This is article is a part of the Dialogue on Diversity series.
Sometimes, I overdress in casual settings, but eventually, I forget that I overdressed. The thing about overdressing and forgetting is that there is always someone who will say something or perhaps look at you a certain way that reminds you of what you may have forgotten: There is a clothing standard that is unspoken. Everyone knows you do not fit the standard, so they will remind you, leaving you overdressed — adorned in something beautiful, yet still feeling naked. I am always reminded. My experience as a Black student at Harding has been another one of those reminders.
Meeting new people is normally fun for me because I love people. What I do not always love is when they open a conversation by asking me what rap artists I listen to before asking me where I am from or if I listen to rap or what type of music I enjoy. I am reminded.
I have noticed that it is not rare for me to be the only person of color in a class, and this typically does not bother me much, except for when the entire class looks at me when certain topics come up. I am reminded.
I enjoy having conversations with those wiser than me, and I can remember multiple instances in which I had the opportunity to have casual conversations with faculty members. I was so excited to speak about God, philosophy, life or anything else and learn from their experiences, but for some reason, those conversations normally turn, against my will, into me answering questions about how I feel about diversity or something related. Is there no other conversation I could contribute to? I am reminded.
These are small examples that I can fit in a 500-word entry, but they reflect a bigger picture. I have never in any stage of life felt my Blackness as much as I have during my experience as a student at Harding. I am not saying that I feel attacked for my race, because I do not, nor am I attacking anyone else. Though I have heard some ugly things while here, they are rare. Harding is, overall, a loving community that reflects Jesus very well.
As a Christian man, I am in love with the way God uses Harding to provide an environment full of people who love Jesus and are doing their best to be more like Him. My life is changed for the better for having been here.
But as a Black Christian man, I often feel like a guy who came overdressed to a casual event and forgot he was overdressed. There is some standard that is unspoken that I know I break with my very presence, and I do not have to wait long before I am reminded. Although I am adorned by God with something beautiful, I am left feeling naked.
Isaac Davis is a guest writer for The Bison. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.