Hey, it’s me! Claire. Or Ashley. Or Jenna. Or, maybe Erica. Whatever the head honchos at your school felt was appropriate, meaning any name that didn’t end in -dra or -isha, because that would have been overt and administrators over at Virtually All-White University pander to no one.
There I am on Page 1, standing in front of your school’s Speech and Hearing Center because I want to be a Speech Pathologist. That’s right! I picked the whitest career possible to show the world how different this college is from the rest. How different I am from the rest. Triumphing over the discomfort of being different while simultaneously celebrating that difference is, after all, my personal responsibility.
On Page 2, you’ll find me unloading plastic containers in an immaculate dorm room that looks nothing like your own. Don’t worry, it’s not because of affirmative action or anything. My parents just felt pressured to pay for the most expensive on-campus housing because it had the best security.
You and I could have been roommates! Like, if my very existence on this campus wasn’t perceived as antagonistic.
But hey! Speaking of my folks, that’s them on Page 3 hugging me goodbye. Check out their quotes below.
“Claire/Ashley/Jenna/Erica is the first to go to college on my family’s side. When she opened her acceptance email, we both cried. College is an experience that was denied to me, because where I come from — where I grew up — there was no money for college. There was no money, period. And even if we would have had the money, it’s not like the schools in our neighborhood had adequately prepared us for that. Being able to afford Claire/Ashley/Jenna/Erica an entirely different upbringing, including the opportunity to go to college, has been the single greatest accomplishment of my life. I miss my baby girl already.”
— Cherise, black mother
“The nest is finally empty. Go Tigers!”
— Clayton, white father
Excuse my dad, he’s a total sap. Anyway, it turns out Mom and Dad were worried for nothing, and if you look at Page 4 you’ll see why.
Boom! An attractive, ethnically diverse friends circle. How did I manage to find the only other six brown people on this campus? And how did I get them to hang out with me without seeming desperate and culturally starved? Through student organizations and clubs, of course. (Just kidding, we met in the student clinic, where, oddly enough, we were all refilling our Sertraline prescriptions.)
See that beautiful dark-skinned guy sitting next to me on the quad? That’s Jamal/Jamar/Jamel. He’s all over the men’s diversity pamphlets, and it’s a no-brainer why: he’s 6’3”, pre-law, and built like a god. Since I got here, though… I don’t know. It’s like all of a sudden strong jaws and impeccable taste aren’t my type.
My type is Matt, found on Page 5.
That’s us standing next to each other at a football game. The face paint was his idea, and you’ll be glad to know that he insisted I paint my face black and he paint his face orange. He read all about blackface on BuzzFeed and he takes it very seriously — almost as seriously as he takes Business Administration, which is his major now that he’s flunked out of Civil Engineering and Biology.
I know it’s only been a few months now, but when he photoshopped our faces onto Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I thought: this is like a fairytale. I just feel so untouchable when I’m with him. Like the day of that football game, campus security found a flask in my purse. They put me in handcuffs and everything, but when Matt heard what was happening, he abandoned his game of Spikeball and told the officers that the flask was his. They immediately uncuffed me and apologized. It was like magic!
By Page 6, I’m on top of the world. Literally. They had me sit on top of that giant globe in your Modern Languages building where, conveniently, a group of trendy Korean students just made it into the background of the shot.
In one, short semester I found my place. And you can, too.
In as little as a few months, it won’t bother you that your school was racially segregated until the National Guard was forced to physically intervene. The campus monuments carved in the likeness of eugenicists and white supremacists won’t even faze you anymore! Whenever you get a performatively apologetic email from the university president after the latest racist scandal, you’ll try to believe him! When your white classmates ask to touch your hair, you’ll let them! Why not! Your hair is very soft! When your white professors ask what diversity means to you, you won’t feel expected to educate perfectly literate adults with round-the-clock access to Google at all — you’ll feel good!
You’ll feel great! Just like me, because I am so happy here. Like, so happy. Soooo happy.
So happy I could cry.
But I won’t. Because crying irritates the blue contacts they asked me to wear.