I grew up in a very small town. All the members of the town were White and Catholic. If they weren’t Catholic, they lived in the next town over, but they were still White. As a child I probably would have had to travel thirty miles in any direction to see someone who was of a different race than myself. For this reason, any realization I had that other races are different from me, and that plays a role in how I think, was quite delayed.
The first time I made this sort of realization was probably in my first semester at college. Anytime before that, I would have been under the protection of my parents whenever I was around a diverse group of people. With my parents, any noted differences in the people around me were not accompanied by any sense of fear of those differences. In college, then, the situation changed and I was responsible for myself.
I started at Temple University, which loves to claim that it has one of the most diverse campuses of anywhere you can go. During the first weeks, I can remember looking around and feeling smaller than I ever have. I was the minority for once, and I was uncomfortable with that. I didn’t understand my feelings. I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me, or why I should really even notice. I had been brought up to think that everyone was created equal. I learned about the evils of racism every year in school. Temple had told me how diverse they were in almost every piece of mail I got from them. Still, it took me a while to get used to.
I feel bad that I felt entitled to be a majority or something. I cannot think of a single instance growing up where I was encouraged to feel superior, so why should I feel unsafe or even slightly threatened when I am surrounded by others who are of a different race? Why is race the first thing I notice when meeting new people? I would like to blame it on my sheltered upbringing; claim that anyone would feel the same when thrown into an environment so entirely