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Black Girl, White Campus
Samantha Brown
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By Samantha Brown

For my entire childhood, most of my friends were either black or Hispanic. When I did have white and Asian friends, during my senior year in high school, I thought it was cool. I felt more conscious of race when I was talking to them, but I still felt free to say how I felt, and I was not afraid to act ghetto.

When I arrived at the University of Michigan, where most people are white, I was intrigued. I was conscious of my race, but I also felt comfortable. During the first week of the school year, the sororities and fraternities were having parties all around campus. One night I went with three girls from my dorm.

At first I was hesitant to go because I remembered all the warnings I had heard about people getting drunk and raped, becoming alcoholics and drug addicts, or just flunking out of school. My sister in particular had always warned me to be careful, but after thinking for a while, I said, “The hell with my sister,” and went anyway.

At the sorority parties, I began to notice that there were hardly any minorities. People were drinking and laughing, and I saw the two white friends I had come with joining in. No one danced. They just drank beer and smoked weed. All the girls looked the same—dressed up in tight black dresses and hooker boots. I felt nervous. And I could tell that my friend Rae, who’s also black, was nervous, too, because she kept holding on to my windbreaker. After the party, I was determined to find more black people.

Rethinking Affirmative Action

I had been against affirmative action before I came to college. But once I came here and saw how white the campus was, I changed my mind. It made me angry that many of my white friends did not agree with affirmative action. I thought they were not in touch with the real world.

For instance, one of my friends said that there was equality in education between blacks and whites, and that it was all about working hard and getting the grades. I told her that she had never gone without textbooks because of government cutbacks, and never had to sit in a classroom with 40 students because there were hardly any teachers.

It was also frustrating to me that there were not that many cute black guys whom I could just chill with, and that I didn’t hear any hip-hop music in the dorms. After a while, I made more black friends. I still have some white friends, and I’m especially close with my roommate, who’s great. She listens to all of my complaints and is very understanding. She has even got me to listen—and like—some country music. But for the most part, I am better able to identify with my black friends, and, because there are so few of us, I think we need to stick together.

Reprinted from the November 1998 issue of NYC.

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