Reflective Change Essay
My first semester here at Trinity College has brought a whole new aspect of diversity and how people of different backgrounds mesh together into my life. Before coming to college, I attended a small private school just outside of Boston, heavily populated by upper class, white individuals. Having gone to a private prep school in the New England area, climbing the social latter based on appearance and what you wear is nothing new to me, as I have seen this the past four years of my life. What struck me as different after spending my first semester at Trinity College, as well as looking at the community in my first year seminar class, was the racial barriers that exist within the student body of the college.
Being a part of the Color and Money first year seminar has helped me understand and notice how diversity affects a college campus, an idea that I was somewhat blind to prior. While we started off the semester looking at the admissions process and how race and social class tied into this, we recently studied the atmosphere at Trinity College, through the eyes of many different second year students. Coming to a small liberal arts school in Connecticut, I expected to see judgments made based on socio-economic status because this exists all around the world. What surprised me most when stepping onto this campus was the prevalence of racial separation, as I really have never been exposed to it during my life in schooling systems. Although we discussed these barriers in our first year seminar class, I came to notice this direct tendency of students to associate themselves with people of the same race from day one.
Walking into Mather Hall while it is heavily populated with students proves this unfortunate separation, which is created by the desire to be comfortable. While students here at Trinity may not realize what they are doing, stepping out of one’s comfort zone to meet some new people coming from completely different backgrounds seems way out of the equation to a high percentages of individuals here. Adolfo Abreu suggested an interesting idea in his open letter to the Trinity community in looking at the separation between white and blacks in Mather Hall. He said, “The question that is never asked is ‘Why do all the White Kids Sit Together?’ There is no analysis concerning white privilege on this campus but there is a constant reference to the student of color population being exclusive and primarily to themselves” (Abreu 4). I completely agree with Adolfo’s words as the blame is too often handed to students of color for not sitting or associating themselves with white individuals. The studies this semester in our first year seminar course have really opened my eyes to see how racial barriers affect students of color on a daily basis. The big problem that exists, in the words of Abreu, is, “white students not stepping out of their own comfort zones and trying something new” (Abreu 4). While Trinity College may be seen as a college free from any racial barriers from an outsider, like me when applying to the school a year ago, being a part of both the community and my first year seminar class has suggested a different notion.
Money plays a big role wherever you are, but rather than being a subject of division at Trinity, I have notice that it acts more as a basis of judgment throughout the community. You can’t walk from your dorm to class without passing an individual who is internally analyzing your appearance on this campus. Again, being a small liberal arts school in the northeast, many students come from pretty wealth backgrounds, suggesting the need to impress others and show off wealth through appearance. I wouldn’t say there are necessarily divisions based on social class, but people of the same friend group seem to look and dress pretty similarly. For some, as seen in our interview project, appearance does not mean a thing, but for the majority it provides comfort when one feels they look good and have dressed to impress. This whole idea is nothing I haven’t seen before, but it is interesting to see how it is present on a bigger scale in a more mature setting.
Since coming to Trinity College and spending my first semester here, I have learned a lot about race and social class and how certain divides exist in the community. I have noticed that the main cause for the racial separations is individuals wanting to feel comfort and similarity with those who surround them. The only way to erase this barrier is the community taking action as a whole, with individuals stepping out of their comfort zones. Prior to Trinity, I had never really experienced racial barriers, but after conversation in our seminar class, the idea stays in the back of my mind every time I walk through campus. Our seminar has really helped in broadening my knowledge on these worldwide problems and has pushed me to try and make a change.
Provost, Kerri. “Trinity Student Offers Suggestions for Bridging Town-Gown Chasm,” Real Hartford, November 26, 2013.