Growing up in Oakland had its challenges, I knew that it wasn’t a place I wanted to live in forever. Like many Urban areas there was poverty, drug use, and gang violence that I witnessed throughout my life, and it was something that I didn’t want for myself. However, it wasn’t until after I left that I realized and appreciated the culture, the diversity, and the community that I grew up in. It was a place where I felt comfortable and didn’t feel like I was an outlier. Moving to Eugene Oregon, I was excited and didn’t really have any concerns going into the U of O except where are all the black people?
I thought it was a joke when I looked around my campus. In my classes, whether it was a 20-person lecture or a 300-person lecture, I was usually the only black person in the room except for the rare occurrence that there were maybe a few others. It was like I was in another world and for the first time I didn’t feel comfortable. I felt awkward and anxious on campus and in my classes because I felt as though I was being watched. On campus there was no safe place to be black. I was the outlier, and it wasn’t a good feeling. I was able to meet some friends, but I noticed that I wasn’t completely able to be myself. My friends were great, but I couldn’t relate to them. They didn’t have the same culture or experiences as me. I had to make sure not to lose myself and remember where I came from.
These feelings I kept to myself and never talked to anyone because I knew no one would be able to relate or understand where I was coming from.
Throughout my entire four years at the U of O I had one black friend. Also in 4 years, 45 classes total, I had one Black professor. I realized I took my experience in Oakland for granted, and that representation is so important and necessary for a person’s mental health. I am not saying that my college experience was awful and that I hated it because I didn’t. However, I think about how much better my experience could have been if the school was more diverse and considered the perspective of being a person of color in a Predominantly White Institution.
– Kennedy Luddington, Cultural Engagement Coordinator