Conservative Christian girl, liberal arts college.

A. Jones
Selinsgrove, PA

Coming from a very small, rural town in Southern Pennsylvania, I was thrown into what seems to me like a melting pot when I came to Susquehanna University. If I had had any idea of what it meant to attend a “liberal arts” college when I was looking at schools as a high school senior, I may very well have looked the other way. Nonetheless, I think it is a good thing that this is where I ended up; it will prepare me well for life outside of Newville. In my small high school, we were all white, with the exception of 1 or 2 black students. And not rich-white either, if you are jumping to that conclusion. Most of us came from middle- to lower-class families, where the overall “median family income” is well below $50,000 a year. I have never considered myself racist, but I was certainly neglectful of the cultural differences. I was, and still am, influenced by the way society thinks of blacks, of Asians, of Hispanics. It’s human nature, I suppose, to assume the majority’s way of thinking. When I came to SU, I was willing to make friends across the racial lines, but I didn’t find that willingness in others. It struck me as odd that the students here seem to segregate themselves, naturally. The black kids stick together, and mostly only talk to other black kids. The Asians are always at the same cafeteria table. I was kind of surprised that it is this way. In my small town, we are certainly not diverse, but we are also not prejudice or racist, for the most part. When I came to college, I was taken aback by the way that students seem to stay within their own bubbles. I think that, with the societal influences and the way the media portrays things, people become very defensive and automatically want to defend their own race.

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3 Responses to "Conservative Christian girl, liberal arts college."
  1. Jenny Ruth says:

    Ms. Jones, I think you’d probably like the book “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. What you’re seeing is common. Its a byproduct of the stress we all experience when thrown into mixed groups. We need downtime to spend alongside people we consider to be like us. The cafeteria is very self-segregated and not just by race. It’s just that race is the most visible characteristic.

    I believe that you honestly want to learn about others and make friends who are not like you. Sometimes even little things stand in the way of that; things we don’t mean to come across poorly. For example, the word “black” is an adjective. It can be used to describe people. Black people. It is not in and of itself a term for a group. So if you say “I want to be friends with Blacks,” that comes across poorly, especially to the ears of those people you are talking about. Hopefully you’ll find people who see your good intentions. Perhaps a diversity course, something studying the psychology of race or something like that, would be helpful. Keeping up with acceptable language is kind of a never-ending process. I only learned what I know by putting myself into diverse environments (classes, workplaces) and listening to what the people around me called themselves or referred to each other as.

    College is a weird time. Everyone’s trying to figure themselves out. Don’t forget to cut people some slack, including yourself:)

    • Vincent Stoops says:

      Referring to the American population who are of dark skin tone as “black” is no more offensive than referring to the population with light skin tone as “white”.

      To refer to Americans who are black as African-Americans is put them in a position inferiority to those who would be referred to simply as Americans. They are not half American, their rights are not diluted as only partially those of an American, the term African does not even exclusively denote someone of dark skin tone. It does a disservice to rebuilding national race relations that have collapsed over the last few years, and it demeans POC as other than fully American.

      Encouraging young people to adopt intentionally belittling newspeak and attend reeducation courses continues a path of public policy that has been disastrous for higher education, community policy for POC, and is underpinned by closeted racism.

  2. Vincent Stoops says:

    I would encourage you to ignore the calls that you need to be trained on how to speak, what language and thoughts are acceptable, or how to engage a diverse group of people. You clearly understand how to be respectful of others’ identities and are seeking simply to expand your circle of friends. That is laudable and you should be proud to be so open and inviting. You titled yourself a Christian, and are indeed acting Christ-like in wanting to share your friendship with others.

    You are in college. A time where you should be exposing yourself to a constantly expanding repertoire of life experiences. Sharing who you are and what your background has to offer to the collection of ideas is just as important as gaining an understanding of the backgrounds of others. In order to celebrate our similarities AND differences within the many cultures of the United States, we need to be secure and proud of our own. You should not feel the need to hide who you are nor expect that of others, rather embracing what each of you can contribute to the human existence.

    The chow hall is always a difficult place for new members of a community. Where do I fit in? Who will allow me into their 6/8/10 person circle or should I build my own? Should I stay in my comfort zone or go beyond?

    Voluntary self association always works if we trust ourselves to be true to ourselves. Your interests, hobbies, pet peeves, and every other aspect that make up your personality are what others should want to share with you along with their meal. Skin color, as you astutely recognized, isn’t something that makes you a good person or a boring conversationalist. If you seek out those people who share your common interest, that also respect others blind to the color of their skin, and are just as open to new friends as you are…. I am quite certain you will find diverse lunch-tables.

    Continue to walk in the path of Christ, living your life in an open and inviting manner. Initial frustrations often result in fantastic outcomes if we follow the golden rule.


    p.s. You will be told that you need to learn new words to use or how to account for a privilege that never existed or benefited you if you are to “truly” willing to engage in diversity. That is malarkey. You do not need to regurgitate someone else’ dictated thinking any more than they need to share your views. Be weary of those who would demand that you use an “accepted” lexicon vs speaking freely. Telling you that you do not speak correctly is tantamount to telling you that you are “less-than” and “other”. You are not less-than simply because you do not use newspeak.

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