Being black at U.Va.: a reflection

Graduating fourth-year College student Clark says she experienced the "best and worst" at the University

These were the best of times, these were the worst of times. Being black at U.Va. Well I was always black. My grandparents told me about Angela, Muhammad Ali, Spike, etc. at an early age. There was never any doubt before that I was black. But when I came to U.Va., my experiential blackness became something I even now have trouble explaining. Well of course, I must start off by saying: I am black and proud. I am proud for being the only black person in a class bringing up controversial racial discourse among the “dominant” group. I am proud for rallying/dialoguing as a community around the causes of Trayvon Martin, a living wage, the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers, queerphobia, honor reform, funding for the Carter G. Woodson Institute, etc. I am proud for knowing where the location of the “BB”, when the perfect time to print is at OAAA, what a “death march” entails, how Professor Harold lectures, and that “Spring Fling” is actually more for current U.Va. black students versus prospective students. But this school is complex, and there are moments where I felt less than proud, but had to wake up the next day and continue on. Like,

That time when a white female peer told me “I only got into U.Va. because I was black.”

The time(s) when my friends got called “nigger” on the Corner.

The time when my Aramark friend was at work, and was questioned by the police for looking “suspicious.”

That one time when a white male peer negatively told me black girls were better at “it.”

And let’s understand something clear; this is no list of grievances. My list would be longer than this. But when I think back on my time as a black U.Va. student, the good and bad will shape that memory. But also my ability to survive in a somewhat hostile/isolated environment may be a skill I can use forever. That’s why last week when a white peer expressed shock to me that they painted “nigger” on Beta Bridge, I did not share her sentiment. I was not shocked. Actually many of my friends here, that experienced the real here, were not shocked. I was worried. As a fourth year about to leave this space (with a smaller black student population than my entering class), I am worried for the younger classes. I know they will excel, and continue to make me proud. But they will have to continue to be strong (and fight), especially in this falsely perceived era of racial harmony.

In conclusion. My experience was the best of times and the worst of times. But to leave any encouraging words to (specifically) my younger black peers, I leave you with the words of Tupac Shakur:

“Is it a crime to fight for what is mine?”

Hallie Clark is a fourth-year College student.


Published May 7, 2013 in Opinion







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