The insinuations made in opinion columnist Klarke Mitchell recent piece are unpleasant and detrimental to the socio-cultural progress to which black university students aspire. In this column, I’ll respond to some of Mitchell’s main points, starting with his title. The use of the term “worshipto describe the organization of black students is inherently flawed. If anything, I could agree that there is a Culture of black victimization on a level that says we were racially victimized in college. However, to claim that it is a “cult” is absurd.
Mitchell asserts that two of my columns represent a strongly communal narrative when it comes to the Black experience in college. But I have to ask, where can I say that there is a singular experience that all black students have in these Columns? Both cite real-life experiences of other black students, as well as my own, which have been innumerable over the past three years. Also, I have to assume that Mitchell didn’t read my columns that she linked and made judgments based on my headlines alone. I am very careful that there is no more room for misunderstanding following an incendiary title. I also take great care not to make sweeping statements that claim there is only one black experience. Mitchell asserts that the legitimacy of the allegations of physical assaults against those who wrote the letter following the Statue of Homer incident makes their arguments fragile. But even if these students have not personally been victims of physical attacks, the simple evidence of past violence – beyond the August 2017 Grounds invasion by white supremacists – means it could happen again.
If Mitchell thought the claims made in the black students’ open letter were untrue, she had plenty of opportunities to voice it. Black students have been organizing since early September, and Mitchell had the opportunity to air his views after the letter was written. The meetings have been publicly promoted in the forums she is a part of. Maybe if she tried to participate and was shut down, I might have been able to understand why that was the angle and the way she chose to express those specific concerns, but that’s all simply not the case. Mitchell also states that all of the achievements and resources available to black students are overshadowed by the illustrations of negative experiences on Grounds. Mitchell is right to say that the “evidence is unquestionably plain” that there is “unprecedented flourishing” of our people at the University. But it’s thanks to us, and us alone. If Mitchell thinks there’s a constant eclipse of black student accomplishments and wants to elevate those things, she shouldn’t have chosen to publicly tear down the opinions of other black students instead.
Admit to being a victim does not portray someone in a bad light – it acknowledges the experiences of the individual. I don’t understand why we can’t acknowledge that we have been victimized and simultaneously claim our powerful evolution. It is true that we were victims at the University of many ways — colorism, cultural appropriation, symbolism, racism denial, outright hate crimes and many more. It’s also true that we took those attacks head-on and excelled at the University. These facts can coexist. As a black student principal who has been writing about my college experience for The Cavalier Daily for nearly three years, I have focused on the negatives because those experiences are even more overlooked than our accomplishments.
Mitchell takes the time to state his “familiarity with the conversations that have taken place in black forums” regarding the fears of some black students following the Homer statue incident. If Mitchell’s participation in these forums — which are meant to serve as safe spaces for black students — were more active than mere “familiarity,” she would know that other students cleared up misunderstandings. It is irresponsible to violate this space not only by exposing student fears, but also by deliberately omitting the presence of black students who step in to balance the space. Mitchell should also know that given that a noose was placed on a prominent statue on Grounds, it is deaf and ignorant to assert that any fear was “exaggerated”. What is truly “antithetical to the just society we all claim to want” is to debase the complaints black students who felt hostility from non-black people on Grounds.
While there are many other things I’d love to address in the content of Mitchell’s column, I can’t fit so much content into a single post. Mitchell touched on an extremely nuanced subject in black and white while insinuating that because she didn’t notice these experiences of racism on Grounds, they don’t exist. One thing I would never do is speak out against the black community in this public space – the University’s independent student newspaper – which is not organized for the black community. It is true that I do not suffer perpetually in this university, but it is not because I do not experience racism, it is because I am resilient. Black students are free to see themselves as whatever they want. However, I will never deny that I have been a victim here at the University.
Aliyah D. White is a opinion columnist who writes about identity and culture for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. The columns represent the opinions of the authors only.