Letter to the Editor: For others, race matters are trivial, instances of oppression neglected

by Vance Stinson

I have been relatively hesitant to write to the Griffin due to an article written, in poor taste, demeaned African-American people and our culture in the May 2015 M.U.D. Issue, but I am tired of remaining silent and agreeable on issues that should not be ignored.

 

I extend my congratulations to Maddie Reed who is USA’s Diversity Chair. I believe in her potential to impact change around campus. As Senator Shanahan said, “Once Maddie has an idea, there is no stopping her.” From what I have come to learn, he is absolutely right. Maddie, a fierce passionate go-getter, will lead the Diversity Board and speak out about the issues that students face.

 

We should all be aware of issues that the biggest issues facing diverse populations in this nation stem from xenophobia, the criminal justice system, and Islamophobia. At a time of heightened racial tensions in this college, city, and nation, I am surprised that Ekemini Umoren and Willie “Trey” Smith’s experiences and initiatives were not more thoroughly discussed as viable qualifications for USA’s Diversity Chair.

 

We have scholarship programs on campus, including COPE and the ULLC, that serve as a funding source for intelligent members of the urban community who cannot afford a college education. I applaud President Hurley for remaining committed to these programs while still being realistic in understanding that the college can do more.

 

While Diversity Chair, I had the pleasure of sitting on the Campus Climate Committee which issued a survey to students at the college. The findings echoed the issues faced by ALANA students on this campus: People of color feel academically and socially isolated; students feel there is a lower chance of ALANA students holding campus leadership positions and, experience microaggressions within this community. Most disturbingly, students of color have been the target of racially charged jokes.

 

I am disappointed in myself for not confronting these issues as they occurred. As I heard Ekemini and Willie speak about people of color, I felt genuinely understood. I no longer wanted to benefit from the privilege I had been afforded by the respect of my peers. It is time to speak out, and show that these issue truly exist.

 

I recall a time last semester when the USA Executive Board was asked to meet with a consultant who wanted to understand how Canisius’ culture was so successful. I made a comment that Canisius had an opportunity to further represent minority populations that surround our campus. This consultant, without looking at me, addressed my comments to the other individuals in the room suggesting that there were research and statistics that supported the idea that people of urban communities were less likely to succeed in college.

 

I remember commenting on a fellow student’s page who stated that those who speak out about racial injustices are “race-baiters.” He proceeded to block me on Facebook, stating that he “was afraid” and “did not know what I was capable of.” Despite our many civil interactions prior to the incident, my knowledgeable disagreement with his claims garnered his fear.

Many times, people are faced with microaggressions that are less targeted instances of bigotry, but further the idea of others’ inferiority. Allow me to speak out on my experiences, in hopes that we can continuously be aware of our actions impacts on others.

 

At least once a week, as I walk down the sidewalk with Beyonce blasting in my headphones and a focused look on my face, I watch as people who I am familiar with actively try to jaywalk across to avoid walking past me. Or better yet avoid eye contact, ignore my hello, and clutch their belongings as if I am a thief. Most times, they cannot see that I know them because all they could see from afar was my brown skin approaching them.

 

A student shared in my senior capstone that he had buddies who proudly displayed the confederate flag in their homes. He justified this by saying that they were just being stupid, not understanding the implications of their actions. Ironically, he and I both presented to the class on civil rights in the early 1900s. This situation led me to think further about what this implied about a person whom I had begun to respect over the years. He had studied race in America and was well versed on the oppression my ancestors faced, and what that flag represented yet stood by the ignorance of his friend.

 

We treat our diverse organizations on campus as if they are simply a place of refuge for people of color while funding them less and furthering the idea they are exclusive. Perhaps, if individuals had attended Afro-Ball or AAS’ Fashion Show they might see the importance of those key elements to the organization’s ability to share their mission. Instead, crucial components of Afro-American culture and AAS’ events continue to be rendered as “not needed.”

 

If my words have rung true for people in this community, I invite you to share your experiences. If you have experienced microaggressions or been targeted because of who you are, share your story. Lastly, stop allowing these instances to go unchecked. This is the time to start talking, not avoiding conversations about the issues that affect us all. This is for all of us to partake in, not just people of color.

 

Undoubtedly, people around the campus will rebuke this article. As “men and women for and with others,” this is an excellent opportunity to stand in solidarity with those facing oppression. Together, we can make this campus a more inclusive place.

 

What does it say about us if we stand by and allow our “friends” to contribute to the unjust society that we live in? At what point do we take action to mitigate ignorance in the world? At what point do we take a stance to no longer align ourselves with those who have inexcusable prejudices for others?  

 

Enough is enough.

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Comments

  1. Miss. Edwards says:

    First of all Vance, round of applause! I recall it being sophomore year when my eyes began to see clearly what was going on. It was ironic because that was my first year on AAS as an eboard member. It would always amaze me how SPB and USA would put on similar events and once we tried to host one, rarely anyone showed up. Now I know I annoy my friends by saying these things but I have tried time and time again to bring someone of color to our school as an artist. And I mean a big name just as equivalent to Leverne Cox. And every year it was shut down because that artist wouldn’t pertain to the “Jesuit Way” or it didn’t pertain to out mission statement. Now mind you these would have been R&B artist or someone in the Rap genre who wasn’t as vulgar. I feel as though no one wants to experience or engage in our culture on campus simply because of what others might think if they do attend. Now there are some people other than color that do attend but majority of the school was absent. I could go on and on. But for the same students that blast Drake and Future all through there homes on a Friday night on Hedley, some things just don’t add up. I have so much faith in the incoming classes doing something about this issue but it doesn’t start with just a hand full, everyone has to be on board.

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