8.24.2010

The Minority to a POC Majority

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world where the roles of minority and majority were reversed? I know what most of you are thinking about: does she mean we as BLACK PEOPLE would be the majority instead of White people? I'm sorry to burst all of you intelligent individuals' bubbles, so to speak, but I mean to say no, we as Black people would not be the majority I had in mind. I was leaning more towards the Asian ethnic groups being in the majority. Yes, this is very strange, but this isn't odd to me at all. This is the life I live, here in America. At my university, on my campus, to be exact. I should clarify that when I say "Asian," I strictly mean the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people. I am not including the Southeast Asians, or the Indians (from India.) That may be another post later on.

I am a 1st year student, going into my 2nd year at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, NY. Now as I try to explain the oddity of being a minority in a POC majority, I will NOT use my 1st year experience, because it wouldn't be accurate. After spending a year on campus (but living at home,) I've learned to ponder many things, the demographic of the University of Buffalo being one of them. I had one acquaintance tell me that if I pulled 5 people on campus aside, 3 of them would be part of the Asian or Southeast Asian ethnic groups. Thus, Asian people make up the majority of the university's population. This was something worth noting, not only because I'm working on a minor in Asian Studies, but because for once, FOR ONCE, White people were NOT the majority. Everywhere I looked, I saw long or short black hair, not blonde or brunette. Everywhere I went, I didn't see blue, green, hazel, gray colored eyes, but brown eyes. And I didn't see washed-out or sunburned white skin, but naturally creamy bone, yellow, bronze, or even slightly orange skin complexions. In passer-by's conversations, I didn't hear just English, but Chinese, Korean, or Japanese. It was as if I entered a different world every time I stepped foot on campus. I can truly say that these people don't look exactly like me, but they look more similar to me than White people do. And for some reason, I felt less ashamed to be Black on campus. I could walk to and from class without having to think about how long that White girl's hair was or how light their skin is or how blue that guy's eyes are. In a way, you can say that being on UB's campus has allowed me to "block out the whiteness" as Hateya mentioned in her post on Japan. But, in the midst of all of this uplifting change of heart, I couldn't help but think something was still wrong with this picture....



*Before you mention that I may not be around other Blacks too often, let me inform you that there are many Black students on the same campus. I just haven’t met many yet. No…the problem is something else. I’m just not sure if it’s true, or if I’m just making wrong observations here, so I’ll just give you all a taste of how my day on campus went yesterday.*

I boarded the UB shuttle, in which nearly every seat was taken, except for a few near the front. The bus was occupied primarily by Indian and Asian students. I spotted one between an Indian guy and a small, thin Asian male. I pointed to the empty seat and asked if I could sit there. But since I didn’t make an effort to raise my voice, neither of them heard my question, so I just sat down. Not unceremoniously, I might add. I slowly lowered myself down to the very edge of the seat, not wanting to come off as a rough, manly female. Why you ask? Well, I felt that with so many Asians seated around me, I had to blend in as best I could. I had a strange desire to look like the rest of the Asian females, who seem to naturally keep their arms and legs tucked into themselves. They seem to take up as little space with their bodies as possible. I notice a similar type of behavior with other POCs when they’re around White people. It seems to me that our fellow POCs try their absolute hardest to walk, talk, and act like Whites, the usual majority. And on the shuttle, I was guilty of trying to blend in with the majority.

