Being a Woman of Color in a Predominately White Institution & Sorority
There are so many words I could use to describe this experience, but the one word I will use is: challenging.
Navigating a new, foreign world that doesn’t have many people like you is a very difficult and trying experience.
As a college freshman, I left a very diverse high school, and essentially walked into a room that was full of people who looked nothing like me. Questions flew through my head: “Should I act a certain way?” “Does it matter that I’m black?” “Are they willing to accept a black girl?” In 2015, these were still very relevant questions.
After receiving my bid card and joining Alpha Xi Delta, I quickly came to find that everything was not going to be a breeze as I thought. I virtually had nothing in common with these ladies; I had completely different experiences, upbringings, and views on life. While trying to find who I was and who I wanted to become in college, I was assisted by the women within my chapter who were willing to hear my truths and understand the differences that we could not ignore. I feel I was a part of a new movement that sought to recruit women of all backgrounds and origins, not to fill a quota or focused on outward appearance; this new movement acknowledged these women mattered just as much as anyone. A place that gave these intelligent, brilliant women a place to call home, regardless of whether English was their first language.
After some very difficult times and moments where I did want to throw everything I had ever worked to accomplish at college away, I found myself as a beacon of hope and direction once I acknowledged the things that did, in fact, make us different. Conversations were prompted about our differences and our hardships, and by acknowledging them, we only made ourselves that much stronger. This is an area I will forever pride myself on because I helped push a narrative that echoed how okay it was to ask questions or be curious about uncharted waters.
I am thankful for my undergraduate sorority experience because it also helped me navigate the fraternity/sorority community. I was able to attend UIFI (the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute), be a part of numerous committees made up of other fraternity/sorority members at University of Nebraska at Omaha, and go on a week-long trip to Orlando, FL, with other inspiring men and women from different chapters to be at the service of others at Give Kids the World. Without these external experiences, I would not have had the undergraduate experience I did. I would not have made the connections or learned the lessons I did without branching out.
To anyone who comes across this and recognizes part of their own story in the first half of my piece: find someone who is willing to listen and validate your struggles.
It is totally okay to be frustrated, upset, and feel misunderstood, but the only person who can truly make or break your collegiate experience is you.
Find your people.
It may take some time, but they will come, and they will love and appreciate you in the way you deserve. Don’t be afraid to speak out. If you find yourself in a teaching or learning opportunity, take it. These become “ah-ha” moments later down the road and can have such a monumental impact on your development, even when you don’t realize it.
I pride myself in being a pioneer of starting tough conversations and speaking my truth no matter the fear I felt in my heart. I pride myself on being a woman of color and holding myself to the highest standard whenever possible. It was not always easy, but there is beauty in the struggle. In that struggle, I did not glamorize it, but instead use it as an opportunity to shift perspectives and break stereotypes.
For that, I will always be proud of myself, and forever grateful to those who allowed me to be my truest self.