Although black students on the campuses of PWIs across the country have our own individual experiences, there are still vast similarities between our experiences attending college with majority white students, faculty and staff. Some of them, we were able to befriend and entrust, but not without having firsthand encounters with many factors of our cultural differences.
Most times, white students, faculty and staff make assumptions about us based on how we look (i.e. sporting dreadlocks equated to smoking marijuana, or you must be a heavy hip-hop fan because you're black). However, often times, they question out of curiosity.
Here are seven of the many questions black students get asked at PWIs.
1. "Can I say the N-word?"Photo: Giphy
Context: Jumping right out the window with this one. My policy is simple: no. While you may have grown up with black neighbors, best friends or loved ones, that does not mean you and I have a tight enough bond for that to be okay. Even then, my closest white friends also know that isn't okay either. Understand that the historical context of the phrase still resonates because racism itself is still prevalent today. Yes, I can say it. Yes, I will say it. Reclaiming the word is an exemplary form of protesting the hate it began with. You will be just fine and we can still be friends without you calling me your...N-word.
2. "Can I touch your hair?"Photo: Giphy
Context: It may be hard to see the offense in this, but it's quite easy to turn a black person off by asking to touch their hair. In my opinion, it is at least a sign of courtesy to ask. However, there is no way to circumvent the awkwardness of feeling like a sideshow attraction. So please refrain from asking altogether.
3. "Has anyone ever told you that you look just like 'insert black celebrity here'?"Photo: VH1
Context: This question is usually based off one or two half-assessed commonalities between you and said black celebrity. For example, my doppelgänger, according to the amount of times I've been asked this question, is Lil Wayne. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing we share in likenesses are brown skin and dreadlocks. So no. No one has ever told me. And I'm very tired of you asking me.
4. "Is it true what they say about black guys?"Photo: NBC
Context: Yup. This has happened to many of us before. Nope. It is never appropriate.
5. "Why are you always so angry?"Photo: Giphy
Context: Granted, while things do make us angry, let's not limit anger to blackness. In addition to this, from my own experience, half of the time our emotions are misunderstood. Anger is one of the quickest labels to attach to black frustration, hurt or even sadness.
6. "What are you?"Photo: Reach to Earn
Context: Black people come in various shades with various builds, features and hair textures. We also come from different parts of the world and may speak different languages. Sometimes it's hard to tell a person's racial/ethnic background from looks, but the worst way to inquire is by asking, "What are you?"
7. "You don't listen to 'insert black music artist here'?"Photo: Odyssey
Context: Black people don't all have the same taste in music. It's bewildering to some that I listen to country or rock & roll, as well as hip-hop and R&B. Our tastes in music, quite like ourselves, are quite broad from a larger scope. So please don't look at me funny when I say I listen to Faith Hill. I like what I like.
What are some questions you've been asked about your race that might've caught you by surprise? Let us know in the comments!