Trigger Warning: white supremacy on college campuses
Last Thursday on my campus, Washington University in St. Louis, we had a demonstration standing in solidarity with the students at Mizzou. Across the country, campuses mobilized to praise the courageous efforts and sacrifices made by Concerned Student 1950, a group of Mizzou students who demonstrated strength and perseverance in the face of violent threats.
The national media attention given to Jonathon Butler’s hunger strike, the football team’s support and Tim Wolfe’s eventual resignation has elevated the issues faced by Black students on predominately white campuses, forcing a national conversation on students of colors’ experiences in higher education.
The reality is frightening. From Yale to Mizzou, Black students are faced with the reality of living on campuses that are not only physically unsafe but also additionally burdened with institutionalized discrimination and a lack of administrative support.
For me, being Black on campus creates additional stress and anxiety on a day-to-day basis. Like many Black students, I navigate the stress of college coupled with the anxiety that grows out of racial isolation and ostracization from the broader campus community.
For myself and many others, simply the feeling of walking through campus and seeing only a handful of students that look like you is enough to make me feel unwelcome—as though the university cared very little about my success and that of folks who looked like me. This sense of isolation increases when confronted with university policies that are not conducive to our success and faculty members that don’t prioritize the needs of Black students. These subversive manifestations of white supremacy weigh heavy on my back and those of other Black students.
Besides the institutional ways racism appears in a college setting, violent physical threats have also been made using anonymous applications such as YikYak.
Below are a couple comments that were made in the fall of 2014 on my campus:
These threats exactly mirror the nature of threats made on the lives of Black students at Mizzou this fall.
This is not new. The bodies of black people have never been ours to own. Black students deserve to feel safe on their campuses. I deserve to have a university environment where I can thrive and not just survive.
There are many tangible steps that institutions can take to provide for the needs of black students. They can provide mental health specialists that are Black, increase the amount of Black faculty and administrators, and provide physical spaces dedicated to Black students—be they houses or even lounges. This short list of examples is just the beginning. There are so many ways in which campuses can do better. And the truth is, they have no option. They must change or face the consequences of students that are no longer capable of being patient.