Standing Out in a Crowd: One Person’s Experience as a Minority on Campus

On a campus that is overwhelmingly Caucasian, being a minority, specifically one of a moderate handful of Asian students, is especially evident when you look at the lack of diversity in my major, sorority and fraternity life, and who’s dating whom. In fact, I’m actually an even smaller minority within the Asian community on campus, because most Asians on campus are non-U.S. born foreign students, leaving those who were born and grew up in this country, like me, a rarity that is hard to find.

 To be honest, I grew up going to a small college preparatory private school that was probably 98 percent white, so my contact with other people of different races, particularly other Asians, was extremely limited at best, save for, my cousins on the other side of town. Coming to this university was not much different from my experience growing up in a virtually all-white community, so the lack of diversity was not something I noticed right away.

While going through sorority rush my freshman year with 1100 other hopefuls, however, I noticed I was maybe one of three other Asian women. There are perhaps even fewer African American or Hispanic men and women in the Greek system. In the past few years, however, ethnic-specific co-ed fraternities have been forming at the university. Although I support those who want the camaraderie of other students they can possibly relate to more easily, this ethnic segregation seems to only widen the gap between the minorities and the white majority on campus. Organizations like these are great in promoting awareness of diversity on campus in addition to awareness of the self, but at the same time, making an organization separate from other students creates this realization of difference, that certain students are only allowed to join an organization because of their ethnicity.

University of Minnesota student, Isabella Olsen, finds their chosen segregation a problem. “It’s great for people to learn more about their heritage and such, but I don’t agree with certain race only organizations at all. I feel that’s it’s racist – if you’re separating people based only on their ethnicity, it’s wrong.”

As for dating, looking around campus it’s pretty clear that most people date within their own race. However, the few American born Asians seem to date other ethnicities. If you wanted to date someone with the same ethnicity it would not be too difficult to find someone, but the choices are extremely limited. But if your ethnicity is not necessarily identifiable through skin color or facial features, sometimes it’s difficult to find where you fit in on campus.

At my university, people of specific ethnic backgrounds tend to hang out with one another. There is a lack of mixing in social groups, which tends to displace someone who might be of three races but looks more stereotypically like one race, because they are not accepted into specific ethnic cliques.

This holds especially true for Olsen. “I’m considered a minority because I’m mixed – white and black – but most people assume I’m white unless they know otherwise. It’s pretty half-and-half with how people treat me. It’s never bothered me with dating or anything. But I have been shunned by some black students, because they feel that I don’t embrace my black side.”

While the lack of ethnic diversity is apparent, low numbers of minority students seem to be more of a statistical disconcertion for university officials and glossy, colored brochures for prospective students than for the minority students themselves.

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