Dear future students of color,
Welcome to your new home. As the brochures say, there are countless reasons to attend Whitman. Renowned arts and academics, a surprisingly charming location … the list of “unique things that’ll make you want to attend” is endless. While Whitman has many positive features, like every school, it presents its students with many challenges. Ours is biological.
Let’s cut to the chase; being a person of color is beautifully exhausting, as we walk the world with an unapologetic resilience that fuels our success. Most of our histories are rooted in subjugation, but we’ve risen from those pasts and reclaimed them. It’s through this process of reclaiming that we realize that we possess a burden others lack; the color of our skin and what comes with it emotionally, physically and mentally.
As students of color we’re marked; visually conspicuous as disruptions in a sea of white. Simultaneously, the same markers make us agonizingly invisible. This is no different at Whitman. As a Whitman POC, you may often lack permission to take up the space you need to thrive. Sometimes you’ll be denied affirmation of your truths. Oftentimes, you won’t be represented in course readings, as POC have been erased from Whitman material just as they’ve been from history. Expect to speak for your entire culture, race or gender on several occasions. Know that you’ll see few familiarly colored faces around campus. Recognize that if you have kinky curls that slightly stray from the “norm,” you’ll be inquisitively examined by curious hands without permission.
Essentially, your skin will be a symbolic letter “A” that’ll follow you, infiltrate your space and disrupt your intellectual well-being frequently. I know this sounds negative, but it’s important to acknowledge. While you may have the time of your life here, it’s crucial to recognize your POC experience is divergent from that of other students. That in mind, there are still many opportunities for happiness at Whitman. Cosmically orchestrated friendships, an incredible academic resume and the ability to take yourself to unfathomable heights … the list goes on.
On a self-care note, let me leave you with this piece of advice. During your time here, never apologize for demanding space, don’t be discouraged to pursue the degree or degrees you seek and don’t be afraid to stay at Whitman for the full four years. As a female student of color, I attest that I’ve been angry, empowered, self-sufficient, broken and come to peace with my Whitman experience. At times, I’ve found myself ready for battle, only to be shot down but empowered by my fellow peers of color (and non-color) who pushed me to fight for future students like you. It’s been an arduous road to travel, as I (and other students) have vowed to create an inclusive space for us at the dinner table, but I’m blessed to have found this place.
Now, let me make it clear that this isn’t every student of color’s Whitman experience. We all come from different walks of life and we have different methods of overcoming the obstacles that are hurled at us like stones as we try to navigate the world in one piece. The Whitman experience, if it does anything, reminds us that we’re strong, we’re resilient and we’re unapologetically excellent. We may feel invisible, but we continue to remember that we matter and are vital to Whitman in unspoken ways. This journey will be hard, but don’t give up. You won’t have to complete it alone; support exists, but it’ll be sparse outside of the POC community. Regardless, you’ve got this. Stay strong, stay dope, take care of yourself and most of all, stay beautiful. You’re important, you’re worthy of recognition and you’re worthy of space. Trust me, you’re gonna do great.