By Krystin Williams
After Coates’ immaculate speech during the convocation, it made me reflect on my own life what I could possibly do to create change. As one of the few black students present at Lawrence University, I desire more diversity on campus and to be able to freely express myself as a young woman of color. After having to deal with many issues involving my race, I considered myself a part of the minority, a black fly amidst a sea of people who were not like me in appearance. How did race evolve from a definition into a belief in the mindsets of most individuals? As I think about where we went wrong, I think about my past experiences with racism.
I never realized that my hue was different from others when I was a child. I had a different mindset then: coloring books, runs to the candy store, and Sunday morning cartoons. At that young, innocent age, I assumed that this was what life was really about, and by just taking away nap time and adding hours of sleep deprivation with a few cups of coffee that this would be the basis of adulthood. I thought I would never deal with anything too serious as I grew older and became an adult. My mother made it seem so easy! It was not until the age of thirteen that I realized the effects of discrimination.
I was enrolled into summer camp and was excited to go. On the first day, I was asked by a girl in my camp group, “What are you mixed with?” I stood in front of her, young and confused, while my face grew hot with a new feeling I have never experienced. When she explained to me that I could not be fully black because of how I looked and the texture of my hair, I was appalled. I never thought too much of my race and my appearance when I was a child.
Of course, I was aware that not everyone looked like me and that a seemingly endless amount of ethnicities existed, but for some reason I did not believe that it was of any importance to acknowledge. It was at that moment when the veil of ignorance was stripped away from me and I realized that yes, I was one of the only black children who attended this camp.
I was alone. I was the outcast. I was the minority. I could not have explained my emotions about that situation in any better way. Although the camp ran over the duration of only a few weeks, the event seemed to rear its ugly head in my direction every now and then, but in different forms throughout my life.
When school started in the fall and I stepped foot in Appleton, I was not sure what to expect. While looking around at my new peers, I realized that I was yet again the minority. The familiar hot feeling took over my face and turned my cheeks into an almost tomato color. I was scared, and on the brink of giving up. I wound up going to Walgreens, but on the voyage there, I was yet again being judged. A man hollered at me out of his car screaming, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here!” I continued to walk. Was it absurd that this heinous activity was now considered normal for me?
The need for diversity, especially on college campuses, will diminish the amount of people such as myself from dealing with issues involving discrimination and racism. By having more speakers such as Coates deliver messages of the need for diversity, it will open the eyes of many who do not realize what blacks have endured for many years. Accepting members of different ethnicities and helping them to feel welcome will help increase the numbers of diversity on campus. It may not solve all of the deeply rooted issues, but it is a step in the right direction. I consider myself as a fly in a bowl of milk, desperately wanting to spread its wings, but assuming that eventually I would succumb and sink towards the bottom. As of today, I await and remain unmovable, unshaken by my surroundings and hopeful of change.