to movements rather than an object to be seen, but not heard.

As a black young woman, I want to have a say in how my life goes. I am not violent. I am not on welfare. I am not ghetto. I am intelligent. I am graceful. I am iconic. My blackness is my opportunity; not my obstacle, and I refuse to let history or those in my present make me believe otherwise. Black skin doesn’t put a tape over my mouth to accept what happens to me, it’s a reason to make me shout. I will not go gently into that good night. It will never be a good night when my gender, race, and sexuality still determines how my life will be. And being me, I want to express my thoughts on everything. My jokes, my opinions, my perspective. I want it documented. I want to be heard even if it isn’t by friends or family. It’s of me, by me, and for the people.

Signed, BGA

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong. 

Abraham Lincoln