As I reflect on protests at college campuses nationwide, I can’t help but feel a little shell-shocked. Not too long ago, I walked across the pavement of a southern PWI, where my black female body was picked on, prodded and devalued over the course of four years. Although I will forever cherish the lessons learned, memories made and the education I procured at Emory University, the institution and its respective administration gave me a bitter taste of the real world.
You see, the Mizzous, Yales and Emorys of this nation have one thing in common: they are a microcosm of real life. Many people of color enter said institutions with merit, fervor and hope only to combat the harsh realities of being black in America. It is resilience that helps us succeed and graduate from our colleges with that same merit, fervor and hope. As my esteemed Emory colleague, Quintarrius Shakur so eloquently said, “excellence is [our] form of resistance.”
And resistance is merited, especially when being #BlackOnCampus looked like this in my experiences:
- A white woman walks out of her bathroom stall and pets your natural hair as you apply your make-up … before she washes her hands.
- A black sorority is suspended from campus for five years, while a white fraternity is suspended for one semester for harsher allegations.
- A white fraternity throws cotton balls on a black fraternity’s lawn.
- Cultural sensitivity forums are breeding grounds for non-POC who lack sympathy and, oftentimes, hoard and spew hatred. But #FreedomOfSpeech…
- The display of the confederate flag is just another “normal” illustration of “Southern pride.”
- Swastikas are embellished on institutional walls.
- A multicultural program that caters to black student recruitment is removed because it “lacks inclusivity.”
- The Black Student Alliance house is revoked.
- Your white male professor accuses you, the lone black girl out of four other non-POC, of cheating on a group assignment.
- Your white female pre-health advisor tells you that your goals are unrealistic and unattainable.
- The president of your university cites the Three-Fifths Compromise as noble temperance of ideology.
These were some of my realities. When I graduated, I was happy to leave these memories behind. But I quickly learned that analogous issues would manifest on college campuses, places of business and the nation for years to come. It saddens me that my little sister has to endure the same realities concerning racial oppression even though five years has lapsed between my time in college and hers. It saddens me that my best friend does not feel 100 percent comfortable rocking her natural hair in her corporate position. It saddens me to watch presidential debates where one or two superficial questions qualify as adequately addressing the #BlackLivesMatter movement. My point is this: institutional racism is not exclusively on college campuses. It is embedded in both small and large powerful facets of our everyday lives. It is personal. It is professional. It is everywhere.
I like to think that the hashtags and conversations are helping. We would not be privy (in a timely manner) to information like the threats towards black bodies at Mizzou if Twitter did not exist. However, we need more. We need to capitalize the momentum fashioned by the #StandWithMizzou demonstrations. Clearly, protest translates to a threat to an institution’s capital, as illustrated by Missouri’s football team protest and subsequent resignation of their president, Tim Wolfe. Had they not played, the institution stood to lose approximately $1,000,000 for even one missed game. That’s huge. So how can that sort of financial impact be transferred to other PWIs and campuses experiencing racial oppression? How can alumni contribute? How can YOU, as an individual, add to the conversation?
These are important questions that black students, alum, professionals and allies should be asking and answering for themselves. DO something—anything. Because an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
What a time to be alive.