Diversity. Inclusion. Justice. Equality. Equity. Terms painted across Davidson’s student body, faculty, and administration, creating an illusion of a utopian society. Terms we have begun to forcefully intertwine into the fabric of Davidson, with justifications rooted in the creation of Africana Studies, Latin American Studies, Gender & Sexuality Studies, the implementation of a Cultural Diversity requirement, and Justice, Equality, and Community requirement and the increased population of students of color. Davidson appears as a salad bowl, but in actuality, we are still a melting pot. In relation to the dominant white population on campus, we must decide to either assimilate into it, become complacent and ignore the realities of Davidson’s culture, or reject it and continually fight for the right to have co-existing narratives and perspectives with equal opportunity, access, and assistance. Please take notice of the 3 words I just used. Davidson’s culture straddles between a melting pot and a divided tray. It’s either narrative flattening or divided between identity, culture, ethnicity, religion, class and, most importantly, race.
I am a Senior. I am taking 5 courses, working two jobs, and dealing with a chronic illness. I have had to pay rent to prevent the eviction of my family. I’ve had to decide whether filling a prescription was more important than buying groceries for the week. My existence on Davidson’s campus is radical in itself. A place like Davidson was not a part of my everydayness in D.C. Davidson College wasn’t a home name. The colleges that were in constant rotation in my household/family were Strayer University, University of DC, Morgan State University, and Bowie State University. Colleges that were only familiar to the women of my immediate family. All of my sisters went to college before me. My mother went back two years before me. To my mother’s side of the family, I am not a first-generation college student. To my father’s side, I am a first-generation college student. The standards were the local colleges in my hometown. This is not said to receive empathy, but rather emphasize the realities of some students who are not as privileged as the dominant majority. It is not shocking that many of the students of color and those from lower socioeconomic statuses are disadvantaged. That’s the way we came into Davidson. It’s shocking that Davidson doesn’t understand that demanding counselors and more assistance are necessary when bringing in diverse students as it relates to socioeconomics. In my 3 and half years, Davidson has failed to address disadvantaged students and provide adequate assistance by offering work-study and creating neo-liberal departments. Davidson ignores the core issues of its students and rather focuses on aestheticizing liberalism. Davidson capitalizes on the black and brown bodies for student recruitment and funding, which does not go into providing us with access and assistance. Davidson will photograph us and plaster the photos across Davidson’s website, papers, and journals as if we are a commodity.Being a Black American woman at Davidson College, in the words of Hannah Montana, I am “living the best of both worlds.” The issue isn’t that I am simultaneously existing in two worlds; the issue is the negligence of my duality in the world of Davidson. It is as if our admission to Davidson means we must be either an athlete or come from a family that makes six-figures. And even when Davidson admits us, and our family income falls shorter than middle-class, after admission and orientation, we are left to figure this place out for ourselves. Coming in, I joined STRIDE. A nice acclamation into the college as a person of color, but STRIDE is only a first-year program. So, what do we do after STRIDE?
As a senior, I realized that equity will never exist at Davidson. It can’t exist. Davidson is not created for equity; it’s barely created for equality. For equity to exist at Davidson means acknowledging that some students need more assistance than others. It also means acknowledging that for first-generation students, especially students of color, navigating college is going to take more than monthly meetings with food to check-in. It means bringing in counselors, offering funding for opportunities, creating programs that will assist in navigating Davidson and potential post-graduate opportunities, such as graduate school, career paths that are outside of educating, banking, and consulting. I do not think that Davidson realizes that many of us students of color only knew of this college, applied, and were accepted because of the help from our counselors.
This is to say, it’s not enough to get us, students of color, here. It is not enough to add new requirements to graduate or new departments. It takes more than that. It takes understanding that “diversity” isn’t about racial aesthetics; it also means socioeconomic class diversity. It’s unjust to expect every student to navigate Davidson the same way. It’s also unjust to assume we all share the same experience. It’s illogical to compare me to another student who only has to worry about classes. Davidson must recognize that most of us are not given help. It’s recognizing that most of us do not even know what help we should be asking for. It’s also recognizing that, though we do not ask for help, it does not mean we do not understand that we need it.
As a senior, I realized that equity will never exist at Davidson. It can’t exist. Davidson is not created for equity; it’s barely created for equality. For equity to exist at Davidson means acknowledging that some students need more assistance than others.
This blog is not to demonize Davidson or tear it down. That is far from my motive. Davidson has been a place that encouraged me to be this fearless woman. Davidson has given me opportunities that I never considered. However, Davidson still isn’t much different than any other neoliberal institution. Davidson is not perfect. To be here and idealize Davidson is a disservice. Davidson is not perfect. Davidson is not an example for other institutions, but it can be.
Jade Polly is founder and writer for FearlessMentality blog. She is a senior Africana Studies major with interest in youth outreach, education reform, and community engagement. She has completed research within the Africana communities at Howard University and John C. Smith University and abroad in Ghana and Senegal. You can learn more or connect with Jade via Instagram/Twitter: @poetwritergirl.