Being Black on Campus

I quickly noticed the disproportionate diversity on campus my first time at UTM. During Clubs Week in my first-year, I noticed a slew of clubs set up in the CCT hallway tailored towards different ethnic groups and different interests. I didn’t relate to what I was seeing, I couldn’t speak their language and already felt that I wasn’t smart enough to attend the school that I had worked so hard to get into. Beside some signs with Cantonese and Mandarin characters were students of Asian descent but I knew better than to ask what the sign said. It seemed like the old saying often used in shopping; “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”  I had to ask the name of the club, so I didn’t belong. My feeling of not belonging was reinforced when I tried to take a chocolate from a different table and was told, “members only.”

Clubs Week felt like the scene in Mean Girls when Cady first enters the cafeteria and pictures the students as jungle animals that stick to their own kind. Everyone seemed to gravitate toward one club and that club sometimes stereotypically defined their identity. As a shy writer, whose main interests were writing poems and listening to rap and soca music, I couldn’t find much in common in any of the popular clubs on campus. But then a week later, I saw the bright gold, black and green colours of the Jamaican flag displayed on one of the tables. I rushed over and was eagerly greeted by the former dark-skinned president who told me that they were called, Caribbean Connections. For the first time in my two weeks on campus, I felt right at home.

Joining Caribbean Connections was the next natural thing to do. I tried to attend a lot of the events during the year, but quickly realized that I wouldn’t have time to because of my course load. Again, I felt alienated on campus not necessarily because of my race, but because I didn’t see the people that I knew most.

As the year went on, I made more friends in my classes that were people of races other than my own. But, after three years at UTM, my closest friend from school is also Black. I am not sure why I continue to gravitate to other Black people on campus, whether in class or in clubs, but it has become somewhat of a habit for me to sit beside the other Black girl in class (when there is one). Maybe it’s because she reminds me of myself, maybe because I can see myself in her, or maybe because there are few of us on campus so I feel like we have an unspoken duty of sticking together. Maybe, because I think she may feel as alienated as I did during Clubs Week.