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:
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.
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.