Is it diverse enough for me?

College researching and applications, it’s something that thousands, if not millions, of teens around the world go through every year. Potential students look at a lot of things; rankings, location, size, programs. As for me, I chose to include demographics into the mix. Back home, I’m usually used to seeing many different types of people, and having diverse friend groups. Would a mixed kid like me be able to fit in somewhere…completely white? Attending a Predominately White Institution, PWI for short, was not at the top of my college interest list, though a varying amount of cultural clubs might suffice. I looked over my options for a long, long while.

Ultimately, I chose Western, which is a (you guessed it) predominately white school.

Known to be very liberal and accepting school, it was not my first choice but knowing many friends who would also be attending, I thought it would be alright despite the overwhelming white majority. I wondered how much of an effect this would have on me. Would I be able to make friends easily? Or would I feel like an outcast? I wonder how other minority students felt about this too, so I decided to revolve my podcast project around the idea of how much of an impact diversity has on college campuses, specifically at Western. I read articles about racism and diversity issues on college campuses around America, and interviewed PoC (People of Color) students on how they felt about Western’s demographics.

What I found out is that many PoC Students found difficulty fitting in at their respective PWI, either from not being able to relate to the white student body, or feeling out casted in various ways. Some of these came from simple things from not understanding white humor to having no one sitting next to them in their class no matter where they moved in the classroom. All of this confirmed my belief that diversity played as big as a role as I had thought. But what exactly would this be called? “Not fitting in because I’m a minority” syndrome? Whose fault was it that there was a barrier between students? All these questions led me to what my OAT Project research would be about.

I went back to the drawing board (and by drawing board I mean researching online articles) and I found one that struck my attention: “Racism, College, and the Power of Words”, a research paper done by Professor Julie Minikel-Lacocque of the University of Wisconsin. In her article, she interviews several Latino students that attend a predominately white school called Midwestern University, and the adversity they face that came in the forms of offensive jokes, comments, and behaviors. These actions, labeled, Racial Microaggressions, are usually unconscious or said with good intentions (or not, depending on what it is exactly) but are actually offensive and based on deeply-rooted racist beliefs held by said perpetrator. They all cause victims to feel left out, unwanted, or lesser. An example would be telling a girl they’re pretty…..for an Asian. While this seemingly seems like a compliment, it actually insinuates that Asians are normally ugly and are seen as second-class. It was here that I realized this was the main problem to why PoC Students often feel left out at their PWI’s.

So, what can be done with this realization; how can it be stopped? Firstly, there are many people who doubt that microaggressions are a real thing that has negative effects, so it’s vital to spread awareness. The next step is analyzing your own actions and the ones of those around you as many people are generally unaware that they are behaving offensively or making degrading remarks. Calling others out and explaining to them why they are acting wrong is the only way to stop microaggressions. However, this is not an easy step. Again, the reason for microaggressions are because of deeply-rooted beliefs about what people of certain races should be. A white lady clutching her bag when she walks by a group of black teens isn’t because she’s suddenly chilly; she believes that them being black is an indicator that they are more prone to crime. Becoming aware that these are wrong and harmful stereotypes is a step towards unlearning them, which is not always done overnight. However, if everyone takes the time to undergo these different steps, I’m confident that microaggressions can be diminished to the point where they’re no longer a detrimental factor to the lives and successes of People of Color, and especially to those students on college campuses.