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Being a Minority at a Primarily White College

It’s not great, no.

 

When I came to Miami, I had to swallow the fact that most of the people I would interact with would be white. About 70% of the students at this university are white. That’s a huge pill to swallow when you’re 100% Asian. Nevertheless, I managed to get that pill down and began observing and learning from the culture I encountered here. And let me just say, I’ve seen and experienced some things I never thought I would.

 

I grew up in an environment where diversity was prevalent. My classmates, my teammates, the general public I saw in my local mall and movie theater – they were white, black, Latino, Asian, every different race. I am lucky and grateful that I was exposed to different cultures, races, and ethnicities from a young age because now these characteristics don’t phase me. Embracing one’s own culture and the difference was always encouraged. What’s wild is that it’s increasingly obvious that many of the white students here at Miami were not raised with similar values. 

 

To be completely frank, a lot of the white students at my college act like they’ve never spoken to a minority in their life. And boy, is this ignorance both frustrating and concerning. Don’t believe me? Here are a few things that I’ve experienced so far at Miami:

 

I was the only Asian, and sometimes the only minority, in many of my classes. I’ve been asked several times if I’m an international student. On multiple occasions, people have assumed that I am Chinese. When I’m with my non-white friends, I get stares in bars, restaurants, fitness centers, etc.

 

Being a minority at a primarily white college is something I cannot escape. It happened. It’s happening. What I will say is that coming to Miami University and Ohio, in general, has broadened my understanding of race as it relates to education and society. It’s a negative type of culture that I’ve acknowledged the existence of. It’s also something that I am no longer afraid of.

 

It is so easy to assimilate. To want to hide in the back and silence myself in the midst of all of these white voices. But I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work for both parties. Blending in only made me feel that much more marginalized and inferior. And for the majority, blending only encouraged their racist behavior and bounded understanding of cultural differences. Now, I accept and embrace my position as a minority at my college. There are times that I still feel painfully outcasted (for example, the Corona Virus scare). But once I found people who, like me, felt alone as a minority, I thrived.

No matter what the demographics are at your school, you will always find someone similar to you. Whether that be in the multicultural organizations or down the hall, you will find them and together, validate each other’s feelings on this epidemic. Because it is an epidemic. How are we supposed to raise all kids to value a higher education when their identities aren’t represented in current university demographics?

Janelle Hart

Miami (OH) '21

Janelle is an English - Creative Writing and Media and Culture double major at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to college, she attended a small high school in her hometown of Freehold, NJ. She loves to write about today's culture and aspires to write future films.
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