LEGALIZING BLACK IN PUBLIC WHITE INSTITUTIONS
Singer, actress, & fashion-mogul, Solange Knowles, tweeted a series of opinion stating why Black people feel uncomfortable in predominately white spaces. Knowles was out with her husband and son at the Kraftwerk concert in New Orleans and while dancing, four white women told her to sit down.
Not only was she told to sit down at a concert, but something was then thrown at her back. Her son later identified it as a lime.
After her heartfelt tweets, Solange then penned a moving essay on why it’s hard to be Black in White spaces. She entitled the piece, And Do You Belong? I Do.
After receiving backlash on Twitter from racists and bigots, she had one phrase for them:
Bye haters pic.twitter.com/YPCRu75AFL
— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) September 10, 2016
Aside from Solange’s experience, I think that people forget that public spaces like concerts and theaters are not the only places subjected to open discrimination. In my experience, I have experienced covert racism (private rather than public) in one of the places where you should feel the safest: in the classroom.
While higher education is no stranger to racial discrimination, especially knowing the history of Blacks having to open their own schools due to lack of acceptance in Public White Institutions (PWIs), you would think that in the year of 2016 we as “progressed nation” could think that is behind us. That’s incorrect.
The favorite line people give is that “racism is dead.” How, sis? Slavery only ended a little over 100 years ago. The “end” of the Civil Rights Movement was at the end of the 60’s. And most importantly, with the possibility of the loud-mouthed bigot, Donald Trump, and/or “crooked” Hilary becoming president of the United States, race is one of the biggest questions concerning our country. Let us not forget that there are still racist who were alive during the Civil Rights Movement who are still alive and kicking. But because the government has made it socially unacceptable to outright be racist, people have gotten craftier.
Besides the bigotry that carried over from the 60’s, they have spread their ideals to their spawns. Everyday I sit in classrooms with people who justify Donald Trump’s racist remarks. They argue me down on immigration laws, and how Mexicans are rapists and drug carriers, as if the US isn’t already full of them. Rather than have arguments with logical reasoning of what problems Mexicans are actually bringing (if any at all), the arguments have become why American rapists are better than Mexican rapists.
They have a sense of entitlement. They expect you to hold the doors for them with no “please” or thank you.” They use our slang, and try to make it their own. We cannot wear a Black Lives Matter shirts without star-gazing stares and ignorant comments under their breaths. Black Pride being practiced on a PWI campus is in all aspects seen as “anti-White.”
Schools like mines (LaSalle University), have this “mission of diversity” crusade they “commit” to, but what actions are actually taken when racial and cultural groups are attacked in school?
During the Spring semester of the 2015-16 academic school year the African American Student League (the school’s first and only Black organization) held a small protest on our school’s steps. Was the protest peaceful? Yes. Did it cause some disruption? Of course. It’s a protest.
Not only were White students approaching them and asking them why they were doing things of such “stupidity,” but they also held verbal rampages on the students who participated in the protest. Students who participated were laughed at and whispered about. White students who found the cause empowering and went to join were told they were stupid. Students then turned to popular college campus life app, Yik Yak, where they could be their free bigot selves and throw the term “nigger” around freely. La Salle issued a statement saying not to use Yik Yak in a demeaning way, but what did the university actually do? Nothing.
One of my old co-workers informed me that in her college, Chestnut Hill College (also in Philadelphia), that there is a Black Student Union branch. The organization posted some flyers up, and soon after it was discovered that students were drawing Nazi swastikas symbols on them. As far as I was told, the college did nothing but remove the fliers.
In most recent events, Kansas State University, has had an even uglier event happen. One of their pre-med students, Paige Shoemaker, uploaded a photo of her wearing a black clay mask in which would have been harmless, until she said something that classified the photo as “Blackface.” She captioned the SnapChat photo, “feels good to finally be a nigga.” While she was expelled from the school, it still shows the insensitivity that White students display towards the Black students. It’s disgusting.
