The Trouble with being Black in College: A perspective on issues related to racism on majority white college campuses. By: Frederick V. Engram Jr.

Many people in the African-American community feel that in order to get half the respect of your white peers that you have to be twice as good. However, you have to ask the question what then? Is it to be assumed that once they reach the level of being “half respected” that it should be enough? The fact that as a progressive and tenacious people, they are still treated as marginalized people; even in their obvious attempts to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps is problematic.

The mistreatment towards students of color, and minorities on college campuses is no laughing matter. In fact, it is frightening that in 2017 students of color still have to be afraid of being ostracized, demeaned, attacked, bullied and most importantly..silent! Harper and Davis (2016) point out the fact that students across the country at dozens of colleges in the past year have been protesting their mistreatment. However, instead of focusing on the reasons for the protest the media disproportionately focused its attention on the popularity of the protest. Many students and people of color were not surprised, as many of you are not, by this type of coverage as it seems to be the norm.

It has been the history of this country to attempt to silence the protests of minorities (see: the Civil Rights movement), it is easier to negate the outcry of the oppressed rather than to address it. Racism is so deeply embedded into the fabric of this country that it is nearly impossible for students to avoid these occurrences on college campuses. Does this excuse or mitigate the oppressive behavior and fear that racism causes, or should it? The answer is unequivocally no!

What needs to happen, is that each college or university in this country has to be willing to change the culture of their schools. This must happen across all levels of the institution from the Board of trustees, to the President, faculty and staff, and lastly the students. If it is truly the aim of any college or university to create an inclusive institution, it starts from within. Putting an end to the constant roundabout discussion of change and implementing fair and equitable policies and procedures rather than hosting pointless town halls is the obvious starting point. These meetings should only occur if there is an honest effort to bring about change, otherwise hosting a meeting to create a smoke and mirror perception of empathy is a narcissistic and sadistic act of false leadership in the eyes of many minority identified students.

Students of color want, need, and deserve to feel like they belong. Being in college is tough enough without the added pressure of racist acts, acts of violence, or micro-aggressions from their peers, staff, faculty, and the institution itself. Do you care enough to ignite change, or are you comfortable with making others uncomfortable? Ask yourself… Evaluate Yourself, Check yourself!

References

Harper, S. R., & III, C. H. (2016). Eight Actions to Reduce Racism in College Classrooms. AAUP (American Association of University Professors).

Salonikas, C. (2015). Concerned Student 1950 Have Removed “No Media” Signs. Youtube, Columbia, Missouri.

 

Frederick V. Engram Jr. (He/Him/His) Manages graduate recruitment communications at American University in Washington, D.C. In this position he is responsible for overseeing the outgoing communication efforts for all 5 schools. He also assists in creating recruitment and anti-melt opportunities for capturing and maintaining the interest of prospective and admitted graduate students. He also serves as the liaison of the Graduate Feeder Scholars Program with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University located in Tallahassee Florida. In addition to his duties, he is passionate about providing tips for students of color on navigating the graduate admissions process and has been published on Blavity.com https://blavity.com/7-tips-for-navigating-the-graduate-school-admissions-process. He can be reached via Linkedin or Instagram at ThaRiddla03.

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