Like many others over the past week, I have been fully immersed in what’s been going on at the University of Missouri (Mizzou). What’s different is, I am not looking at it through the lens of an opinionated media consumer.
I am seeing my alma mater being scrutinized by the comments section on news outlets, I am following people on my timeline who are enduring the negativity on MU’s campus currently, and I am constantly going back and forth on social media with people who JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. #guilty
I do believe from the outside looking in, many people have the assumption that current Mizzou students and alumni carry a great disdain for our university and that we had an awful experience. I can’t speak for everybody, but for me and many of my classmates that I keep in touch with, that is definitely NOT the case.
I loved my time at Mizzou. I had so many pivotal moments in undergrad and it is all a part of my story:
- I found out I was carrying my daughter.
- I got saved.
- I was president of the student-parent organization.
- I met the man I’m dating now.
- My first full-time job as a College Adviser was referred to me from an adviser.
- I got to experience the first black man become President of the United States.
So many memories.
With that said, all was not flowers and roses. Although I never experienced overt racism on campus personally, I’ve witnessed it on several occasions, and many people I am close to have shared so many disheartening stories of racist and discriminatory instances.
I vividly remember the time my friend was walking home with her daughter(another fellow student-parent on MU’s campus) from the Black Culture Center (BCC) after an evening of studying, and a pick-up truck with a confederate flag sticker on the back full of white boys shouting, “Yeah nigger, you and your nigger baby keep walking!” She just stood there in fear, not knowing if these boys would stop and do something to her and her child. With tears in her eyes, she told me she never felt so weak in her life because she didn’t know how she would protect her child if something were to happen to her. She filed a complaint, but on a campus with 30,000+ students and thousands of white boys who drive pick-up trucks with confederate flags (because there are several), I mean really, what could’ve been done? Does this story sound familiar? That’s because it is. Payton Head, MSA President, shared a very similar story. Apparently, yelling nigger from pick-up trucks is all too common on this campus.
And then there's the time when my co-worker, El, got accused of coming late to class every day and received a 70% for the course. (He was on time every single day, and just happened to be the only black person in the course.)
There's my co-worker, Alice, who is assumed to be on campus by affirmative action or scholarship because she couldn’t possibly be there by merit.
Or how about my former classmate, Kamaria, who found a picture of Obama with a monkey taped over his face on her dorm wall shortly after the 2008 Presidential election.
I can't forget the cotton balls being scattered all across the BCC or Black History Month being addressed as “Nigger Month,” the fact that we have our own homecoming because our participation was never wanted in the University’s homecoming.
And don’t get me started on the microaggressions that I’m sure extends way past Mizzou: being the only black student in class, being the token student to address all matters of Black History Month, slavery, and MLK, never having a black professor (three months into graduate school at the age of 25 and I just NOW have my first black professor), being put in groups and getting assigned the simple tasks because other white peers assume I can’t handle the more difficult ones; The Black History course being an elective, but all other history courses are required. Unfortunately, the list is endless.
But there were individuals at Mizzou who showed genuine love and concern for me during my time there:
Vicki (a white woman) was my academic adviser who never judged me when I told her, as a freshman, I was pregnant but still needed help scheduling my courses. She continued working with me when I left Mizzou to make sure I was still on task and had all of my stuff together for when I came back in 2012.
Susan (a white woman) offered me my only campus job (through an email sent on accident) and always worked with my schedule, never hesitated to learn more about me and my family and ALWAYS showed genuine love and concern for Addy and I.
Carol (a white woman) was my internship director who provided a space for me to do work while my child was there, which is one of the main reasons I was able to graduate. She continues to invite me to current events and to come speak on behalf of the organization. My daughter and I are still used for promo for their awesome organization.
There's also Dr. Porter (a white man)--this dude is awesome sauce. He’s the one who gave me my diploma on December 15, 2012. A day I will never forget.
Please understand, if we hated this place, we wouldn’t be so passionate about change. We wouldn’t be exerting this much energy into it. We would have just left. Period. We love Mizzou. The fact is, we should be able to attend a University (regardless of being the minority) and it should be ok to want to be treated with respect, receive the same quality education as our peers that we are PAYING for, choose a PWI rather than an HBCU and not be scrutinized for that, choose to walk in solidarity with our classmates as a student-athlete and not have to worry about our scholarships getting revoked, walk around campus without being called a nigger in 2015, feel free to express our rights when we feel as though they have been violated and not fear for my safety on my own campus.
You called us thugs and hoodlums when a select few rioted and burned businesses of Ferguson (very VERY select few), but when we remain civilized and use strategy and peaceful protest, WE ARE STILL HATED! Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t.
[Tweet "Why is our self-love so intimidating?"]
With prayers of peace and reconciliation, I still stand with pride for my alma mater.