Representation: An important factor for a sense of belonging
Growing up, I was not able to experience cultural/ethnic representation as much as I should’ve. It has been this weird fluctuation from cultural dislike to fetishization. I grew up in an era where it was acceptable to make jokes depicting black women (especially when they’re dark-skinned) and African people in a negative manner. There were jokes about how everyone in Africa is always starving, Ebola, and enough Lion King questions to go around. [As well as western society’s depiction and their media constructing poverty porn and shaping white savior guilt into a positive light.] Now in 2019, that has matured into an obsession with African clothing, traditions, and the overall culture. While my life experience shaped me from a person who wanted to Americanize themselves into a person who is rightfully proud of their identity, obviously, I don’t believe this is an experience you should go through your entire life.
The reason I believe this part of my life is essential to highlight is that as a student learning where to start with finding a sense of belonging can be difficult. Finding your placement in an institution where you’re already adapting physically can be mentally draining, and you should start with what you know represents you. Finding organizations that you can join to immerse yourself in your identity is extremely important. Not only does joining organizations allow you to find a sense of belonging, but it can help bring out characteristics that you’ve been unfamiliar with before. Also, being able to see yourself in any position of a student union is a powerful declaration and can open up other doors for you. Especially if you’re a minority of any kind; I would consider joining organizations and clubs a necessity.
In my head, my imagination of the opportunities in colleges of representation was vast and infinite. As I’ve joined seven clubs, I can say I’m currently satisfied and feel supported. I’ve picked clubs that I believe represents parts of my identity or my future career.
Since I’ve joined organizations, I believe I’ve found my placement at Kennesaw State and know what I’m going to strive for in the improvement of the college itself.
I intend to start my own organization to accommodate and support first-generation students who are going into fields their families/themselves are unfamiliar with. The mission and vision of my organization would be to give resources and create a safe space for them to talk about their problems with people who understand.
If you do not think you’re being represented or have a place to belong to, create your own.
Constructing that space for yourselves and others similar to you can have an effect on numerous students including yourself.