Commentary – Black students at white universities harbor solidarity, seen and unseen

Commentary – Black students at white universities harbor solidarity, seen and unseen
November 25
00:00 2015

Over the last few weeks, students at colleges and universities across the country have stood in solidarity with Mizzou [the University of Missouri], a public university in Missouri that made national news when members of their football team threatened to forfeit the next game if the university president was not removed from his position. 

Some of these schools were large public universities while others were small private ones. Some, like UNCG [the University of North Carolina at Greensboro], Davidson College and Wesleyan University are located in North Carolina while the others are located on both coasts and everywhere in between.

Some had 15 people come out in support while others had crowds of 60 or more. Despite their differences, all of the rallies and demonstrations had one goal – to make administrators understand that their lack of vigilance when it comes to issues that affect students of color is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

As a student at High Point University [HPU], where only 5 percent of the 4,200 students on campus identify themselves as African-American, I truly understand what they are fighting for.   

In the age of colorblindness, HPU, which is the perfect university in many regards, often doesn’t see the need to address issues that affect students of color. Issues like: increasing diversity of faculty members so we also have the opportunity to learn from professors who look like us and creating a multicultural office so students of color feel that they have somewhere to call their own on campus.

Although students on my campus have not had a public demonstration of our solidarity with Mizzou, we have been fighting toward the same goal for many years.  The process is slow and required us to learn and work within the corporate hierarchies, while also pushing the invisible boundaries.

To my knowledge, there haven’t been blatant racist acts like Halloween parties where students wear black face, the denial of students of color into sororities or racial obscenities said to students on my campus, but there have been many acts of micro-aggressions.

Throughout my four years at HPU, there have certainly been improvements.  Nothing as drastic as the president stepping down, but small victories like an increase in the students of color on the campus and an acknowledgement of the need for a multicultural center.

While fighting to raise awareness about diversity issues on campus, my classmates and I have not left it solely to the administration. By instituting events like Diversity Week, administering forums on race relations and going against our school’s conservative background by having “Orange Is The New Black” actress and LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] activist Lea Delaria speak on campus using financial assistance from the SGA [Student Government Association], we have made the beginning strides in creating a university that encourages and celebrates diversity of thought.

I admire the solidarity that was demonstrated by the students at Mizzou. Their demands were heard, met and most importantly sparked necessary change across the country.

My experience at HPU has taught me that sometimes change is quiet, slow and subtle. My solidarity isn’t demonstrated in boisterous rallies, but it is still there.  It is just as strong and just as powerful.

To the students of color at Mizzou, we the students of color at High Point University stand with you in solidarity.

Mayeesa Mitchell is an intern with The Chronicle this semester. She is a senior at High Point University majoring in Journalism and Business Administration. She has been involved in diversity efforts at HPU since her freshman year. After graduation, she plans to work as a print journalist and continue advocating for civil rights.

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