Once I got off of the shuttle, I noticed two groups of Asian students crowded around tables near two entrances of one of the campus halls. I figured they were from Korean Student Association because of the banners they were holding up. I thought about going over and asking them what they were doing, but I stopped myself, thinking either A: I don’t speak or read Korean so I wouldn’t be any help, and B: I truly don’t give two shits about what they’re doing. The second one wasn’t actually true, but I was thinking it out of spite. I can only guess that pretending to be spiteful was my way of adjusting to the POC majority that I would have to deal with all year long. But I think I’d behave in the same manner if Whites were the majority. Ignoring the Korean babble I was hearing, I made my way into the Student Union, then across an indoor bridge to the Commons. I happened to be walking behind a Chinese male, who arrived at the door on the opposite side of the bridge before I did. A White male happened to be coming to the bridge from the opposite direction I was moving in, and thought to hold one of the double doors for me. What struck me was that the Chinese male thought the same thing, so I had two men holding both doors for me. Needless to say I was surprised. I thanked them both with a small laugh, and they smiled. My surprised sprung from those simple gestures of courtesy because I hear so many Blacks complain about how White people walk around, as if they are the superior race. Whether that’s true or not depends on the individual’s perspective. I only believe this to be true for some individuals that are White, not everyone. But what I’ve also noticed is on the campus, I’ve gotten nearly those same vibes of unjust superiority from the Chinese. The last thing I was expecting was that both a White male and a Chinese male thought I would be worth showing common courtesy to, but then again, that’s why they call it common courtesy, hmm? The act actually caught me off guard, because I’m used to being brushed off and ignored when I show acts of courtesy to most people. I’m not used to the tables being turned.

My next stop was the library, to print out a list of my textbooks. I sat down, logged into the computer, and happened to look up. Nearly right across from me was the most gorgeous Korean man I had ever laid eyes on (besides Rain a.k.a. His Unbearable Sexiness.) It was a scene straight out of one of your typical teen school romance movies (and NO I don’t mean High School Musicals 1, 2, or 3) *rolls eyes*. I was peering, more like staring at this man past my screen, while he was staring at his own screen, absorbed in whatever he was doing, totally oblivious of me. I think the huge pillar that was off to my left prevented him from noticing me gawking as well. At any other time, in any other place, I would’ve walked right over to that guy and started up a simple conversation, but the fact that he was part of the majority (and that one of my professors was sitting two seats away from him) stopped me. Had we been in a different place, I would’ve felt that I had something in common with this guy as a POC, because anywhere else, he would have been the minority, just like me. This Black female would have had a valid excuse to speak to a Korean male, had he known what it felt like to be outnumbered. But at that moment in time, he was the majority, and because of this, I knew that he and I had no haan to share. (Plus, I couldn’t get my flirt on with my professor sitting right there haha!)

I left the library with my sheets one hand, my chai tea latte in the other, and that gorgeous man on my mind. I was mumbling to myself like a nutcase as soon as I turned the corner, and by the time I got halfway down the hall, I was ready to turn on my heel and run back to the library. Run back to that man and tell him something….anything! You could see the gears turning in my head. “Maybe I should just tell him… ‘I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help noticing you’…wait why do I have to apologize? No, no that’s silly, too forward. Maybe ask his friend next to him…no that’s petty, and cowardly. I’m being a coward right now! Do I really wanna do this? What if they think I’m a total fool? Do I feel like making a fool of myself today? Hmm…do I really feel like going through that today?” You get the point. After arguing with myself for a good minute or so (which isn’t as fun as you’d think it is,) I came to the decision that I would not and could not approach that beautiful man, so I dropped the entire thing. Was I mentally banging my head against a wall for chickening out? Of course I was! I hate to shun the chance to make a new acquaintance. Thank goodness I was able to shove that to the back of my mind to get to the campus bookstore and buy my textbooks. I was fine at the checkout line, the cashier was nice enough to give me two bags, but lo and behold, as soon as I turn to the door, guess who walks in? Yup, that gorgeous man I was drooling over just five minutes earlier. I ducked my head nervously and heard myself mumble, “God… again?” By the time I got back to my purse at the front of the store in one of the cubby holes, the Korean guy and his friend were already browsing in the supplies section. As I fumbled around with my lip gloss and my three bags (nearly knocking over my chai latte, which was sitting nearby,) my brain went dead. The only thing I remember doing is thinking of dropping my bags where I was, looking around for that man frantically, and running to him as soon as I spotted him (Can you say too many romance novels? Yes, you can.) But then I remembered ahh…right...here, I’m the minority and he’s the majority. We don’t have any POC problems to share, no oppressive issues, and no haan. I'm not saying these were the only things that stopped me, but they stuck out the most in my mind.

