To be a Black girl at a predominantly white institution is a to be locked in a constant struggle to find balance. I must not be too loud nor too sassy nor too intimidating. And most importantly, I must remain unfazed by the ignorance in the world. I must pretend to be okay in order to be the strong black girl that everyone expects me to be. But the truth is, I can’t be that girl.
I can’t be resilient when people are preaching and practicing white supremacy, or freely waving Confederate flags claiming it’s not racist. I can’t be that girl when I see my friends and family members live in constant fear of being deported. It’s so hard to be that girl, and it gets harder everyday.
But at the end of each summer, I must strive to be that girl once again. I must return to Andover’s campus to exist in a place where I feel that people that look at me and my friends as if we’re less. I, like many underrepresented students of color, am anxious when I return to school and must begin to prepare to carry the burden of being ourselves. Whether it be as the only underrepresented person of color in our classes, the only one speaking on behalf of our entire minority group, or the only ones who are heavily impacted by ignorance and prejudiced thoughts and actions. Not only is it draining, but it is often isolating and causes some of us to feel invisible.
In the past three months, numerous horrid and life-changing events have taken place in the country and around the world. The violence in Charlottesville, the recent rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, as well as the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have caused students like me to fear the campus environment. Many of us fear how the recent events, coupled with the ideology of our current POTUS, might encourage people on our campus to normalize hate speech and violence. The question of safety becomes more pressing as hatred grows in our society.
While I am certainly not immune to these fears, I encourage underrepresented students of color new and returning to start the school year confidently. Demand the equity and inclusion the school promises because Andover is our home as well. It is important that we as a community remember that we have faculty of color in classrooms and the counseling center who understand what it means to be a student of color struggling and other students in our same position.
Although sometimes it feels like strides by people of color and other minority groups are being undone, we must continue to uphold the legacy of those that came before us. It is important that underrepresented Juniors and Lowers of color are aware that while Community and Multicultural Development Office (CAMD) is simply a building connected to Morse. CAMD is a safe place for many — a place where we can feel at home, a place that can become their home, too. I encourage them to come to meetings for the Afro-Latino-American Society or Alianza Latina or just go to CAMD to feel loved and share laughs with people who will look at you and love every inch of you. Additionally, the older students of color must look out for the younger students of color. For many of the students of color, we are each other’s support systems and families. That is how you make it at Andover.
Most importantly, the administration must reach out and hear the concerns of underrepresented students of color. Now, more than ever, Andover must take a stand for students of color on its campus and uphold its values of equity and inclusion. Tasks such as hosting regular check-in meetings to ensure the safety and support of underrepresented students of color would have be incredibly impactful.
My hope is that soon underrepresented students of color can come to campus at the end of every break free of worry. We will walk around campus feeling safe. We will feel at home. Just remember that you are not alone in this, and if we all share our voices and speak louder, we will finally be heard. I ask that you don’t give up and continue to be proud of who you are, and allow yourself to explore who you are meant to be. Andover is a tricky place as it is, but you must always remember that you are not alone and there are people that look like you and me cheering you on, fighting for you, and here for you.