COLUMN: It's not about being black, but being human

Carol Moseley-Braun once said, "Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face."

When I was first asked to write a column about what it means to be black at Central Michigan University, I took a breath and then a pause. What does it actually mean to be a black student at a predominately white university?

To me, that question is akin to being asked, "What does it feel like to be kissed by the sun?"

You don’t exactly know how to describe this deep, sometimes spiritual experience, but you just know it is one that you wouldn’t want to exchange for anything else.

There are so many ideas and experiences I have of my blackness — a concept that is very hard to capture in this publication's space. But I will try.

I wear my blackness proudly without even thinking about it, because being black is something that makes me who I am and forever will be.

My color, brown, always sticks out in CMU’s sea of reds, whites and yellows. When I first came here I didn’t know anyone. And I felt isolated.

Who could I relate to? Where are my people? Yet, as time grew, my feelings changed, because I began to see more and more blacks. I also related to other minorities who were in the same predicament as me.

But even when I was (and still am sometimes) the only black student in class, I do not think of myself as a minority. Even though there are days when I don’t always feel like I am in the majority.

Yet, I still don’t feel the term “minority” applies to me, because there is nothing marginal about me. I am black, yes. But my name is Sherri Keaton. I also love poetry. And I want to travel the world.

I do not fit inside a minority box. Life is too big for that.

And for the past (almost) three years here, I have re-defined my blackness, growing from CMU’s experiences.

From working at a predominately Caucasian newspaper to telling my non-black roommates why I grease my hair before washing it, these experiences shaped my life and helped me understand and appreciate my differences.

I also really appreciate when CMU takes notice of growing diverse populations; especially when they decided to add a black hair care line, Motions, to the Market. I am still excited about that.

Being black at CMU means so many things. As a reporter I would like to see more diverse stories in the paper. But there is a fine line I have learned to not cross when it comes to writing objective stories about my brothers and sisters.

Yet, at the end of the day, it is not about being black — but being human. An experience that is universal.


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