I finally left the store without saying anything to anyone, toting my bags, my purse, and a lukewarm chai latte. How fitting to how I was feeling at the moment: lukewarm, numb, and alone. I was close to dismissing my strange behavior as one of my quirks, but there was just something else that was, like I said earlier, wrong. Maybe this is just how I feel, and no one else believes this has anything to do with anything. I’m not going to shoot anyone’s thoughts or theories down. I’m just wondering…would anything really be much different for us Black people if another group of POCs were the majority instead of Whites? Would we really rejoice if we saw Asians everywhere we looked? Would it really be much different to be a minority in a POC majority’s world as it is now?

32 comments:

  1. We don’t have any POC problems to share, no oppressive issues, and no haan.

    It seems as if you may have let two great opportunities pass you by if this was your biggest reason for not approaching Gorgeous Guy. The Asians may be the majority on campus, but they still live in America...POC issues are a way of life for them (him) just as they are for you. And you'll definitely always share haan. It's pervasive and deep and no amount of minority-majority percentages can diminish it.

    If you see him again, you should go for it (you saw him twice for a reason...fate maybe?). I know it's scary as hell for a variety of reasons, but if you don't, you might kick yourself later. Good luck!

    Would it really be much different to be a minority in a POC majority’s world as it is now?

    Do you mean in America? Because the world is already minority-majority. WP are just really good with the okey-doke (ie. making everyone think they're God's gift to the human race).

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  2. would anything really be much different for us Black people if another group of POCs were the majority instead of Whites? Would we really rejoice if we saw Asians everywhere we looked? Would it really be much different to be a minority in a POC majority’s world as it is now?

    Considering I live in South Korea, I am surronded by Asians everywhere I look. Heck, I am the only foreigner in my school and seems like the only Black woman on this side of town.
    I guess it depends on how you were raised how you react. I am used to living in other countries, so I am very comfprtable here and have no problem. I feel more at home here than in the States.

    Go for it! Like Cinnamon said -- You saw him twice for a reason. Approach the Gorgeous One.

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  3. Hi,

    I Live in Montreal Quebec, French Canada if you wanna know. I was born in Haiti but grew up and Quebec. I considered myself North and South american equally. Ethnics relations are quite different here in Quebec than in the States. Even though I came in Canada at a very young age. I remember what it felt like living in a Country where you are the majority. Every where you look people are black. Guess What, the black woman is celebrated, men write poems or music about her. There are no more beautiful woman in the world than her. That's what you hear in the music. In Haiti you are Haitians first. Color is an after tought if anything, so much so a man told me once, I knew I was black when I came to live in Canada. And I understood what it really meant to be part of a majority when I went there for the first time at 18. It felt wonderful. What ever you hear about black countries, there are a lot we dont see(except poverty), the culture, the literature, the arts and so on. Those countries are about more than poverty. Haiti fought the Frenches during slavery time, won the battle against them in 1804(before the earthquake, ONU was examining putting the hole country as one of the world treasures because never a country had won a fight against slavery). I think Black americans have a lot to gain by going from time to time in these countries(the Carribean or Africa) because I think it coud be empowering to see black women and men going on their every day life by being just human. I felt only HUMAN when I went there for the first time. Yes people, there are places where blacks are human first, I comfort myself a lot by immersing myself with different kind of black cultures(nigerian, cuban, brazilian, jamaican...and the list goes on). I feel really hurt to see that my people in the States have it so bad by beeing just human cause that's my blood down there like the Neville brothers would say. Moonwalker,I thought I would comment on your experience to say I understand. I could say more on Montreal Quebec, my experiences and race relations but my comment is already too long. Maybe another time. Much love to all of you on the Blasian narrative.

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  4. @cinnamon: Thanks so much for the encouragement! I won't let him pass me by any longer haha! And yes, I meant here in America.

