Fitting the Mold
When I joined Ball Bearings my freshman year of Spring 2011, there was no one who resembled me. No one with kinky hair that transferred into a fro with the dip in humidity. No one with golden-brown skin that resembled roasted almonds. No one that I could look up to and give me the confidence that I could succeed in this profession.
I was alienated in a sea of whiteness.
I was uncomfortable being around a group of people that were a part of an exclusive club of which I could never be a part. Even if I succeeded, I would be the token black girl, a title I refused to accept.
So I quit. I didn’t even give it a second thought before I started the process of becoming a telecommunications major, a field that I believed to be more diverse and accepting of who I am.
I was wrong. The major I sought out for comfort failed to provide relief.
And I soon learned that the lack of diversity was apparent throughout all of Ball State. Based on the Ball State Fact Book, there were 14,872 Caucasian students enrolled in 2011-2012. The second largest group was African Americans with 1,064 students.
Granted about 84 percent of Indiana’s population is white. But what does it say to the dark-skinned girl who dreamed of being a literary journalist, when she could count on one hand the number of influential people of color in the entire journalism department, student media and faculty?
It tells her that the glass ceiling exists and she won the jackpot for being both a people of color (PoC) and a woman.
The best way I can explain the importance of racial representation is by discussing the Doll Test. In the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted test on African American children to see the effects of segregation.
The Clarks conducted the experiment by giving 253 African-American children four dolls, identical in every way except for the color of their skin. They started off by asking the children to “give [them] the doll that is a nice color” or “give [them] the doll that looks bad,” then asked the children to “give [them] the doll that looked like them.
Their data analysis showed that the children were competent in determining their own and other races, but when it came to picking which one had a nice color, two-thirds of the African-American children selected were in favor of the white dolls.
In layman’s terms: these children were taught to believe that black was inferior to white and to have negative attitudes toward PoC.
For those that argue, “Well, I don’t see color,” “we have a black president” or “stop being so sensitive,” understand that race is an inescapable part of reality for PoC. We cannot remove our skin. We cannot wake up one morning and decide to not be Native American, Colombian or Haitian. Yes, it is a pigment of color, but it is a part of our identity.
Having these beliefs can have negative repercussions on an individual, like feeling like one cannot succeed in white-dominated society. Society that advertises soft peach skin, blue eyes and blonde hair as the standard of beauty, while deeming PoC’s curly natural hair as unruly and unprofessional.
So for me to be the editor-in-chief is inconceivable. I had once fallen victim to this belief that I was not capable of being successful at Ball Bearings and in journalism because there was no one to represent me. And the freshman inside of me cries in jubilation not only for myself, but for anyone who thought they couldn’t achieve greatness because they didn’t fit the mold.