Being Plus Size and Black at a Predominately White College
Being black is hard enough, but being a black plus size woman is a lot harder.
Going to one of the most "diverse" schools in the country was a true blessing and quite an experience. Not only was I able to meet many different people from many places, but I was also able to learn more about myself that I did not know yet. Even though the school portrays their university as diverse, they did not mention how different it actually was. The school claimed to have such a wide range of races and ethnicities, but yet the school remained a PWI, a predominately white institution.
Entering the school, I thought that I would feel at home among a diverse group of driven individuals like me from all over the country and maybe even the world. That was not the case. Come to find out, the African American population at the school was less than ten percent, and probably two percent of the ten were involved in white fraternities. If you know, you know. Almost 42 percent of the school was white, 23 percent was Hispanic or Latino, and 15 percent was international students. These statistics further show that even at a "diverse" school, African Americans were still a minority.
Despite the lack of people of color, I did come to a shocking realization after the first two months of trying to find friends. I realized that white people were a lot nicer than I thought. Before I left for school, family members always told me to find my people and stick with them. Although I wanted to and thought it was a good idea, I felt ostracized and isolated at every waking turn with other people of color. I felt like I was never good enough for the black people on the campus. Some were very pro-black and anti-white, while some were anti-black and pro-white; it was very confusing. I saw some black people who were terrific in every way get shut out by other black people and welcomed with open arms by white people. I listened to some of my friends say that they never could bond with the black people on the campus, and they would talk about how it deeply hurt them. They said they were "too white" for black people and "too black" for white people, making it harder for them to find and make friends. The black people of the campus did many things, like look out for each other, charge too much for parties and judge, A LOT. Every time someone did something, it was being talked about at parties, group chats, even at work. Sometimes it felt like being a part of the black community at school was a waste of time and full of drama.
Even though I ended the year with a very diverse friend group, there were still some issues here and there. There were always race issues that would come about, such as a non-black person of color saying the n-word, or non-black men and women fetishizing black men and women. But some issues trumped others, such as an open mic held for people fighting injustices in the judicial system where something unexpected happened. A young white man walked past and screamed: "Make America Great Again!" Not only was I disgusted, but I felt annoyed. I genuinely believe that you can support whomever you want, but at least be respectful on campus.
Another problem that came to light was when one of my white friends was sharing her beliefs on justice, and as she's talking, there are no red flags. Then one of my black friends related the situation to Trayvon Martin, and my white friend did not know who he was. At this point, I was shocked, because being black, you have to know who these people are and the injustices that happened with them because it could happen to you too. The idea of her not knowing who he was is such a luxury that I cannot even fathom. My other friends said that she can afford to not know who he was because she's rich and white. It was crazy to me that there were people who existed and had no clue who these people were but will pay all kinds of money to go to Rolling Loud, gentrify neighborhoods, and date black men and women. Moments like these only provided me clarity to understand that I moved to go to school with thousands of spoiled brats who can afford to not know who Trayvon Martin, Tamia Rice, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, to name a few, were. The privilege that existed on campus was truly mind-blowing and it didn't stop with the white people either.
There were black people who grew up in the most sheltered and luxurious places who were the ones who acted "ghetto," "ratchet," and "hood." They acted these ways and carried themselves in this matter because just like the white people, they could afford to. If a person who lived below the poverty line moved to Miami to go to school and started acting "ghetto," they would be kicked out in the blink of an eye. The black people there were not only privileged in many ways but did not favor black women as much. When the black men did favor black women, the women would have to have an hourglass shape, not too big but not too small, and carry themselves in a feminine way. Even sometimes they would pick the black women who were mixed with something, had long hair or who dressed to impress on the daily. If you didn't fall into that category, then you would be left out almost.
If you were not the ideal size and carried yourself in a certain way, then you definitely did not fit in, plus size men and women especially. Coming from Baltimore, Maryland, where every other person there is plus size or do not fit society's standards as far as size, it was quite scary moving to Miami. First of all, its Miami, where people are half naked, plastic surgery is huge, coke bottle figures are expected and being mixed and lighter is better. I tried to go shopping when I first got there but it was definitely a miss. Either I pay a bunch of money for shipping from Fashion Nova or I chuck it up and shop in the men's section. I ended up buying clothes that were too small that I would eventually stretch or clothes that were not what I like but were the right size. Also, Target became my best friend as far as nice plus size clothes, because Lord knows Forever 21 in Miami was not inclusive. Besides the hard time finding clothes, everything else was pretty much the same, especially on campus. I had hard times trying to fit into desks, chairs, even being comfortable in beds and in showers, it was all very difficult. There were only a few plus size women on campus, and most of them spent their time either at the gym or wearing t-shirts for dresses. There were really only two who really owned their body and sported their confidence, and only one was black.
Aside from the clothing and the campus not being size inclusive, so were the people. Every time I went out with my friends who were smaller than me, I would watch from the sidelines as guys would try to talk to them. They were the hot commodity of the group and they got into relationships, fast. Meanwhile, I always felt like the unwanted ugly duckling because of my size, and I'm not ugly. Also, people on campus have always found me intimidating because of my size, but when I asked them, they always said I had a resting bitch face, when I knew that wasn't true. I had to listen to the multiple times where people said they think I can fight and even though they never said it was because of my size, I knew it was. I played into that idea that I'm aggressive and ended up ruining certain relationships because of it.
Some things to remember: Miami does not love big girls, and my school definitely did not. Some things may change over the years, but as of right now, definitely not. Almost half of the black population at my school was very judgmental and unwelcoming, but they continue to grow and build as the years go on. Remember that some people can afford to be ignorant and act a certain way, but you need to be yourself and stay woke. Lastly, it's very hard to be black in America, let alone a black plus size woman. We've got a long way to go.