Besides Kansas State University, the other schools I mentioned (and schools across the nation) face issues like these and the White students responsible go undisciplined. So I must ask, how? How do schools have the nerve to advertise cultural diversity when there is so much that goes unsaid. They keep these issues hidden from the public and then chastise those who are victim as a way to keep these truths hidden.
When PWIs say they have a mission of “cultural diversity,” what they’re really saying is that they are a safe haven for covert racism. Your racism and bias are welcomed and acceptable as long as you are White, cisgendered, and you can keep it undercover.
Covert Racism in PWIs isn’t as hard to see as you think though. Look at the different student activities on campuses. There is a limit of only one Black organization on each campus. More than one could possibly threaten the idea of the White dominance and presence at campus events. If Blacks do join clubs that aren’t dedicated to race, but rather to something concentrated around their major, it is unlikely they will get a role as an authority figure like president or even secretary. They’ll have to work twice as hard to get their ideas out to the rest of the club to be noticed, and 10 times as hard to get the recognition. It’s unacceptable.
Even beyond the students, just look at the teachers and the curriculum. There is a lack of Black/African-American studies in universities. History classes result to teaching Black history last, and get through over 300 years of brutality and suffering in a two day span. We aren’t taught that colonization was an act of greed and racism. We are taught that while it had bad aspects, slavery was an overall great financial aspect for the United States.
I’m currently taking Literature in the American South, and the teacher says that there’s a misconception that only Blacks had it bad in the times of the Civil War. As I sat there and said to myself, “C’mon, sis,” I couldn’t help but let her know that while they were lacking in financial aspects (but still doing way better than Blacks), they excelled in both social and political lives. Don’t be so ignorant. Her talks on how she had only come across a Black person was if it was her aunt’s maid as a child get tiring to hear. Yes, it’s my people’s history, but what educational connection are you making, sis? You’re just talking to talk.
Let’s not forget that we have teachers, like the one I’m already talking about, that take whatever advantage they can to overuse the word “nigger.” We’re in a class that is going to have books with the word in it, I get that! But why do I have to hear you say it out loud? Especially when you’re “apologizing” for the use of the word to all the colored students in class. Saying “the N word” is just fine. Thanks!
Sometimes I think what’s even worse than covert racism amongst non-POC students is the students who identify as “bi-racial” who will never come to your aid. Sometime earlier this month, I was slandered on Facebook by a peer who identifies as “bi-racial,” but her ideologies resemble that of the White majority. When I clapped back, she had the nerve to tell me that if I wasn’t happy with my surroundings and the lack of diversity, then I should remove myself because there are plenty of colleges for my “kind.” While I won’t give her much publicity, I will say that while she while she speaks such words of ignorance, she has been benefitting off of minority opportunity all of her life. I decided that I would bring this level of ignorance to the attention of the faculty and push for disciplinary action. I went through weeks of paperwork and meetings just to be told “I’m trying to see her intent.” It was in that moment did I realize what it was that kept students of color from voicing their opinions on the harsh and unjust actions that take place in PWI’s. They were trying not to see race even when it was right in front of their eyes.
So what have I learned being Black in a PWI? Being pro-Black is anti-White. Showing assertiveness is being too aggressive. Being the victim still means being the perpetrator. Everything you say, can and will be belittled because your culture is being taken as a joke. When I excel in a class, I expect teachers to say “I didn’t take you as the kind to take your studies so serious.”
I used to ask why? But I know why now. I walk with a presence that can be felt, and they’re mad about it. I blast my ratchet rap music a minute before class starts, and they’re mad about it. I wear my Black pride on my clothes, my “resting bitch face,” and my hair, and they’re mad about it. I correct people on their political incorrectness, and they’re mad about it. I can be ratchet outside of the class, but score the highest grade on a test in the class, and they’re mad about it.
I’m Black and unapologetic, and they’re mad about it.
So what do I say to those who are “mad about it?” Stay mad.