Natalie O’Neal: ‘I’m exhausted’

Uncomfortable, enlightening and confusing are all words that describe what it feels like to be a Black woman at SDSU. 

I was taught all my life to achieve a level of unattainable perfection in everything I do and to act a certain way because I am a Black woman. It was instilled in me that I needed to work much harder than everyone else to get, at least, somewhere in life. 

My parents and community wanted me to go to a historically Black college or university — also known as an HBCU — so that I could be surrounded by Black excellence and to truly be in touch with my community. However, in hopes of having a more diverse experience in college, I chose to attend SDSU, a predominantly white institution— also known as a PWI— instead. 

However, I wouldn’t say I’ve received a diverse experience at SDSU either. 

By attending SDSU, I ultimately wanted to make a statement and prove to my friends and family that different people from different backgrounds could comfortably get along but I quickly found that this was not the case. 

I was in awe and felt a strong sense of home when I first laid eyes on SDSU’s campus but in looking beyond the palm trees and the elaborate Spanish architecture, I was not so impressed. 

I worked hard to get to this point in my academic career but there was still a constant thought in my mind that SDSU chose to admit me to meet their 4% Black student population demographic they like to maintain as opposed to my academic achievements. 

I will always wonder that when my white counterparts sometimes do not know or care what a commuter student is as they are consumed with everything going on in their own world. This is just one of the many examples I have noticed when it comes to the difference between Black and non-Black students and their social awareness and regard for others. 

I will always wonder when I go to class and see nothing but a sea of white students, why people think I am so lucky to have gotten into this school. 

The bottom line is this: I feel uncomfortable here.

I am not the kind of Black girl that fits into the group of 35-50 people that make up the Black community at SDSU nor am I the Black girl who is “white enough” fill the space of the “only Black girl” in white spaces, Asian spaces and Hispanic spaces. 

I wonder where I fit in as a Black woman at SDSU. 

I came here because many of us love to want to proclaim the notion and experience of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable but what I realize is that saying is subjective. It means something different for me as a Black woman than it does to my white, Hispanic and Asian peers. 

For most students, this means being comfortable with attending club meetings and Aztec Nights alone or talking to your professor after class in hopes they will remember you. 

For me, this means being comfortable with the fact that I will be judged in most spaces simply because I am a Black woman. 

People gawk at my skin, desire to touch my hair and plead to have a pass into my culture but how can I find comfort in being judged based on the color my skin on a campus that promotes diversity as one of its core values and visions?

As a Black woman, I have yet to see SDSU create any change when it comes to racial issues and I refuse to stay and spend my money at an institution that claims to pride themselves on meeting the needs of its students, but sends out sorry apology notices when racist incidents occur. 

I refuse to stay in a space where I am ignored, undervalued and disrespected but I am counting on SDSU’s capability to bring forth change on its campus for the betterment of Black students. 

SDSU can do more than just release a statement when a racist incident occurs or when discrimination happens in spaces on campus and is reported. They should do more than that. 

They have a responsibility to do more than that. 

I, a Black woman, need more than that. 

If SDSU truly has and maintains the best interest of their students in mind, I want to see change happen now. 

We won’t wait any longer. 

 

Natalie O’Neal is a sophomore studying finance.

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