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?