    "you'll definitely always share haan. It's pervasive and deep and no amount of minority-majority percentages can diminish it."

    You don't know how great that made me feel about this whole thing!

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  5. @DN: I commend you for keeping your sanity being the only dark face for miles haha! I would eventually like to study abroad in Japan within the next year or so, and I've also been thinking of living in another country as well.
    I do feel a bit out of place here in America sometimes...
    I also have no shame in admitting that part of this--sadly--spawns from the way I was raised. But I'm always attempting to overcome it!

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  6. @Myas: I'm so glad you left the comment you did. It's so wonderful to know I'm not the only one going through this...what you said was uplifting, and it will always keep me going! Thank you so much for contributing!
    And maybe we all need to organize a trip to the Caribbeans or Africa sometime...I believe it would help us better understand ourselves, and the world outside of ourselves.

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  7. @Moonwalker723

    Actuakly, I am not the only black woman here in this town. I just NEVER see them, unless I am on the subway train going somewhere. There are a lot of peole from Asia here who are dark. I see mostly men though. I actualy know one other black female in this town, but she is on the other side of town and the only way we see each other is by chance at the subway station or soe function we have from our employers. We both work as teachers for the Korean government in this province.

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  8. would anything really be much different for us Black people if another group of POCs were the majority instead of Whites? Would we really rejoice if we saw Asians everywhere we looked? Would it really be much different to be a minority in a POC majority’s world as it is now?

    Long-winded post alert! ;)

    I've lived with Asian majorities almost my entire adult life. My answers are:
    1) no; 2) no; and 3) no.

    My experiences with Chinese, Taiwanese (they are not Han Chinese) and Japanese have shown me that majority = privilege and everyone else just gets screwed over.

    The nice people in the Far East are no nicer than the nice "white" people in my hometown and the racists are just as ugly and vile as the racists are there. Since I'm from the South, when I say racists, I mean the lynching kind. I'm not talking about the Tea Party.

    Study abroad in Japan? If you're good at making friends, you'll be fine. If not, don't come. Loneliness kills in this country - literally...frequently.

    As for Gorgeous Guy, I completely understand why you didn't approach him. Because we're portrayed as aggressive and overtly sexual (this might apply to me though... tee hee), it's not easy for us to approach anyone in any majority because we're always first perceived through tainted lenses. If you and this guy are meant to hook up on any level, I think it's best to let it happen naturally. Maybe I'm old school, but I believe a man should do the chasing. He needs to prove he's worthy of you. The only thing worse than getting a sorry-assed man is getting one from a different ethnicity.

    On a final note, given a choice, I'd rather live surrounded by black people, my people. While this experience is wonderful, rich and educational, it sometimes too much. Multi-lingual and multi-cultural communication is the stuff of the soul, not language proficiency. When I tell my husband I need to go home, he goes to the travel agency. He gets it. Right now, I'm at the early stages of "I can't take this anymore" and I feel this way although no one has harmed me. I haven't been back since 2008 and I don't know if I can wait until September 2011.

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  9. "My experiences with Chinese, Taiwanese (they are not Han Chinese) and Japanese have shown me that majority = privilege and everyone else just gets screwed over."

    What about systemic racism? Would you say that it was equal or greater than America's?

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  10. cosign with Hateya in my experience where any racial group is the majority, it comes with its set of priviledges (except in certain African countries where people still have colonial mentality and believe that white skin equals power. in these situations it is possible to find people who the white minority above the black majority).

    personally if i had a choice with whom to surround myself with, i'd go for like-minded people regardless of race. i grew up in Nigeria where almost everyone looked like me but didn't think like me, i was the 'weird' one throughout high school and i'm still 'weird' except now everyone blames it on the fact i spent 4 years in England. i've come to treasure being around people who are 'weird', i've known people from China, Malaysia and Canada who accepted and understood me more than Nigerians do.

    i also have to agree with Hateya on being good at making friends. i haven't lived in Japan but was on holiday there last month and i can say that the biggest reason i enjoyed Japan as much as i did was because i had friends there.

