Tanatswa Muchenje ’22
Our perceptions of the world are inspired by how far we have allowed our eyes to look. Sometimes learning in a classroom about the existence of other cultures, other races, and other ethnicities might not be enough for one to see themselves as someone who accepts the normalcy of differences amongst people.
I have a strong memory of all the knowledge my teachers tried to instill in me about other races, cultures, and religions, but I am still learning new aspects of people’s identities. I am sure I am not alone in this thinking.
When I applied to be the secretary of the Davidson African Students Association (DASA), I wanted to use my voice to define Africa—where I come from—from my experiences, not from what everyone else might have heard in their schools or in the media.
It is very hard to not be able to define my own identity and to recognize in many cases that my identity is being associated with these stereotypes.
DASA seeks to change the narrative about Africa here at Davidson with the help of African students who possess the African experience.
It is not specifically required for every African student here to be part of DASA, but when African students arrive at Davidson, they become automatic members of the organization, unless they specifically request to be removed.
However, it is prudent to admit that it is the identity of us African students that lies at stake if we are to choose to abstain from the progressive task of transforming the way everyone else views Africa; as there are stereotypes that have accumulated, and with those, ignorance is perpetuated.
Last summer I went to Charlotte and a lady asked me where I was from. As soon as I was done saying “I am from Zimbabwe,” she outright told me how sorry she was about the fact that we did not have internet back at home and that I might have been so shocked to watch television the first time I got here.
I was devastated; I thought of my family and friends back home and what they would think of this, and it made me sad.
I then politely explained to her that she was wrong about me and where I came from. I was also not mad at her. I could easily see myself in her position; we are all ill-informed at some times in our lives.
My point is definitely not to narrate various scenarios like this one, but instead to show how serious I want people to take DASA’s mission.
Most African countries are relatively small, and most people do not know their names, and they might not be able to pronounce them. Nevertheless, it is unacceptable if someone asks an African, “What is Africa like?” because Africa itself is by no means small.
Ask any African student, and they will tell you this: every single country in Africa is so diverse in terms of race, language, religion, and culture.
African students want to be in a space where people acknowledge our identities, because that is mostly what makes us who we are. I believe this, more than anything, can make us feel like we belong in this space just like every other student here at Davidson.
DASA is by no means a“safe space” for African students to be themselves freely. It is an inclusive community of Africans and non-Africans who also want to learn about different aspects of Africa.
The objectives of DASA could not be achieved if we did not have people of other identities willing to join us.
Last but not least, we have been reviewing the statistics of African students here at Davidson.
Admission counselors are responsible for recruiting students, and they do a great job.
We still would love to see an increase in the number of African students, particularly certain African countries that have not been represented here before.
I know that admission decisions only take into consideration who has applied in the first place, but Davidson needs to increase the amount of outreach that extends to certain African countries.
I also think that we, as African students, can be a great resource in accomplishing this kind of initiative by visiting certain African countries and speaking about Davidson.
I truly believe there are a lot of students in all African countries who would be a good fit for Davidson but do not have the information required to apply.
We, as DASA, are grateful for the support that has been given to us, and we would like to be able to contribute to progress at Davidson in any way we can.
Tanatswa Muchenje ’22 is a biology major from Harare, Zimbabwe. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.