The Hardest Thing about University Life is Being Black

 

This week I’ve got a very special feature for you all.

 

Callen Chin-Anderson is a 19 year old Sociology undergraduate from Loughborough University, an aspiring teacher and also a blogger. He’s got some very intelligent and perceptive views – believe me.

 

So sit back and have a read of what he’s got to say below, you won’t be disappointed:

 

“University is a place that you can really find yourself. It’s the first time for most that they’re living away from home. It’s also rather worryingly the first time that some are cooking for themselves. You can decide on career options and pathways and you can really begin to find your way I the world.

 

For me, university has given me the opportunity to learn new things about myself all the time. One thing that hit me the hardest upon moving away from home was that I felt out of place more than ever. Having grown up in London, I’ve always been surrounded by diversity. My school and local area was made up of many different cultures. I was lucky enough to rarely be the only black person in a room or the only ethnic minority in the room. At university though, I was always the only black boy in the room. I’m the only black boy on my course and I’m one of a handful of black people on the course. With that has come the struggle of not fitting in. I made a conscious decision not to join cultural societies as I had worried that I might leave myself isolated and that I might end up only having black friends. We live and we learn. I do often wish that I had made more of an effort to join and to participate in cultural societies such as the ACS as they’re a constant reminder of my identity are a good way to hold on to that part of it.

 

They say that university changes you, and I was learning very quickly that being an ethnic minority was more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Being black was something I had almost taken for granted before university, a part of my identity that I overlooked. Being questioned on what it’s like being black by a room full of drunk white people at a social is when i felt more different than ever. My favourite question was ‘do you wish you were white?’, obviously said in jest but it was a question that highlighted a certain degree of smugness at his sense of privilege. The laughter highlighted everyone else’s smugness. People at university are smart enough to know that privilege exists and they are arrogant enough to show it off.

 

I was once told that it was racist that I typed in ‘black hair tutorials’ on YouTube. People not understanding the differences in the way my hair grows was innocent ignorance. It was a strange experience seen as usually people can’t help but notice the difference in the way my hair grows. It can become incredibly frustrating when people ask if they can just feel my hair or worse when people just go ahead and pet it as if I’m their dog or stroke it as if I’m their cat. I’m never sure whether to purr or to wag my tail.

 

That kind of ignorant comment is something you get used to; people are ignorant. People come to university from all around the country and over the past year I’ve been reminded that the whole country doesn’t look as multicultural and diverse as London, despite how diverse some worry that they’ve become. It was of no surprise to me that when delivering a session for the university’s think tank society on black history month that not only did some say that their schools had never celebrated black history month, but most importantly that everyone in the room conceded that racism at university was still a prominent issue. A girl at Warwick University receiving a banana with the N word written across it in her kitchen was a shock to many, but as so many highlighted in the aftermath, not to black people. Of course when you experience racism, even on a minor level, you’re more than aware of its existence. If you don’t live it, you may well be shocked to learn of its existence.

 

People often don’t mean to alienate you, but you can easily end up lost at university, especially if you’re a minority. Being lost might help you find yourself though. The idea that black is beautiful is something I taught myself amidst the feeling of exclusion. At university the ‘black society’ as it is labelled by some is place that celebrates African and Caribbean cultures. Their talent showcases which see a huge array of talent on display remind you when you need reminding that we can be proud of being black always. Such societies should be championed as being the social glue that holds universities together rather than being labelled by some as divisive and exclusive. At a time in our lives when we are finding ourselves it can be easy to end up lost. Let cultural societies and celebrations help to show you your way.”

 

A massive thank you to Callen for this article – be sure to share it, leave feedback and follow him on social media.

 

You can keep up with his blog posts at callenagainsttheworld.blogspot.co.uk.

 

Don’t forget that you can also volunteer to write on a topic of your choice for this blog – just contact me.

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