The Collegian
Thursday, July 16, 2020

Letter: Never the whole truth

Have I ever been asked if I was an athlete? Yes. But believe me, there was no evident reason for doing so, other than me being a black male at this university. The majority of black males at this campus are. I'm 5 feet 6 inches and around 150 pounds. I know of at least three other people who've had similar experiences.

Do I think that Tahj and Tenaj are like the welcoming committee to black people here? Of course. When it comes to Isaiah Bailey's poem, "Being Black at Richmond: The Whole Truth" there are plenty of things that I can relate to and understand as a black male.

Freshman male minorities who are not athletes mainly get clumped together in roommate assignments, as Isaiah said. There are only a few exceptions that I can think of, and I can count them on one hand. Is there a flaw with housing? I don't think so.

Personally, I don't think any other responses to his poem have done it any justice, or can fully relate to it like another black male on this campus can. Isaiah and I have had similar experiences, but we definitely have had significantly different ones as well. I'll talk about those later. Read on.

In Tiffani Lewis-Lockhart's response to the poem she said, "Oversensitivity is not helping the cause." I was taken aback because this is a very sensitive issue. Any reasonable person would begin to ponder why they were being asked if they were an athlete, or not getting into a certain lodge when others did. A passive or ignorant approach here will not help the cause either.

But I'm not all in approval of this poem. Mainly because people who haven't shared similar experiences to Isaiah and I begin to think that they "gain a fuller understanding of the realities that confront African American students day after day after day here at Richmond," as Professor David Leary put it in his response. Professor Leary is sadly mistaken to think that he has gained more than a tiny view of what African-American students face on this campus.

Here's the danger: I imagine some black people may not relate to, or have experienced, a single thing Isaiah described.

Despite our minority status on campus, there are many students who are African-American here -- and in this poem only one perspective has been expressed: Bailey's.

My differences: I wasn't angry when people asked if I was an athlete. If anything I thought that it was funny someone would think that. Indeed I can see why someone would get angry. I haven't been called a "nigga" on this campus (not yet anyway). I'm not tired of the food at D-Hall (we just had margaritas and veggie chicken nuggets the other night). Of course I wish I had the freedom to have a car and get off campus sometimes.

My point in writing this was that to let people know -- you'll never get the full experience, the whole truth. Isaiah expressed plenty of candor in his poem, but it's impossible for him to encompass all of our experiences here at Richmond, and I think he knows that.

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