When I attended PLNU from 2012 to 2016, I was never more aware of my skin color.
It was weird to me, coming from such a diverse high school, that there weren’t too
many people that looked like me strolling through campus. My hair became an
exhibit to gawk at and touch with caution; my friends became utterly confused when
I didn’t want to stay at the beach for four hours because I was born with the tan they
were trying to achieve. I was just aware—aware that I was different than those
It wasn’t the worst thing in the world. No one was ever mean to me or out of
line due to the fact that I was African American. No one showed blatant racism
towards me at any point or time during my time at PLNU. It was just the lack of
diversity that made it the biggest struggle. It was just the fact that almost 99 percent of
the time I was the “token.” That gets old after a while. When something (anything)
regarding race entered the conversation in a classroom, I was obligated to speak on
- It’s the number one rule as the token black girl.
Then there were the conversations that I had with my roommates where I had
to explain to them why my hair was different than theirs.
“So you don’t wash it everyday?”
“How do you get it so big?”
“It’s just naturally that big.”
“Why does it take you so long?”
“Because there are a lot of steps.”
“But you don’t wash it everyday?”
My freshman year, I got so frustrated. Have these people never encountered a black
person in their entire life? Honestly, some people I had come across, their high
schools were clones of PLNU, lacking diversity. That could have been due to the
geographic location of where they grew up or just the private Christian school
I soon realized that those conversations became deeper. Starting off with talks about
my hair morphed into intellectual conversations about the importance of the Black
Lives Matter movement by my senior year. I remember a speech at my brother’s Arizona State University African American graduation that spoke volumes to what I was going through at my time at PLNU. She talked about how the narrative should be flipped on being the token in the
classroom. We should embrace that role and stand our ground; it isn’t anything to
be ashamed of. We shouldn’t feel belittled or not taken seriously, we should take this
as an opportunity to zap the ignorance or divert a certain way of thinking.
This is the same attitude that I had to continue with as I got into the workplace. I
mean, I moved to Orange County for crying out loud; there’s days where I don’t see
another African American—it’s that bad. I am the only African American in my entire workplace, scratch that, I am the only other ethnicity other than white in my entire workplace. I am the token again. But, I can’t get frustrated. I have to rise to the occasion. The magazine I work for has been in business for about seven years and, prior to my employment there, they had not ever had an African American on the cover. Since I’ve been here just under one year, we’ve had three. These are three black models, highlighting different hair products in product shots, expanding the conversation. Tokens bring another point of view to the table.
That’s all that needs to happen—at PLNU and everywhere. Conversations need to
expand. At PLNU, the Black Student Union was definitely on the rise as I was exiting.
I think that one of my regrets is not getting more involved. I would suggest
that all students need to get more involved with the multicultural groups on
campus—no matter their skin color. They are amazing and a safe place to deepen
those conversations. Explore them.