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What It’s Like Being a POC at George Mason

As the holidays are approaching, my anxiety is starting to rise as I prepare to be bombarded by questions from family about my personal and college life.

“How’s school going?”

“What do your grades look like?”

“Do you have a boyfriend yet?”

It’s the same types of questions every year, just from different family members. And boy, when I say I want to tell them honest truth, I reframe each time. However, there’s one specific question that is always asked every year that keeps the conversation going at the dinner table:

“What’s it like to be black at Mason?”

Mason is one of the most diverse schools in the country, but it’s still more than 40% white. Especially after Trump was elected, my family constantly badgered me with questions on-end about the racial atmosphere of Mason. They feared that I would be discriminated against or that I would be treated less because I’m a person of color (POC), but that was not the case at all.

As a black woman studying at one of the top research institutions in the state and nation, I feel empowered to be surrounded with peers who aren’t the same color as me. It shined a brighter light on diversity that I had never seen before.

I went to a high school that had a fair share of black and white students. However, the same races usually flocked together. It was in my honors classes that I found friends who were of a different race or ethnicity. I loved how my personality would appeal to my friends and how we got along so well.

When it got time to apply to college I noticed that I naturally applied to schools that represented the diversity I felt in my honors classes, even though Howard University, which is a Historically Black College (HBCU), was my first choice school. My friends on the other hand, chose schools that appealed to their racial backgrounds, such as HBCUs, because they felt it would be better for them culturally.

I thought differently.

When I came to Mason, I saw how mixed the atmosphere was. I met people at Spring Preview from countries I had never heard of before. I loved how everyone seemed to get along and shared that same one love for Mason that I had yet to feel. It was the diversity that made me choose Mason over all of the other schools I applied to, because I wanted to experience the many cultures it had to offer.

Via George Mason’s Department of Creative Services, Multimedia, and Photography

Now that I’m here, I can say that I’ve gotten that experience. My friends come from all ethnicities who experience and are aware of the struggles of being a POC not only within the university, but in America. Here, it feels like I’ve been introduced to another world outside of Richmond die to the mass amount of diversity at Mason and surrounding the areas.

I’m involved with clubs such as Black Student Alliance (BSA) who have a mixed membership of people who are not only African American. Working for the Office of Student Involvement, I interact with students on a daily basis who run ethnic-based clubs on campus and are very open to having members who are outside of their ethnicity or race so that they can also experience their culture and traditions.

Via George Mason’s Department of Creative Services, Multimedia, and Photography

To me, the students here at Mason make everyone feel included no matter what the color of our skins are or where we come from. I’m not ashamed at all to be a black student going to Mason because at the end of the day, I’m still a Patriot and I love the school I attend. There’s no other school I honestly would rather be at.

 

Bri Hayes

George Mason University '20

Brianna "Bri" Hayes is a Community Health, pre-nursing student from Richmond, Virginia studying at George Mason University with a strong passion for editorial and journalistic writing. Brianna spent her whole high school career studying communications and media relations under a broad spectrum, including experience in journalism, public relations and marketing, videography, film and production, graphic design, and photography. At Mason, she’s the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and a member of various organizations including the Omicron Iota Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Patriot Activities Council, the Akoma Circle Mentoring Group, and Student Involvement. In her spare time, Brianna likes to read and explore new places and things. After graduation, she hopes to fulfill a career in nursing and public health.
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