Whelp, it’s official. My mission has finally begun, and I’ve somehow managed to move myself across the country with my psyche still intact. It’s been a week and a day since I’ve moved in, and I must say. So. Much. Has. Happened—so much that I’m overwhelmed with the several possible routes this post could take. However, I think I’ll start off simple, and just deal with something ever-associated with Iowa.
Rewind back to the days of my college application crucible, and I was busy considering places such as University of Texas at Austin or the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, but ever so quickly a sleeper arose—the University of Iowa—and after it quickly scaled the top of my list of priorities (practically stepping over all other college options and letting them fall to their deaths) I decided that Iowa City was most certainly the place for me—or was it? At least that’s the question that arose in my mind when I would tell people where I would be spending the next four (and then possibly two or three more) years of my life.
“You know, there’s a lot of corn in Iowa.”
Yes, I do know—except over the course of my entire thirteen hour drive to and through Iowa to Iowa City, not once did I lay eyes on a single strand of apparently quite secretive corn. I was initially under the impression that all Iowans were corn-fed, thanks to the lovely southern-prejudices I was instilled with, but now that I’m here I’m questioning what it is they do eat if not corn.
“You know, it gets really cold up there in Iowa.”
Yes, I do know. I just assumed that the closer to the North Pole I moved, the colder winter would be. I actually managed to escape the one hundred degree weather of the south, and I can most certainly attest to the fact that is indeed colder here. In fact, I don’t feel my skin is in danger of becoming some shade of charcoal.
“You know, there’s a lot of white people in Iowa. How do you feel about that?”
Well I… To be quite honest, I thought I knew how I felt about being a minority in a time when apparently minority is synonymous with inferiority, “ratchetness”, whiner, and inadequacy, and I must say that for the longest time I dealt with it quite well. In all honesty, I’ve never been a typical black boy. Scratch that, I’ve never been the type of black boy they show on television since nothing is really typical—only common. I’m not in a gang nor have I ever shot a gun, and I am most certainly a proponent of good grammar, and with these things in mind, I’ve never truly felt my skin.
Even my high school, one of the biggest in the state of Texas (where everything’s bigger), was pretty diverse—or at least I thought so. Maybe it’s because intelligence knows no bounds and in all of my advanced placement classes there were a variety of people of all shades.
(Go figure.) But when I think about it, I was always one of two or maybe even (Lord be willing) three black people in an honors class. But even then, I never really and truly thought about it… until I came to a PWI.
Predominantly White Institution.
While my high school had its unfair share of W.A.S.P.s (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants) the University of Iowa seems to have had that entire population squared. Everywhere I go, I am a fly in milk. I have no real qualms with this fact (trust me this is not an attack on the white populace but statement of fact), but when you’re the only person of color walking down a street (trust me I looked both ways) it’s pretty hard not to notice.
The real discrepancy comes, however, when I interact with people that don’t look like me—specifically on the lighter side of the spectrum. A white girl can make a joke, and it gets a few giggles. But I simply add on to it, and I’m all of a sudden on stage in a Neil Simon comedy with a full house of bleached hyenas. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe I’m just really funny. Well, maybe I am, but it gets pretty old, even after a week, when all people do is laugh at something you said and not bother to ask you your name.
Before I continue however, this is not me complaining, whining, crying, protesting, criticizing, passing judgment, fault-finding, accusing, addressing a grievance, or anything of that nature. I love people, and the last time I checked that includes the white variety. In fact, the majority of my greatest mentors have been, in fact, Caucasian.
However, I have been told that some students on this campus have quite literally never seen a black person before. And that’s okay—especially with me.
You’ve never seen a black person before? Okay, awesome, let me show you that (fun fact) we’re not that different from you. I may not rap or run track or be here on an athletic scholarship or even like Tyler Perry films that much, but I still love Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj and I’ll still take a class to learn the Japanese language because that’s just who I am, and contrary to (unfortunate) popular belief my skin is what I am not who I am.
*SIMULTANEOUS WORLD-WIDE GASPING*
So yes, there are a lot of white people up here, and how do I feel about it? I do not. There may be facts (i.e. I’m black and they’re white) but that doesn’t mean it’s affecting my college experience in a negative way. There are plenty of flies floating around in this milk, believe me. However, if I had to select a single metaphor to sum up the racial dynamics at this school, I would simply say some of us are chocolate milk and some of us are white milk. But the last time I checked:
Chocolate milk may be a little different (sweet, too sweet, etcetera), but at the end of the day—
It’s still milk.