Sophomore year at Temple I remember taking my Race and Diversity Gen Ed class. My professor assigned just one required reading. We were required to read the book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum Ph.D. Yet another book about racism, I thought to myself, but for some reason this book resonated with me in a way that others did not.
The title of the book says it all. There is something about a school cafeteria that shows how people tend to flock to people that they feel they have similarities with. Whether that be sitting with the athletes because you all play sports, sitting with the band kids because you are all in the school band, or sitting with the other black kids because you are all black.
Temple University is a PWI. A predominately white institution. So one would think that by now it wouldn’t bother me to be the minority in the room. But attending Sciences Po has been yet another hard reminder that in instances like this I will be one of few “black kids in the cafeteria.”
While the color of my skin has not stopped me from making friends amongst the other international students or students at Sciences Po, it would be being dishonest if I said that being one of few students of color did not bother me. At times it can be hard. Immediately upon arriving in a foreign country and attending a foreign institution you look around for people who look similar to you in hopes of not being alone.
So when I look around and I see no one who looks like it me, it hurts. So I think to myself, “Okay Amma. So not only are you the only black person in this group of international students, but you’re also the only black woman. What are you gonna do about it because you have two options? You can isolate yourself from everyone or integrate with the other students and teach them about your culture.”
Of course, I picked the latter option. I mingle with the other students. Students coming from all over the world — and not only do I teach them about myself and my culture, but they teach me about theirs. And just like that I feel a little less alone. Not only do I realize how much we all have in common, but I also realize how important it is for me to be studying abroad.
Studies have found that of all the students that study abroad, roughly 6% of those students are African American or Black. So it’s obvious that I would be a minority in any study abroad program. What this has taught me is that not only am I a representation of my people, but I am almost something like an advocate for other students like me who are considering studying abroad.
For these kids, I want to say that not only is it POSSIBLE to study abroad but it is NECESSARY. The only way for an oppressed group of people to get ahead in this world is by taking advantage of all the opportunities placed in front of them. Do not be afraid to be “the only black kid in the cafeteria.” Representation is everything. The more people you see that look like you doing things you thought were impossible, the more possible those things become.