Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Experiences of an African student in America

I am still learning to be okay with being called a person of color. The phrase has a ring to it that doesn’t sit right with me.

Before coming to America I was just a person. In my country, Zambia, the population is more than 90 percent Black so there’s never been any need for some of these categories. 

When a white friend of mine called me a person of color for the first time I almost asked, “who are you referring to?” I knew Black people were called people of color in America from books,  but no one had ever called me it personally.

After my friend said it, I started to question why we were people of color. Is it because white is the standard and any sort of melanin taints that and we are referred to have color from the neutral white? Get used to being referred to as a person of color.

In my country, children of white and Black people are referred to as coloreds. In our context that does not mean anything and it’s just what we call them. If your situation is like mine, don’t do that here. Referring to people as coloureds is an offensive term, call them mixed.

IU has cultural centers for minority students. As a Black student, I enjoyed attending events hosted by the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center. It’s also a great place to start if you are looking for community as a Black student.

For those who are interested in dance or choir, I recommend checking out the African American Dance Company through the African American Arts Institute and going for auditions to join them. The African Student Association on campus is another great resource for African students. I attended a language jeopardy night and it was one of the most interesting events I ever attended last semester.

We played a game where groups were supposed to guess where different languages, accents and dialects came from in Africa. It was very informational and fun because I love exploring different African languages.

I have come to learn that political affiliations mean a lot of things here. I think I understand now why the parties are sometimes referred to as far right and far left. From my experience, the ones who associate with the democrats are more liberal and express support for minorities and people of color. While the republicans are more conservative. 

Hence, there are people who prefer to not be friends with people who support a political party which is different from the one they are affiliated with. I think it is good to know this as an international student because those people will judge your character based on political views, most times. 

Personally, I have come to love IU and many of the people I have met. I have made good friends from many different races and I think as long as you find your place and community, everything will be fine. Just keep away from the racists.

Lastly, do not let people touch your hair without your consent and find someone to add you to the Black IU group chat.  

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that white and Black people are referred to as "coloreds" in Zambia, rather than children born to one Black parent and one white parent. The article has been updated to more accurately reflect this.

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