|Articles, Autobiography, Campus Life, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-13 22:16Z by Steven|
Brown Alumni Magazine
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
It was a muggy day in September 1987. Thanks to the dense New England humidity of a stubborn Indian summer, most of us pre-freshmen had hung our crisp new college outfits in the narrow dorm closets and had retreated into the baggy shorts and long tank tops that all high school students wore that year.
Brown shoulders abounded as we gathered nervously for our first group event of the Third World Transition Program, or TWTP, as it was commonly known. All non-white members of the incoming freshman class were invited for a four-day orientation that was meant to acclimate us to our Ivy League surroundings. We were supposed to commune together and develop bonds so that we would feel comfortable and at home when the “snowstorm” (our term for the arrival of the Caucasian students) hit.
Upon arriving at TWTP, my first question had been: What is up with the name? I’m from New York, not a third world country. Apparently, the program had been created to appease the mostly African American students who famously organized a walkout in 1968 to protest their lack of representation among the classes and faculty. Therefore, even though the majority of students who gathered under its banner had graduated at the top of their classes from some of the best high schools in the Western Hemisphere, the nomenclature was not to be trifled with.
Chastened by the explanation of TWTP’s genesis and shamed by my lack of knowledge about what it took to make the program a reality, I took my seat in Andrews Dining Hall next to a cool Indian girl in an all-black outfit, wearing one enormous earring. In typical teen girl fashion, we became fast friends in about fifteen minutes, but we were quickly parted when the program organizers announced that we would be gathering in ethnicity-based groups. She trotted off to join the Asian students, and I was left alone to face a difficult choice: Did I join the large fun-looking group of black students at the far end of the room who were already laughing, high-fiving, and forming cliques? Or should I join the small, sad group of biracial kids whose only unifying characteristic was parents of two different races?
Technically, I belonged with the biracial kids because my mother is African American, while my father is white and Jewish. But that characterization did not feel like home to me at all. I had been raised black, felt black, and had never once called my racial identity into question. There was no confusion or conflict in my home, either. My dad had always told me, “It’s simple. I am white and you are black.”…
Read the entire article here.