Dear Bishop (My First Weeks on Campus): My roommate is real nice. She is a junior preparing for a nursing career. She has a lot of studying to do. In a way it seems strange that she would be placed in this freshmen dorm. Gee Whiz, girls are in and out of their rooms laughing, partying, having guys in their rooms, playing loud music, etc. She is trying to study in the midst of this noise and chaos.
After about three weeks, she could not take it any more. She asked me if I would move with her to a more quiet dorm. Geezo, I have so much stuff. The idea of moving is a bit too much for me even to consider. I really will miss her. She is such a nice roomy.
Well, let me share with you some unique experiences. If you recall I mentioned in my last entry I would share more about the ignorance shown by some of the other girls in Fisher House. Here goes. . .
My roomy and I are in our room talking and this girl walks in. She says not a word but walks around looking at the stereo, tape recorder, and fridge that we had as well as our canned goods. My roomy and I just looked at her wondering what was the deal. Keep in mind our dorm room was not huge, but large enough for my roomy and me. Then, she looked at my roomy and asked: “Can I turn on your stereo?” My roomy replied: “Well, you have ask Zita; it’s not mine.”
Then, she looked at me and asked: “Is this stuff all yours?”
I nodded the affirmative.
Then, she asked: “What does your Father do?”
I responded: “He works; what does yours do?”
She just walked out, not answering my question.
My roomy looked puzzled and asked me: “What do you think she wanted?” I shrugged and said that I did not have a clue.
The next day another girl from our floor came to our dorm room. My roomy and I looked up and welcomed her. She gave a “hey.” Then, she, said to me: “You have a lot of stuff. I doubt that my servants have all this stuff. What does your Father do?”
Now, before I write my response, I had to reflect on the many “human relations workshops” I was a part and the value of such workshops provided not just for students we talked to but for me as well. So, instead of my being irritated, I just chalked up her inquiry and others who made similar inquiries those first weeks as just “plain ol’ ignorance. I figured many of them had not had little if any contact with African Americans except from what they may have seen or TV or a movie. And much of the stuff on was not always that flattering of African Americans.
So, I responded: “Well, like I told your other friend, my Dad works like I figure most of your Dads do. Now, let me give you something to think about: You really do not know what your servants have or do not have. If you did you would not ask such a question. And I can tell you one thing. I would not be surprised that your servants are sick of you.”
Well, she left and fewer visitors came to ask those ignorant questions.
Um, I guess I am functioning as an ambassador for the ethnic ignorant.
Gee, I am glad my roomy is not like some of the other girls. She has said to me: “Wow, I am so sorry.”
I let her know she is not responsible for others’ ignorance.
Reflections: I have always been a strong believer that God has a reason for everything that happens. The unconscious bias that I believe landed me in the almost all-white Fisher House was a blessing in disguise.
Throughout my high school years, I was a member of the Detroit Junior Round Table. This was a metropolitan Detroit human relations organization that was made up of Detroit and suburban Detroit high school students. This was a wonderful organization for young people. It was made up of teens of different faiths and races.
Some of us would be chosen to provide workshops at schools with little diversity. Some of us would be on panels that would answer questions regarding racial relations. I learned how to anticipate and answer questions that may annoy some. My experiences on those panels prepared me for those whom I met in my dorm.
Would I become annoyed? Oh yes! However, I met so many other girls in Fisher House, especially my roomy, that were so nice and not as limited in their experiences to treat people as they would wish others to treat them. As a matter of fact, I have many fond memories of stay at Fisher House.
Also, my whole background made me feel comfortable being in an all-white environment. I attended a Catholic grade school and high school that had diverse student bodies. Also, the neighborhood I lived was well-integrated. So, my whole experience growing up was being with a diverse group of people.
Thus, I know that my background prepared me for the ignorant and the wise. I learned that no one group of people was a particular way. And with that knowledge my background gave me, I was able to help the ignorant and not believe any one group of people all felt the same way.
OK, next week, let me share more about my first weeks as a freshman at the U.