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A Different World: Why My Predominantly White College Wasn’t Right for Me

“The blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” —Thomas Jefferson

It is with this philosophy that the University of Virginia came to fruition in 1819. It was literally on the backs of enslaved blacks that this university was made.

I was first attracted to UVA because of its academic ranking. The idea of having an opportunity to attend such a highly ranked university made me feel as though I was doing it for my family and friends who didn’t have the option to attend a university like this. However, being a black student at a predominantly white institution has presented many challenges for me, both socially and academically.

For example, I am a black-studies major, but I am often the only black student in my black-studies discussion classes. It is to be expected that students of color would be a minority in classes—I understood that would happen, since I decided to go to a PWI. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling isolated when I speak up in my black-studies class and get pushback from other students for whom the black experience is just theory and not a reality.

I have experienced many racially charged incidents on campus. Last winter a white next-door neighbor felt entitled enough to cut off our heat from the power box outside. When I confronted him, he initially denied it, but his denial quickly turned into aggression toward me. The next morning, my roommate overheard him attempting to file a police report against me but be unable to do so because he did not know my name.

 

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