Race plays a part in identity on campus

At a party during my first semester freshman year, I poured beer on a fraternity brother’s head because I thought he had called me a “sandnigger.” This resulted in a huge shoving match between a group of my friends, many of whom were white, and a number of the fraternity brothers, which was resolved the following day over sober apologies and warm smiles.

The following semester, a reasonably attractive girl whom I had never met before approached me at a party and explained to me how “exotic” I was. She asked me, “What are you?” when I told her she assured me that that part about me was really cool.

Before I continue any further, I want to say that I am not writing to say that I feel oppressed or to complain of any looming racial issue at Allegheny but, rather just to give my perspective of the significance of race on this campus.

Until I came to Allegheny, I had never heard the terms “sandnigger” or “exotic” in a racial context, I had been called all sorts of other things so I did not brood too heavily. I did, however, become aware of my race.

I have never been embarrassed of my culture or ethnicity, nor have I ever taken insults too personally, but I learned from these alcohol-fueled instances that people notice my race. It figured into an initial calculation of my social character. It’s only natural for people to notice different races.

Since last year, as a result of my race I have often been invited to participate in “diversity initiatives.” I have been grouped with all of the “diverse” or underrepresented students to — well, I’m not exactly sure, just help with diversity issues. I have been told that participating in these initiatives is a part of my responsibility as a diverse student and I have, often reluctantly, done so.

My responsibility to participate in these initiatives is a social obligation resulting from my race at this school.  My race, I have learned, is something that affects not only my social image but also my social obligations, and therefore, my social life. I am not sure if it impacts my social life for better or for worse, but I know that it does. I know that at Allegheny College my race is a socially significant part of who I am as a student.