While scrolling through twitter, I came across a story from a former student at the University of North Carolina. Using a series of linked tweets, he briefly discussed the structural and rarely discussed racism within large universities across the globe.
“I’ll never forget the night at UNC I was told “my best friend isn’t here because you took his spot.” I was dumbfounded, not because I wasn’t used to people thinking that I slipped into UNC via diversity, but because never did I ever think someone would have no qualms to look to me dead in my face and tell me I didn’t belong at a place I worked my ass off to be at. That is what POC (people of color) face at these institutions of ‘higher learning’ and yet ignorance is coddled and perpetuated and even supported some times..year after year.” – @doncooleo
The famous University of North Carolina may be over 480 miles away, but these experiences ring true to students like me at Penn State. Just like @doncooleo, I’ve been subjected to absolutely ridiculous ideology regarding the creation and implementation of diversity within our university.
In January of 2014 I recall logging onto MyPennState to see the updated status of my admissions application. Due to the well-known name and variety of majors, I eagerly applied with high hopes of being accepted. As we know, Penn Staters are admitted based on high merit and community involvement; therefore, I felt confident in my application and was looking forward to seeing a “congratulations” message. To make a long story short, I was accepted and obviously chose to attend what I believed to be one of the greatest universities in the nation.
It’s been over a year since my initial acceptance into Penn State, yet questions continuously rise. I wish I could share every experience I’ve had in and outside of the Penn State community, but most of them have a common theme of, “wait, you got into Penn State? The main campus?” With a slightly raised eyebrow and small smile, I nod to confirm, “Yes, I really do attend Penn State.”
I suppose the overly frequent confrontation isn’t horrible when compared to tensions within other universities, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a large problem here at Penn State. I don’t have the time to tell you about when I was called a porch monkey for protesting on behalf of Mike Brown. I don’t have the time to tell you about the Residence Hall worker who assumed I was skipping class as I walked with tape over my mouth reading #BlackLivesMatter. I can’t tell you about the myriad of stares I receive when questions over our nation’s racial climate come up and I’m the only black kid sitting among an all-white classroom.
What I can tell you is that there is an embodiment of ignorance walking throughout this campus. To the people who think I’m on a scholarship solely because of diversity, those who claim to understand the deep-roots of affirmative-action, and the many who assume they understand my story because of a few Sociology classes: Please look at the peaceful uprising of black student voices. We’ve seen it at Mizzou and requests for action storm the campuses of Yale, Princeton and others…
These aren’t isolated events and shouldn’t be taken lightly. They’re simply a sign of a bigger shift of empowerment.