‘Black Sheep’ - Being the only person of your race in a Uni lecture.
Growing up in a multicultural area of London seeing different shades and faces, and hearing the blend of English and other languages, was never really weird to me. Even within all the diversity, seeing someone who looked like me had never been difficult. When I moved to my Uni town, I didn't really think about race. Yes, I was moving to a small town in Wales, but it didn’t really register what it would mean. Imagine going from being in a herd of black sheep to being the only black one in a crowd of white sheep. Well, that's what happened when I went to my first lecture and saw only a handful of people of colour. Of those that I saw, only one or two looked like me, and for the first time in a long time, I became conscious of my race.
Back at home, race had been a touchy subject for me as it had always seemed to be a contest of who could be ‘blacker’. Here I was free from those worries, but now I felt more aware of myself. Yes Aberystwyth has a black community, and on campus, there are even societies dedicated to particular ethnicities, languages and cultures, but in my classes it was different. Now I’m not saying that I'm conscious of this every time I go to something course related, but every so often it's brought to my attention. One of the times is when black history is brought up. It gets a little awkward when the lecturer says something controversial or revisits something particularly painful about the past, and you find yourself making eye contact with them. I don't think this is on purpose, but when I look around the room, and I’m the only one, or one of two in the lecture, it feels slightly weird. A positive aspect of being one of only a few of your race is that you have to feel comfortable with yourself about it. What I mean by this is that you have no time to be worrying about ‘fitting in’ to your racial group and the issues that come with that. You can only be you, and there aren't external pressures to be anything else.
Aberystwyth is a lovely town with a homely feel, and in the end, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to study here. Sometimes, I do worry about the job opportunities for a black woman like me as even in lectures it's clear that there's a lack of representation in the curriculum (unless you take a post-colonialism module of course). Sometimes I do feel a little ‘different’ being in lectures, but at the end of the day, the one thing we all have in common is that we are human. I will not deny that when I see another black or person of colour in town or lectures, I do give a little smile to myself. I guess we all seek a sense of belonging and want to fit in, whether it means physically, mentally, or spiritually.
What are your thoughts and experiences on this?
-Image from Unsplash taken by Anne Zwagers.