Being a minority at a PWI

By T’Niyah Ford

Protest march against bigotry and hate speech
Minority students on campus protesting for equal treatment

CHATTANOOGA, TN (Mocs News)– Being a minority at a predominantly white institution (PWI) can at times be somewhat fun because you will know all the other minorities on campus and make somewhat of a family. On the other hand, it can be somewhat difficult.

I love my UTC. I love everything that the school has to offer education wise, but as far as things go culturally and catering not only to the African American community, but the entire minority group, it’s lackluster.

According to Forbes, Caucasian students accounted for 71.6% of the student body during the 2017-2018 school year with the other seven demographics remaining making up the other 28.4%

My freshman year and first semester of my sophomore year had to be my hardest time at UTC. I suffered from depression and social anxiety. My social anxiety didn’t come into play until I would sit in the lecture halls. I felt like a gnat sitting in a cereal bowl of milk. Literally a speck. I wouldn’t participate in class discussions because I was afraid of how they would react. Will they laugh at me? Will they make side comments about my response? All those questions would run through my head, making me not want to participate at all in class.

I am not the only one who feels like this. Multiple minority students suffered with depression because they’re scared of the judgements that might come along with speaking out.

Taylor Ratliff, African American student at Rhodes College, explains how she felt on her campus at a PWI.

“Throughout my freshman year, I struggled with feelings of imposter syndrome. The lack of black and brown faces on campus already made me feel as though I was lucky to even set foot on its grounds. I felt as though I didn’t deserve my spot at Rhodes and that it was only given to me because of my African American heritage.”

Taylor Ratliff, Rhodes College

I know it feels like I’m talking down about being a minority at a PWI, but it also has it perks. I say that to say start your own club, join an organization. The best thing I could’ve ever did was join a sorority. Joining Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. You must find something that’s for you. I had to learn that college is what you make it!

"The World of Henry Billups: Jim Crow at the College of William and Mary" Exhibit
Showcasing of African American Greek life

After joining a NPHC sorority, so many opportunities came about for me that involved meeting other minorities on campus.

I’m saying this to all my fellow black and brown students, it will get better. Maybe it’s not your time to come out of your shell or maybe it is. Just know when you are, finding the right organizations, friends and resources make being a minority much more tangible and doable on campus.

About T'Niyah Ford

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