September 21, 2019

Who Wants a Grape Soda?

Ashley Westbrook is a junior journalism major and a staff writer for The Journal

So, one thing that I cannot deny is that I’m black. When I fill out applications, I click or check the black or African-American box to let whoever is looking at my application know that I’m a minority. I’m a minority in any situation I’m in. That includes attending Webster University.
I consider Webster a liberal school. Just walking to class I can tell everyone here is comfortable in their own skin and this school acknowledges their creativity. I notice how many students on this campus look like me and, although I can’t count it on my hands, I know the number is low. I mean, three black students in one class (including me) makes me realize that three is a magic number and one is the loneliest number.
When I’m the only person in class that has a dark skin color, I stick out. I sit in the front of class and I answer as many questions as the professor throws out because that’s my style. And if I’m passionate about a subject, watch out. More than likely my voice is elevated and I won’t back down. Now I’m an angry aggressive black student in class, and that stereotype is known nationwide. However, noting will keep me from being that person.
Now, I will focus on a subject that some people might think is odd: you know, being the “black reference” in class. I’ve had conversation with other black students on this campus and we’ve shared the same experiences. Whenever a “black” subject in class is talked about, everyone will slowly turn their heads toward the lone black student, expecting magical insight.
I heard a story about a professor asking the class about what the NAACP stood for and, slowly but surely, everyone’s bodies and heads shifted toward the student whose skin color is located in the acronym.
I’ve even had situations involving professors staring me down when talking about issues in the black community, checking to be sure everything is correct. If I would have frowned, snorted or even coughed, they would’ve stopped and asked me to explain further. Even using certain phrases has caused a class to be mystified.
One time in class I remember someone talking about food and I said, “Ah! I agree, that is so firre!” No, the two r’s in the word is not a misspelling. I mean firre. In this case, firre can replace hot, sexy or delicious.
There also seems to be the silent treatment in class when a black discussion is taking place. During Black History Month, you can hear a mouse run through a classroom if the professor is talking about Civil Rights marches, Martin Luther King or slavery. It seems as if my voice is the official spokesperson in the classroom whenever someone speaks about inner city public schools. When topics arise that have nothing to do with me, like being a Republican or attending church, I freely give my opinion without a second thought. If it’s something I don’t understand, I force myself to understand it. There are some situations I do know because of my skin color, and there are other things I know because of life.
Maybe being uncomfortable about the topic is what makes the entire subject shaky ground.
I’ve told several professors that when they refer to people of darker skin as black and not African-American, that means they are comfortable with my skin color. “African-American” is such a politically correct term it mentally makes me cringe when I hear it in class.
My friends and I joke about Black History Month because it allows us to be a little bit more risky than normal during the month of February. I can be a little louder when walking to class and loiter around campus if I feel like it because all I’d have to say is “MLK” and people won’t question me. Now that March has approached, the free admission pass is over and things will return back to normal.
Without this, I can go back to being at Webster during regular hours which is fine.
I just have to remember to keep my clique of black friends at a certain level of loudness and remember to throw diversity in our crowd whenever we hang.  Too many of us and it could be considered a march.
Attending class at Webster is a fun and exciting experience and I cannot wait to receive my degree in December 2011. After taking ethics, sociology and diversity classes, I make sure to use my skills whenever possible.
I use them whenever I look for diversity in advertisements when there are one or two minority students in the background with a bright smile.

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