Being Black in a White Space
Hi. I’m Areiana Edwards. If you haven’t already seen my picture on the Because Arcadia website, I’ll let you know now that my skin is brown. I am Black, African American, born and raised in Miami until my family and I moved from Florida to Georgia. My mother is from Jamaica, and my father is from New York. They’re Black, too, and who I get my melanin from.
When choosing to attend Arcadia, I figured it was a Predominantly White Institution, or PWI—and I was right. So, when I started my first semester, I wasn’t that surprised to not see many Black students in my classes. It was a new environment from what I’m used to. For most of my schooling, I was at schools where most of the students were Black. I was surrounded by Black culture constantly. A lot of my friends and classmates were children of immigrants, with their parents coming from places like Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Now that I’m at a school where most of the students are white, it’s been a bit of a change for me.
One thing about being at a PWI is that I have to temporarily quiet parts of myself that would make me stick out. When talking in classes or to professors, I have to code switch. Instead of using African American Vernacular English (AAVE), I speak using “standard English.” I’m pretty used to this, though. I always had to adjust my voice based on the people that I was around. If I was around other people of color, or POC, I would feel more comfortable using AAVE. If I was with people I was unfamiliar with, I would adjust and not show much of my personality.
Though Arcadia’s environment is a bit lacking of POC, my experiences so far have been positive. When meeting my professors or classmates, people don’t seem to have an adverse reaction after seeing my skin color or my hair. The school is also currently working on anti-racist initiatives. Knowing that an effort is being made makes me feel a bit better. It’s going to be interesting to see how effective the initiatives are.
So far, though, the main thing bothering me is the lack of Black staff at Arcadia. For example, our Counseling Services is not diverse. Though this is part of the anti-racist initiatives, it is discouraging because I don’t think that there’s anyone there who I would be able to relate to.
Overall, Arcadia has a lot of work to do to support its Black community. I joined the Black Awareness Society in hopes of finding other students like me, but since there has been low turnout to the meetings, I haven’t found many. Going forward, I hope to see an increase in the Black presence at Arcadia. I want to be able to see more Black students in my classes and meet more Black staff who work at the school. Hopefully, one day, my dreams will come to fruition.