I come from a big city.
Tall skyscraper buildings no matter where you are in the five boroughs. The buildings are close together and you can see the same types of shops on the same street. The smell of the street carts and their different foods fill the air as you walk. The people rush fast wherever they are going; the only person who truly knows their destination are themselves and their feet.
The homeless fill the subway stations, using their talents to provide some sort of income. Some sing, some dance, some draw, but some just ride to the next stop and that’s okay too.
All shades, sizes, cultural backgrounds, and races. No matter the difference, we all know the “unspoken” rules of the city.
These rules did not work here in New Hampshire. In a way, it really pissed me off because I thought I had everything down pat. I did little to no research on the state I would be coming to for college. My ignorance was bliss, I believed every city would be like New York City in some form. At least just a little. I have realized nothing compares to the New York City experience, for me at least.
Things were hard for me to adjust to my first semester at New England College.
All food places close at 10 pm, so if you’re hungry you just think about it until you fall asleep.
“Breakfast at Gilly’s opens at 6am.”
There are animals. Wild and untamed roaming the land.
There is no variety of stores. There is no Caribbean restaurant where you’ll get your jerk chicken, pepper shrimp, rice and peas, and there isn’t any “flavor” unless you add it yourself. Sonny’s, Gin Gin’s, and Western Ave, those are your only real options unless you want to drive 30 mins and then wait for something else to be made. That was a hard reality to get used to.
New England College is ranked #2 out of 15 schools in New Hampshire for diversity but in a state where African Americans only make up 1% of the population, this number may seem like a lot but it still feels like a little. It still feels like you’re an outside when you walk into class and are one out of the three African American people sitting there, if any at all.
It is a sad reality when you must explain the things that resonate with you to others because they do not face the same struggles or realities. Their privilege reflects a power that you will never have the experience to possess. As a Person of Color in a classroom race, slavery, police brutality, and social privilege is never a good topic. You never leave the room with ease. You never leave the room feeling like everyone knows your pain. Still, it’s a pill that you must swallow, leaving more discussion for another day, because maybe one day they will understand you.
It is aggravating how many times you don’t stand up for yourself simply because you don’t want to be that “Angry Black Girl” or “Typical Hood Dude” in the room and add to the stereotype but some things just winds up all of your gears.
Mentally, it’s straining. You try so hard to fit in but because of your appearance you often lose sense of yourself while going through the motions. You forget how to be true to you, because for the moment you just no longer want to be the “Black Mascot” for others and be who you are without any hesitation or second thought.
If I counted how many times people combated their interior racism with “I have a black friend” or “I like black people, don’t get me wrong they’re just too abrasive,” I’d be a millionaire by now. It feels like an insult and while being here I’ve heard it one too many times.
But that’s a topic I’ll save for next week’s edition.