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  11. Hateya said eloquently what I wanted to say above. By the way I am quite fascinated by your story. Much love to you.

    I am considered weird by Haitians standard, but it doesn't mean my people hate me(some of them maybe, we can't be love by everyone). You're always gonna be considered weird in what ever ethnic group you belong to if you're a thinker, an intellectual or an artist. Reality is more complex. In truth, you can even have great separation and struggle even between Whites. For instance French canadian(Quebecers)used to call thelmselves in their literature White Niggers of America because they identified their experiences whith Blacks in America(South or North). I don't really agree whith it but that's how they labeled themselves in the sixties. Going out or marrying white here don't have the same meaning than in the States.

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  12. I think second time you saw him in the bookstore would have been the best opportunity to make eye contact, nod and smile. Especially if he was walking in your direction. The computer lab would have been awkward cause you would've needed an excuse to interrupt him.

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  13. @Hateya: This was VERY long winded, and I apologize for that. Next time, it'll be short and sweet! ^.^
    And the lynching racists? I can deal with those, seeing as we get enough of those here in Buffalo.
    And I've already made friends who live over in Japan, so that won't be a problem. I really appreciate all your advice ^.^

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  14. @eccentricyoruba:I agree with you. I try to surround myself with like-minded people as well. My best friend is Rwandan. You'd think we have the same brain sometimes. But the things we go through as Black women in America, they go without saying between us, which is a comfort.

    @Myas: Weird is my middle name haha. I understand exactly what you mean. Thanks for the support and much love to you sista ;)

    Thanks to everyone for their input! You really opened my eyes!!!

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  15. Maybe I'm old school, but I believe a man should do the chasing. He needs to prove he's worthy of you. The only thing worse than getting a sorry-assed man is getting one from a different ethnicity.

    Amen.

    By the way, this dialogue is making it sound as though we'd all just be happier if we lived in countries with people who only looked like us.

    Granted, the little sis and I have been working towards emigration, but just so we're all clear, homogeneity is not the solution.

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  16. @hunter

    Systemic racism does exists because these countries do indeed have ethnic minorities and they are treated accordingly. It's tough to compare with America because I was a foreigner in all three countries, one with the protection (however slight) of the American government. There were always avenues open to me that will never be available to those minorities. A caste system also exists in all three countries. There are various ways to determine if a person is "worthy." :(

    @eccentricyoruba

    i'd go for like-minded people regardless of race

    Believe it or not, I understand how you feel in this regard. I felt the exact same way when I was single. Marriage changes people in fundamental ways and once I lost the freedom of movement, the freedom to be my weird self (I represent my entire Japanese family now. They're judged by my behavior and vice versa.) and freedom to come and go as I please, things changed. Let me put it to you this way. If the average person has a social network of 150 people (friends, colleagues, former classmates, neighbors, etc), then I have one of 300-500 and because 99.9999% of them are not like me in any way, shape or form, it is necessary for my mental health to leave the situation every once in awhile. When I was single, packing up and moving towards the next adventure was easy.

    @Myas

    Thank you!

    Given how many Canadians I see as part of good solid interracial relationships, I'm sure there must be something much better in the water there. "Whites" who deign to maintain their ethnicity and refuse the privilege probably can relate to black people much better.

    @Moonwalker723

    I wasn't implying that you were long-winded. I was acknowledging my tendency to ramble. Basically, I'm thinking in three languages and none of them clearly; thus, I have a serious problem when expressing myself in print. :(

    I'm thrilled you already have friends here. It'll make everything so much easier. With friends, you'll have protection and this place will seem like a paradise most of the time.

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  17. This is a continuation of the post above.

    @Moonwalker723

    But the things we go through as Black women in America, they go without saying between us, which is a comfort.

