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The African American Resident Assistant

Posted By Reverend Najee Evans | He, Him, His | Centenary University, Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The African American Resident Assistant

Author: Reverend Najee Evans | He, Him, His | Centenary University

 

Centenary University is a small institution located in Hackettstown, NJ that is known nationwide for its Equine program. Because of it being comprised of about 44% white students, and African American students only making up approximately 8% of the student population, it can be considered a predominately white institution. Due to these statistics, it is often evident that there is much culture missing from the historical foundations of the educational makeup at Centenary.

Like many campuses, African American students unfortunately experience systematic racism and outright discrimination, as well as economic and social stereotyping that can have an effect on their success. However, the purpose of this post is to not discuss the ill-starred circumstances but to highlight the “in spite of” moments I’ve personally experienced. In September, I will begin my senior year with a 3.7 GPA, will serve as a Lead Resident Assistant, Transfer Counselor, Head of Club and Organizations, Chapel Service Leader, and Chaplain for the Black Student Union. While I may have frequently faced racism and stereotyping, I refuse to let those events hinder my growth as a student, a leader, and a person.

Without going into too many specific details, I can recall more than one instance where I’ve received pictures and screenshots of myself being called out of my name by the most degrading of terms used towards Black and African American students. If I had to categorize what I felt during those moments, it was not only belittling, but also embarrassing. To think that we still live in a society where many refuse to accept our diversity and embrace the wonderful attributes our different characteristics bring is unsettling. But times like these allow students of color to unify and fill the voids that we notice within our schools. We take on leadership positions to gain a seat at the table to make a difference. We stand up and point out inconsistencies that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, until someone listens and works with us to make a cultural shift.

One only has to glance at the news or social media to witness what goes on with police brutality, racism, cruel treatment of people of color, and oppression. I would lie if I said that while in school I have faced similar situations. While attending college and shopping or dining in Hackettstown, I have dealt with micro-aggressions and various forms of intolerance. Surprisingly, these experiences have not destroyed my college experience. Yes, I have been discouraged, disheartened, felt devalued and dismayed, but I have never given up. Some students have chosen to leave Centenary because of experiences like these, however I have not. I have not dropped out because I choose not to give those infiltrated with ignorance any power. I am determined to be a strong, educated, and successful Black male. I learned how to love myself, because self-love protected me when I was called names or made fun of. Black students are intelligent, driven, and passionate. They share the same qualities as other students on campus, but are often forced to deal with the obliviousness of those around them when they choose to attend schools outside of their race and culture. I do not regret attending Centenary, for it has forced me to experience living outside my comfort zone and to poses integrity and grit when it is the hardest thing to do. 

Tags:  leadership  microaggressions  PWI  racism  resident assistant 

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