    You've hit the nail solidly on the head with this. In all societies there are concepts that can go unsaid among people who come from similar backgrounds. Even body language and eye contact is different among the variations of people. One of the things that is so troublesome for me, my Japanese family and my Japanese and other non-black American/Southern friends is the necessity of EXPLAINING EVERYTHING!!! While my Japanese isn't as proficient as my husband's English, the actual words themselves don't mean much. It's the underlying meanings that require explanation, so every relationship I have here requires more conversation than would be warranted with my black (my Native American relatives are included in this category) family, friends and neighbors. They are my people. For this reason, I need to get away every three to five years to recharge.

    @Ankhesen

    By the way, this dialogue is making it sound as though we'd all just be happier if we lived in countries with people who only looked like us.

    I can't speak for others, but any ol' group of black people just won't do. No way. I avoid as many black people in Japan as I do "whites." The only kindred blacks I've met have been several people from one specific part of Lusaka and one crazy brother from Texas. I need my people and I should have been more specific. I just didn't want to bore people with my family history again. ;)

    Granted, the little sis and I have been working towards emigration...

    If my favorite sister (sister #2) and best friend on the planet lived here, I'm sure I'd have have a significantly less psychological and biological need to leave occasionally. Every November (we call it suicide month), she sends me a "black" package. It helps.

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  18. Started creative classes this fall. I've fallen for my modern grammar professor.

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  19. @Ankhesen

    And where are those details about Professor Modern Grammar?

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  20. @ Hateya

    Brilliant, hilarious, not wearing a wedding band.

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  21. And his name is preceded by "Dr.", which for me is always hot.

    It would be nice to call a man "Professor" in bed.

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  22. @Ankhesen

    Professor, sensei, laoshi... they all worked for me. Dr. Brilliant, hilarious, and not wearing a wedding band sounds like a winner. Will you play this naughty or nice? ;) There are an awful lot of nice ladies here... I fear I'm the only tramp. hahahahaha!

    BTW, if both of your names were preceded by "Dr," it would be even hotter. Tee Hee.

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  23. @ Hateya

    I wanna play it both ways. I "had" to email him today about this week's assignment.

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  24. @Ankhesen

    I wanna play it both ways.

    It can't hurt to cover all the bases. What does this brilliant man look like? Looks aren't all that relevant, so hair and eye color plus height is sufficient.

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  25. Black hair, dark eyes, average height, wears glasses, wears ties, drinks coffee throughout the class (which ends at 9 pm), and is utterly adorable.

    Never shies away from racial issues, so LOVING him. Heavens, he's brilliant. Like, seriously brilliant.

    He's hilarious too, but a little self-deprecating. When writing "example" sentences, he'll write stuff like, "I am so hot." And then he'll blush and erase it, and be like, "Fine, fine...I take it back" while I'm like nooooooo!!!!! Leave it!!! You are!!!

    And today, he was reading aloud and came across the phrase "constant hardness" which made him chuckle like a naughty schoolboy, and nobody else caught that! WTF? I was rolling. I am so in love with this man!

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  26. @Ankhesen,

    You're a better woman than me. I would have seriously compromised him by now! :D He does indeed sound YUMMY!!!

    It's amazing because even after all of these years, I still feel the same way about The Husband! He's just so damned wonderful, I can't imagine life without him. I used to be able to remember all the ex-peni, but once I fell for him, the past disappeared.

    "Brilliant guys in specs give great sex!" - Hateya!!

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  27. I'm doing the whole "respectful student" routine, but come semester's end....

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  28. Oh, I wouldn't have thrown myself at him. I would have been more subtle by using the pheromones... until the end of the semester. ;)

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  29. You're in Buffalo?? Cool so am I. Which campus do you go to? The one on Main?
    UB seems like the best place to go in Buffalo. I wish I had decided to go to college after high school, but I had decided Navy instead..

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  30. @Lehxra: yeah I'm at the campus out in Amherst. North Campus.
    I agree, UB is a great school. I love it here, or in the words of our lovely Rain Oppa: "I LURVE it!"

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  31. @ Moonwalker

    Does this mean you finally spoke to that dude?

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